There has been some confusion/controversy over Kate Middleton’s official title in the last few days. It all started when Clarence House released an image of Prince George’s birth certificate and under “mother’s occupation” it said, “Princess of the United Kingdom”. After this was made public, the media pounced on the “princess” reference. They made a huge deal about Kate being called a princess, and a lot of reporters and fans were saying it is now okay to call Kate, Princess Kate. Of course the rational, non-sycophants were very unhappy with this and pushed against those saying Kate is a princess and that it’s okay to call her Princess Kate by saying that Kate is not a princess but rather a duchess, since she was bestowed the title Duchess of Cambridge upon her marriage. I would like to clarify things a bit:
When Kate married William she became, according to the palace, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn and Lady Carrickfergus.
Now, when a woman marries a man of rank, she automatically takes the same rank as her husband; but that does not mean she acquires this rank in her own right, it is contingent solely on her husband. This is most evident with the wife of Prince Michael of Kent, because Prince Michael did not receive a peerage upon his marriage; his wife became Princess Michael of Kent and is known as such. She does not hold the title “princess” in her own right, but only because it is the feminine of her husband’s title. If Prince Michael had received a Dukedom then she would be titled “Duchess” since that would be the feminine of her husband’s title. Basically, the “princess” title (or duchess, countess, etc) is like the “Mrs.” title for non-titled folk. That is why she is not Princess Marie Christine, but Princess Michael.
Diana being called “Princess Diana” was actually started by the press—this was not her official title. Her official title during her marriage was Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and Countess of Chester, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay. She, like Princess Michael, was not a princess in her own right, but a princess by marriage. Had Charles not been the Prince of Wales at the time of his marriage, Diana would have been titled “Princess Charles”. Had Charles not been the heir and was given a dukedom at the time of his marriage, Diana’s title would have been “Duchess” since that would have been the feminine of Charles’ dukedom title. It was coincidence that Charles was Prince of Wales at the time of his marriage so Diana became Princess of Wales. But she was never Princess Diana, not officially. The press made that name up.
When Sophie married Prince Edward, she became Countess of Wessex, because Edward was given the earldom of Wessex and became the Earl of Wessex. Countess is the feminine counterpart to Earl. But she is also “Princess Edward”, because Edward is a prince of the blood. Since Edward’s highest appointed title is Earl, however, Sophie’s correct title is Countess. But Sophie is not, and will never be, Princess Sophie.
Upon his marriage, Prince Andrew was given the dukedom of York and became the Duke of York, so Sarah Ferguson became The Duchess of York. She also became “Princess Andrew”, because Andrew is a prince of the blood. But Andrew’s highest appointed title is Duke, so Sarah became a Duchess. However, after their divorce, Sarah retained her title of Duchess of York (just like a divorced woman retains her husband’s last name), but she did not retain the title of “Princess Andrew”, because she is no longer married to a prince.
When William married Kate, he was given a dukedom and became the Duke of Cambridge; therefore Kate took the feminine version and became the Duchess of Cambridge. She is also “Princess William” and would use that title had William not been given a dukedom. But because William’s dukedom takes precedence, Kate is titled Duchess. Kate is not a princess in her own right, just like none of the other married-in ladies are princesses in their own right, so it would never be correct to call her Princess Kate. It does not matter what her occupation is (nor what William calls her, or she calls herself, when alone), her title is Duchess of Cambridge. She should be referred to as the Duchess of Cambridge, or else it is incorrect*. Unfortunately—for people like me—the press wants so much to have Diana 2.0, to have someone they can call “Princess” and that will sell magazines that they take this occupation listing as a clearance to call her Princess Kate, no matter what the palace says. Of course, this will backfire since Kate will never sell well, no matter what they call her. She is just not interesting enough for people to care enough to buy magazines with her on the cover.
Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Princess Margaret are princesses of the blood, princesses in their own right and have the honor of being titled Princess [their first name]. Unless one is a daughter or granddaughter of the monarch (or, now that Liz changed it, a granddaughter of the Prince of Wales—of which there is not one since George is a boy) one is not a princess of the blood and does not have the honor of being titled Princess [first name].
Camilla’s title is a bit more complicated. When she married Charles, she was not accepted much by the public, and Diana was still in most people’s minds. Because the title “Princess of Wales” was so synonymous with Diana, Camilla chose not to use that title and instead took the feminine version of the highest of Charles’ subsidiary titles. Charles is also known as the Duke of Cornwall, so Camilla became Duchess of Cornwall. However, as much as Camilla detractors won’t like this, Camilla is also “Princess Charles”, just like all the other married-in ladies are “Princess [their husband’s name]”. She could have taken the title “Princess of Wales” since Charles is the Prince of Wales, but she (or the palace) chose not to.
This whole mess is all thanks to William, who himself put as an occupation “prince of the United Kingdom”. What William should have put as his occupation was “SAR helicopter pilot”, since that is his job; and for Kate’s occupation he should have put “unemployed”, since that’s what Kate is. But he had to put “princess of the United Kingdom” and cause a huge mess with the press and sycophants and critics. Thanks Will, I appreciate it.
*I and everyone else continuing to call her Kate Middleton are actually being very rude, since she did take her husband’s title when she married. But the press continues to call her by her maiden name because she was an established brand for ten years before marriage and referring to her as anything else would throw off their archive system and everything else. It has nothing to do with anything other than name continuity and recognition. Of course, for me, she does not act like a duchess so I refuse to call her one.