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Princess of Wales is a British courtesy title held by the wife of The Prince of Wales since the first "English" Prince of Wales in 1283. Due to the mortality rate and the fact that very few Princes of Wales married prior to ascending the throne (if that), there have in fact been only ten Princesses of Wales. The wife of the present Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is legally entitled to, but does not use, the title Princess of Wales.

Princesses of Wales

The ten Princesses of Wales (and the dates the individuals held that title) are as follows:



  1. Princess Joan 4th Countess of Kent (held title 1361–1376) — became dowager princess when her husband, Edward, the Black Prince, died as Prince of Wales.
  2. Lady Anne Neville (1470–1471) — through her marriage to Edward of Lancaster, though there is no record of her having used the title.
  3. She became queen consort when her second husband became King Richard III of England.
  4. Infanta Catherine of Aragon (1501–1502) — became dowager princess when her first husband, Arthur, died as Prince.
  5. She became queen consort when she married Arthur's brother, King Henry VIII.
  6. Queen Mary I 1525-1533 was styled Princess of Wales by her father until she was bastardized when she was simply styled The Lady Mary.
  7. Queen Elizabeth I 1533-1536 was styled Princess of Wales when her elder half-sister was bastardized but was in turn declared a bastard and styled The Lady Elizabeth
  8. Princess Caroline of Ansbach (1714–1727) — became queen consort when George II ascended to the throne.
  9. Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha (1736–1751) — dowager when husband Frederick, Prince of Wales died.
  10. Princess Caroline of Brunswick (1795–1820) — became queen consort on the accession of her husband George IV of the United Kingdom
    Royal Warrant Princess of Wales 1870
  11. Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1863–1901) — the daughter of Christian IX of Denmark, she became queen consort on the ascension of her husband Edward VII following a 50-year wait on January 22, 1901.
  12. Princess Mary of Teck (1901–1910) — queen consort upon accession of husband George V.
  13. She held the titles of Duchess of York, Princess of Wales, Queen-Empress Consort and Queen-Empress Dowager.
  14. Lady Diana Spencer (1981–1996) — Diana was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales.
  15. Following her divorce from Charles, Prince of Wales, she lost the style "Royal Highness" and assumed the style of a divorced peeress, that is, her personal name immediately followed by her title.
  16. Had Diana remarried, any use of the title Princess of Wales would have been lost permanently.
  17. Camilla Shand (2005–present) — the second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales.
  18. Though entitled to be called The Princess of Wales, Camilla is the first Princess of Wales whose husband previously had another official consort known as The Princess of Wales.
  19. Camilla uses the style of Duchess of Cornwall or Rothesay in accordance with public sentiment.


Several Princesses of Wales became queens consort. Those who did not generally took the title of "Dowager Princess of Wales" after the deaths of their husbands. (Following the annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Catherine officially reverted to her earlier title of Dowager Princess of Wales, as the widow of Henry's older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, because Henry did not wish to acknowledge that he had ever been legally married to her.)

Under the form of male-preference primogeniture in use in the United Kingdom, it is very unusual for a woman to be heiress apparent, because it is always theoretically possible for a reigning monarch to have a son to displace a daughter; she is almost always heiress presumptive. The only exception to this would be if a monarch's heir apparent were to have only female children and then the said heir apparent were to die; the eldest (female) child would then be heiress apparent.

In reality, there are times when it is perfectly obvious to all that an heiress presumptive will in due course inherit the throne (most obviously the youth of the present Queen Elizabeth); but none of these has ever been created "Princess of Wales".

Princess of Wales is not a princess in her own right

Contrary to widespread belief, the Princess of Wales is not a princess in her own right. While some past princesses, for example Alexandra of Denmark and Mary of Teck, were called Princess Alexandra and Princess Mary, that was because they were already princesses (of Denmarkmarker and Teckmarker respectively) when they married. Though Diana, Princess of Wales was commonly called Princess Diana after her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales, it was officially incorrect, as Diana herself pointed out, because she was not a princess in her own right. Similarly Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is neither Princess Camilla nor Duchess Camilla.

There is, at least, one notable exception to the rule in English history. During her youth, Mary I was invested by her father, Henry VIII, with many of the rights and properties traditionally given to the Prince of Wales, including use of the official seal of Wales for correspondence. For most of her childhood, Mary was her father's only legitimate heir, and for this reason he often referred to her as "the Princess of Wales," despite having never formally created her as such. Even her contemporaries addressed her as such, as Juan Luis Vives dedicated his Satellitium Animi to "Dominæ Mariæ Cambriæ Principi, Henrici Octavi Angliæ Regis Filiæ".[8858]

When a title was sought for the future Queen Elizabeth II, the possibility of investing her as Princess of Wales in her own right was raised. This suggestion was rejected, because Princess of Wales is a courtesy title held by the wife of the Prince of Wales. If it were used by Princess Elizabeth, it would have degraded her right as a Princess of the United Kingdom unless Letters Patent or Legislation were introduced to the contrary. Furthermore, if the then Princess Elizabeth had been given the title of Princess of Wales, there would have been the problem of what to call her future husband. Therefore, King George VI decided not to give his elder daughter the title.

Other Titles of the Princesses of Wales

The Princess of Wales, by virtue of her marriage to The Prince of Wales, takes on the feminine equivalent of her husband's subsidiary titles. Thus, upon marriage, the wife of The Prince of Wales assumes the styles and titles – Her Royal Highness The Princess (husband’s Christian name) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Chester, Countess of Carrick, Baroness of Renfrew and Princess of Scotland.

Of all these titles, The Princess of Wales has been used officially, due to it being of a higher rank than the additional peerage titles. However, as noted with the example of the current holder, a subsidiary title may just as easily and legally be used.

The Princess is known as Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, as the Prince of Wales is known as Duke of Rothesay there, the dukedom being the title historically associated with the heir to the Scottish throne.

Role and responsibilities

While there is no written set of rules defining the role of Princess of Wales, in her position as the future queen, she is expected to assist the reigning monarch in enhancing the public morale of the monarchy.

Welsh "princesses" of Wales

Pre-Conquest princesses, such as Gwenllian of Wales, are sometimes referred to as Princess of Wales, but did not hold this title in the English legal sense. There are a handful of others who might have claimed the title, as a result of marriage to native princes who took, were given or aspired to the title of "Prince of Wales". These include:



Notes

Bibliography

  • Princesses of Wales by Deborah Fisher. University of Wales Press, 2005.
  • 'Tystiolaeth Garth Celyn' Y Traethodydd 1998 ISSN 0969 8930



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