Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Princess Lilibet of Sussex christened: her style and title now settled?

 HRH Princess Lilibet Diana of Sussex was christened on Friday 3 March, 2023, by the Rt Rev John Harvey Taylor, Bishop of Los Angeles. 

Princess Lilibet Diana was born on Friday 4 June, 2021, the second child, and only daughter of HRH Prince Henry Charles Albert David, Duke of Sussex, KCVO (born 15 September, 1984), and HRH The Duchess of Sussex (nee Rachel Meghan Markle, born 4 Aug, 1981). 

It is the first time that an official spokesman for the Sussexes has referred to Lilibet as a princess. There has been much debate since the death of the late Queen regarding the styles and titles of the Duke of Sussex's offspring. However, it is clear that under the terms of the Letters Patent of 1917, that all children of the sons of the Sovereign have and enjoy the style, title and dignity of prince or princess with the qualification of royal highness. Archie and Lilibet offically became a prince and princess on the death of their great-grandmother, on 8 September, 2022.

The controversial decision of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to deny their children courtesy titles was, I believe, unique in the annals of the peerage. In a complete break with tradition and with the laws governing peerages, and the styles and titles of courtesy relating to the children of peers, it was announced in May, 2019 that Archie Mountbatten-Windsor would not use a courtesy title associated with the Dukedom of Sussex.

It was expected that Archie would be styled as Earl of Dumbarton, which is Prince Harry's earldom, created with the Dukedom of Sussex and Barony of Kilkeel in May, 2018. The eldest sons of dukes in the peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom traditionally assume their father's second senior peerage, as a 'courtesy' title.

However, following Archie's birth, a statement quickly followed that no courtesy titles would be borne by the seventh in line to the throne, and that he would be known as Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. 

Harry and Meghan's second child was born Lady Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor. This courtesy title was not granted or bestowed by the Queen at birth as it is an automatic qualification. The 'courtesy title' came as courtesy from the Crown, and not as a courtesy from a parent. When Harry and Meghan denied their daughter the courtesy title of a daughter of a duke they were in effect snubbing the Crown. The courtesy title - used or not - did not affect how the child's rank was recorded at the College of Arms.

Prince Archie was born Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, and being born the son of Duke, was Lord Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor as a legal entity. This changed on 8 September last year when he became a male line grandson of the Sovereign, and thereafter HRH Prince Archie of Sussex. Lilibet enjoyed the status befitting the daughter of the Duke of Sussex, and was officially Lady Lilibet by courtesy from birth until her grandfather ascended the throne.

Princess Lilibet is the fifth grandchild of the King and is seventh in line of succession to the throne, and will follow her uncle, the Princes of Wales, then Prince George of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales and then her father, the Duke of Sussex, and elder brother Prince Archie, in the line of succession. 

Princess Lilibet was the eleventh great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II, and was not be born a princess with the qualification of Royal Highness. That rank is reserved only for the children and male line grandchildren of the Sovereign, and the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, as laid down by the Letters Patent of King George V [1917], and the further Letters Patent of Queen Elizabeth II [2012].

Under the terms of the Letters Patent creating Harry's dukedom, in May, 2018, the descent of the title is vested in his heirs male 'lawfully begotten'. Archie is destined, should he survive his father, to succeed as 2nd Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Princess Lilibet is not in remainder to her father's dukedom, earldom or barony.


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