What's The Difference Between a Princess and a Duchess
Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle may be living everyone’s Disney dream by marrying into royalty, but there’s one thing they’ll never be: Princesses. Here’s why the ladies will have to settle for the title of “Duchess” and how the royal titles differ.
Where titles come from:
According to Business Insider, royal titles have been around for centuries as a way for the monarchy to pay back “peers of the realm.” Those peers were often people who swore their loyalty to the royal family and were given land and a title as a thank you. According to Debrett's London, there are possible royal titles given by the royal family: duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron for men; duchess, marchioness, countess, viscountess, and baroness for women.
These titles can also be inherited, but more on that later.
How One Becomes a Duchess:
On their wedding days, members of the royal family are typically given a new royal title. For example, Prince William became the Duke of Cambridge and his bride, Kate Middleton, became the Duchess of Cambridge. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were given the same gift, becoming the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
WATCH: Kate Middleton Borrows the Queen’s Pearl Choker Once Also Worn by Princess Diana
Why Neither Will Ever Be a Princess:
Here’s where things get confusing. Both women do, in fact, have the word princess in their official royal titles. When Kate married William she took on his name, becoming Princess William of Wales, along with becoming Her Royal Highness, Duchess of Cambridge.
However, she (nor Meghan) can never use princess as a prefix to her name. That is because only women born by blood into the royal family can have the title. So Princess Charlotte, Kate’s daughter, can have the title, but her mother cannot.
Where a Duchess Ranks:
Duchesses rank below princesses, meaning both Meghan and Kate must curtsey to Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie when they see them in the halls of Buckingham Palace. Though, as Daily Mail noted, she doesn’t have to curtsey to them if her husband is present.
Who Can Hand Down the Title:
Hold on to your hats because things are going to get a little sexist. Only male royalty can hand down the title of princess. One day, if Prince George and Prince Louis have daughters they will be princesses. But, if Princess Charlotte has a daughter she will never get a title at all.
This is exactly what happened to Zara Philips, Princess Anne’s daughter. But, she clearly doesn’t mind. Zara said in a 2015 interview, “I’m very lucky that both my parents decided to not use the title and we grew up and did all the things that gave us the opportunity to do.” Hey, being rich, famous, and royalty is a blessing and a curse.