They have only been engaged for a few days, and already now I start to have enough of the whole Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle thing. Unfortunately I am certain it will go on for a while. On Thursday I was involved in a heated discussion about the possible titles of the eventual children of the couple. They are not even married yet, nor is Meghan pregnant as far as I know. We officially don’t know yet which title the groom might receive from his grandmother when he gets married, nor do we know whether the couple can have children at all. And titles for children will only be announced when Meghan becomes pregnant.
When Prince William married Catherine Middleton in April 2011, he received the titles Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. On 9 January 2013 there was a formal announcement in the London Gazette announcing:
The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm dated 31 December 2012 to declare that all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour.
In 1917 King George V didn’t only relinquish his German titles. In the London Gazette of 14 December 1917 his decision dated 11 December 1917 regarding royal titles was published.
The KING has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date the 30th ultimo, to define the styles and titles to be borne henceforth by members of the Royal Family. It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour; that save as aforesaid the titles of Royal Highness, Highness or Serene Highness, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess shall cease except those titles already granted and remaining unrevoked; and that the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes.
Which means that only the children of a Monarch, and the children of his/her sons, as well as the eldest living son of the eldest living son of the Prince of Wales were entitled to the style of Royal Highness and would be Prince(ss) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In 2011 Queen Elizabeth II thus made an exception, giving the titles to all of her great-grandchildren by Prince William, who otherwise would have been styled and titles as children of a Duke, except for the eldest son, and would thus otherwise have been styled Lord or Lady.
But what will she do with the eventual children of Prince Harry and Meghan? Based on the 1917 decision they would be styled as children of a Duke, even if Harry doesn’t receives a Ducal title upon his marriage. The same happened to the children of the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent. The reason for that is that as long as Queen Elizabeth II is alive, his children will be the great-grandchildren of a monarch, and Harry is not the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. As his father is the Prince of Wales and Harry’s children will one day likely be the grandchildren of a monarch, the Queen could of course decide to publish a similar letter patent as in 2013.
Some people on Twitter said it would be regarded as racism if Harry and Meghans children wouldn’t become Prince(sse)s, but as you see above there is nothing racist about it. It has already been decided 100 years ago. But of course the Queen could well decide to make an exception for Harry and Meghan, as rather sooner than later Prince Charles will become the King and their children would be Prince(ss) anyway. Before she would make that decision however, the Queen will surely talk about it extensively with her son The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry and Meghan themselves.
I am not quite sure if Harry and Meghan themselves want their children to be Prince(sse)s. And their wish is much more important than what royalty watchers would like to happen. A good example are The Earl and Countess of Wessex, whose children are actually Prince(ss), but according to the wishes of the parents are actually styled Lady Louise (Mountbatten-)Windsor and James, Viscount Severn. The latter title is the second title of The Earl of Wessex.