What The Change Of Royal Titles Means For The New Princess

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrives at Santa Barbara Racquet and Polo Club
Kate Middleton. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate Middleton may be living everyone's Disney dream by marrying into royalty, and now she's officially a princess. There are many rules for royals and titles are no exception. Being princess doesn't mean she'll one day be queen. Here's what her titles mean and how the royal titles are given.

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.

How Royals Receive a Title

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.

When Queen Elizabeth II died in September, Middleton was given a new title, Catherine, Princess of Wales. While she still retains her Duchess of Cambridge title, she also became the Duchess of Cornwall after the Queen's death. She is now also formally Catherine, Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge.

WATCH: Nobody Knows What Became of Princess Diana's Secret Backup Wedding Dress

When Royals Change Titles

Things get a little confusing as royals move up in ranks, titles are changed, and with the passing of the Queen. The title of Duchess of Cambridge was formerly held by the now Camilla, Queen Consort, who was given that title when Prince Charles became king. The last queen consort was Queen Elizabeth II's mother, Queen Elizabeth.

Middleton is the first royal to use the title of Princess of Wales since William's mother, Diana, held it.

The Future Queen

When Prince William becomes king one day, Middleton will likely become queen consort, a title given to the wife of a king. Queen consort has the same social status and ranking as king, but not the political and military powers. The title of queen is reserved for a female who inherited the throne. Her children all have royal titles—Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—and they are all in the line of succession to the throne. After the Queen's death, they were given the titles of Princes and Princess of Wales, formerly Princes and Princess of Cambridge.

The Royal Family

Members of the royal family hold the status of Royal Highness and are greeted as such. (When meeting these royal members, it's appropriate to first use "Your Royal Highness.") That status is reserved for children of a monarch, children of a monarch's sons, and children of the eldest child of the Prince of Wales, as well as their wives.

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 not inherit a title at all. One can only be given to her.

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.

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