Who doesn’t love a good whirlwind romance between two devastatingly attractive people? All the more so when royal titles and tiaras are involved, as we learned last November when the roguish Prince Harry announced his engagement to Suits actress and United Nations women’s advocate Meghan Markle.
In accordance with royal protocol, it is likely that Prince Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, will bestow a few shiny new titles upon her grandson and his fiancée on the day they are wed. As such, when Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2010, the Queen announced she would grant them the titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Scottish titles Earl and Countess of Strathearn and Northern Irish titles as the Baron and Baroness of Carrickfergus.
Though the official announcement will likely be made before their nuptials on 19 May in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, speculation is already rife. The most likely contender for their English title is thought to be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as it is one of the few titles currently available within the peerage system. As peerages (titles such as duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron) are hereditary, a title only becomes available if the previous holder has died and does not have children who are eligible to inherit the peerage.
Bestowing a title can be tricky business, especially with centuries of history to consider. Though the Duchy of Clarence is technically up for grabs, the Queen is unlikely to give the title to Prince Harry and Ms. Markle, as it is considered tainted by the the treason conviction and subsequent murder of the first Duke of Clarence (dramatised in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Richard III). Another Duke of Clarence, Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria and great uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, was embroiled in the Cleveland Street scandal, and was even (falsely) rumoured to have been Jack the Ripper.
The question of their Scottish title is even more difficult. It is widely believed that they will become the Earl and Countess of Ross, a north-western region of Scotland. However, the last Earl of Ross, King Charles I, was executed for high treason in 1649, so it might be considered too unlucky, as well. Earl and Countess of Dumbarton is also available, and the previous holder was a knight of the Order of the Thistle, the Scottish order of chivalry and one of the most exalted orders in the United Kingdom.
This will depend on where they are and the precedence of their titles. Prince William and Kate Middleton normally go by Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, for example, because the ranks of duke and duchess are the highest in the peerage system, only below that of the monarch and his or her princely children. When they are in Scotland, however, they go by their Scottish titles, Earl and Countess of Strathearn.
Once married, Ms. Markle will not become “Princess Meghan,” as only women who are royal in their own right are granted the title of princess. Likewise, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge married, the Duchess became Princess William of Wales, as she is not of royal descent. However, her daughter is Princess Charlotte, as she is of royal blood through her father.
Regardless of what titles Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ultimately receive, at the very least, they’ll look good wearing it—of that there is no doubt.