When a Prince Becomes a Royal Duke

The newest Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

After the 2011 marriage of Prince William and his subsequent title change to Duke of Cambridge, I thought it might be timely to update this article I originally wrote in 2010 for The Regency Reader.

Like many things in merry old England, succession to titles in the Royal Family is virtually unchanged today from what it was during the Regency. The monarch’s first son is still the Prince of Wales and still holds the title of Duke of Cornwall. The monarch’s second son is still bestowed the title of Duke of York.

What is vastly different today from the Regency is the number of sons born to the monarch. George III (mad King George, father of the regent) and his wife, Queen Charlotte, had 15 children, nine of them sons. Seven of the sons lived to old age, and all of them eventually were awarded dukedoms. Two of those sons became king.

The heir apparent comes into his lofty titles at birth, but the younger sons are “merely” princes until their parent confers other titles upon them when they are adults.

During the Regency, Frederick, the second son (born in1763), became Duke of York at age 21. All of his younger brothers had to wait longer to become dukes.

George III’s third son, William, stepped into the title Duke of Clarence at age 24. When he was 65, in 1830, he succeeded his eldest brother as king and ruled for six years as William IV.

The fourth son, Prince Edward (born 1767), became Duke of Kent when he was 28. Prince Ernest (born 1771) became Duke of Cumberland at age 28 also. The youngest of the surviving sons, Adolphus, had the good fortune of becoming the Duke of Cambridge when he was just 27.

The next-to-youngest son of George III, Prince Augustus (born 1773) fell out of favor with his father when he entered into an illegal marriage, and he did not receive a dukedom until he separated from the mother of his children. He was awarded the title Duke of Sussex when he was 33.

Today’s British Royal Family still holds many of the same royal dukedoms, but not all of them are awarded to princes born to the monarch. The present Duke of York (Prince Andrew, born to Queen Elizabeth in 1960) did not receive the title Duke of York until he was 26. His younger brother, Prince Edward (born 1964), has never received a royal dukedom. His title is Earl of Wessex, but he is in line to succeed his father, Prince Phillip, as Duke of Edinburgh only if he survives both parents.

The royal dukedoms of Kent and Gloucester are held by cousins of Queen Elizabeth, who are direct descendants of her grandfather, King George V.

And, last, the present royal Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate. The former Kate Middleton will not be a princess – at least not at this time. Were her father-in-law to succeed his mother (Elizabeth II) as king, then she and Will would become the Prince and Princess of Wales. And it’s very likely one day the beautiful Catherine will be queen.