Ever since Prince Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, royal watchers have wondered how a modern American woman would cope with centuries of tradition and the restrictions of royal life.
So far, Meghan has proven adept at embracing some of the fairly benign rules (like those requiring royal ladies to wear hats and pantyhose for official appearances), and equally comfortable with breaking other significant ones as she did when she was the first royal bride not to be “given away” by a male relative and instead opting to walk down the aisle solo. (Prince Charles accompanied his future daughter-in-law half way and walked with her to the altar). At the first ever Royal Foundation Forum earlier this year, where she joined Harry, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, to discuss the causes they plan to support through the foundation, Meghan spoke about the #MeToo movement telling the crowd, “I fundamentally disagree with that because women don’t need to find their voice, they have a voice. They need to be encouraged to use it.” (All of this is no surprise considering the page for the Duchess of Sussex on the royal family’s official website includes a quote from Meghan which states, “I’m proud to be a woman and a feminist.”)
That’s why we can’t imagine she’ll be happy to learn that any daughter of hers will start out with a lesser rank than a son within the family simply because of her sex.
A dukedom can only be inherited by a male heir. So, if Harry and Meghan were to have a daughter, they would not be given the title of duchess and will reportedly be known as “lady.” (Which also raises the exciting possibility of another Lady Diana one day.)
Daughters can’t inherit their mothers’ title. The title Duke of Sussex will eventually die out if Prince Harry and Meghan have only daughters.
According to several news reports, the only way the couple’s daughter could become a duchess would be to marry a duke, something that might not sit well with Meghan’s feminist sensibilities. “This is all new to Meghan. The arcane rules that govern the laws of succession of the British monarchy can be quite complicated,” my royal source told me. “For a daughter of Meghan and Harry’s to have a lesser title than a son would surely rankle a woman who feels so strongly about female empowerment and equality.”
In 2013, there was a significant step towards gender equality within the royal ranks when there was a change of succession laws in Britain, which were updated ahead of Prince George’s birth to allow a possible first-born daughter of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, to take precedence over any younger brothers.
The update to 1917 Letter’s Patent states that all of the great-grandchildren born during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign would not have the prince or princess title until they are the firstborn. So Prince George and Princess Charlotte received titles. Harry and Meghan’s future children were not mentioned in the updated letter patent.
But all this will change when Prince Charles takes over as the monarch. Harry and Meghan’s children would then be called prince and princess because they are the grandchildren of Charles, who is also called a prince.
“The conventional wisdom is much will change when Charles becomes King,” said my source. “Also, Harry and Meghan may opt to have their children forego titles altogether. Their mother is American and Harry has always longed for a normal life. Having his children be known simply by their given names might sound revolutionary now,” said my source. “But then again who would have ever imagined a royal in line for the British throne would have married an older, divorced American actress? This is a new chapter in the monarchy which has only just begun.” And for more royal news, check out these 12 Signs Meghan Is Becoming the Queen’s Favorite Royal Wife.
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