LONDON — With a royal wedding in the works, speculation is rising about the title that will be bestowed on Meghan Markle when she marries Prince Harry in the spring.
Will the American actress be a British princess? The answer is: sort of.
Markle’s future noble ranking partly depends on what titles Queen Elizabeth II gives her and Harry on their May wedding day.
Markle, 36, will not formally be known as Princess Meghan because she is not of royal birth. However, she will become Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Wales when she marries Harry, whose proper first name is Henry.
The speculation is that the queen will make Harry a duke, like his brother William, and Markle a duchess when they wed at Windsor Castle. In that case, Markle would properly be known as a duchess, not a princess.
“It’s wrong to call a royal duchess ‘princess’ unless she’s already a princess,” royal historian Hugo Vickers said. “But they can do what they like. I’m sure the press will call her Princess Meghan. I just hope they don’t abbreviate it to Princess Megs.”
Many royal observers think the queen will make the newlyweds the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, one of the few remaining “dukedoms” that is available.
In that case, Markle would become Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex.
That is similar to what happened to Kate Middleton when she married Prince William in 2011. The queen made the couple the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The situation can become quite confusing, in part because Britain’s scrappy tabloid press helps shape how people are known.
Harry’s mother, Diana, was widely known as Princess Diana, but that was never her formal title. She was the Princess of Wales by virtue of her eventually unsuccessful marriage to Charles, the Prince of Wales.
When Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair told a grieving nation she had been “the people’s princess,” an unofficial designation that struck a chord.
“We always talk of Princess Diana, but that was never her title,” Majesty magazine Managing Editor Joe Little said.
Little said Markle would “technically” remain a princess by marriage — even if she becomes a duchess — because Harry will still be a prince.
“But in everyday use, it won’t be part of her title,” he said.
That could change if the queen decides at some point to upgrade Markle’s title — and Kate’s title for that matter — and officially make the two commoners “Princess Meghan” and “Princess Catherine.”
“We won’t have a Princess Meghan unless they decide it’s the 21st century and they can change the rules,” said Little. “But given that the queen is a traditionalist, I think that’s unlikely.”