Royal dukedoms in the United Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In the British peerage, a royal duke is a duke who is a member of the British Royal Family, entitled to the style of His Royal Highness. Royal dukedoms are the highest titles in the British roll of peerage. They are titles created for legitimate sons and male line grandsons of the British monarch, usually upon reaching their majority or marriage.[1] The titles can be inherited but cease to be "royal" once they pass beyond the grandsons of a monarch. As with any peerage, once the title becomes extinct, it may subsequently be recreated by the reigning monarch at any time.

Royal status of dukedoms[edit]

In the United Kingdom, there is nothing intrinsic to any dukedom that makes it "royal". Rather, these peerages are called royal dukedoms because they are created for, and held by, a member of the royal family who is entitled to the style Royal Highness. Although the term "royal duke" therefore has no official meaning per se, the category "Duke of the Blood Royal" was acknowledged as a rank conferring special precedence at court in the unrevoked 20th clause of the Lord Chamberlain's order of 1520.[2][3] This decree accorded precedence to any peer related by blood to the sovereign above all others of the same degree within the peerage. The order did not apply within Parliament, nor did it grant precedence above the Archbishop of Canterbury or other Great Officers of State such as is now enjoyed by royal dukes. But it placed junior "Dukes of the Blood Royal" above the most senior non-royal duke, junior "Earls of the Blood Royal" above the most senior non-royal earl (cf. Earldom of Wessex), etc. It did not matter how distantly related to the monarch the peers might be (presumably they ranked among each other in order of succession to the Crown). Although the 1520 order is theoretically still in effect, in fact the "Blood Royal" clause seems to have fallen into desuetude by 1917 when George V limited the style of Royal Highness to children and male-line grandchildren of the Sovereign. Thus peers of the blood royal who are neither sons nor grandsons of a sovereign are no longer accorded precedence above other peers.

Under the 20 November 1917, letters patent of King George V, the titular dignity of Prince or Princess and the style Royal Highness are restricted to the legitimate children of a sovereign, the children of a sovereign's sons, and the eldest living son of the eldest son of a Prince of Wales.[a]

When the current Duke of Gloucester and Duke of Kent are succeeded by their eldest sons, the Earl of Ulster and the Earl of St. Andrews, respectively, those peerages (or rather, the 1928 and 1934 creations of them) will cease to be royal dukedoms, instead the title holders will become "ordinary" dukes.[5] The third dukes of Gloucester and Kent will each be styled "His Grace" because as great-grandsons of George V, they are not princes and are not styled HRH. Similarly, upon the death of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1850–1942) (the third son of Queen Victoria), his only male-line grandson, Alastair, Earl of MacDuff (1914–43), briefly succeeded to his peerages and was styled "His Grace". Before the 1917 changes, his style and title had been His Highness Prince Alastair of Connaught.

Current royal dukedoms[edit]

The current royal dukedoms, held as principal titles, in order of precedence, are:

The following dukedoms are currently held as secondary titles by members of the royal family:

  • Duke of Cornwall is a secondary title of the Sovereign's eldest son in England,[1][8] currently held by Charles, Prince of Wales. In addition to the dukedom of Cornwall, a peerage, the heir apparent also enjoys a life interest in the Duchy of Cornwall.
  • Duke of Rothesay is a secondary title of the Sovereign's heir apparent in Scotland, currently held by Prince Charles,[1] who is properly called "HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay" (rather than "HRH The Prince of Wales") while in Scotland.

With the exceptions of the dukedoms of Cornwall and Rothesay (which can only be held by the eldest living son of the sovereign who is also the heir-apparent), these dukedoms are hereditary according to the letters patent that created them.[1] Those patents each contain the standard remainder to "heirs male of his body".

By law the British monarch also holds, and is entitled to the revenues of, the Duchy of Lancaster. Within the borders of the County Palatine of Lancashire, therefore, Elizabeth II is hailed as "The Queen, The Duke of Lancaster" (even when the monarch is a Queen regnant, by tradition she does not use the title Duchess).[1] However, legally the monarch is not the Duke of Lancaster: peerages are in origin held feudally of the sovereign who, as the fount of honour, cannot hold a peerage of him- or herself. The situation is similar in the Channel Islands, where the monarch is addressed as Duke of Normandy, but only in accordance with tradition. He or she does not hold the legal title of Duke of Normandy.

Past royal dukedoms[edit]

The following past royal dukedoms are vacant, except those depicted in italics, which are suspended dukedoms, and those in parentheses, which were once royal but have become non-royal dukedoms.

Dukedoms created for the sons of George II[edit]

King George II had two sons who survived to adulthood. They were both created dukes by their grandfather, King George I.

Dukedoms created for the sons of Frederick, Prince of Wales[edit]

Frederick, Prince of Wales, had four sons who survived to adulthood. His eldest son Prince George was created a duke by the latter's grandfather, King George II. The others were created dukes by their brother after he became king.

Dukedoms created for the sons of George III[edit]

King George III had seven sons who survived to adulthood. His eldest son Prince George became Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay and was created Prince of Wales in 1762. The six younger sons were all created dukes by their father.

The Hanoverians occasionally combined two territorial designations into one single royal dukedom — for example, the Duke of York and Albany. Other combinations included Gloucester and Edinburgh, Cumberland and Strathearn, Clarence and St Andrews, Kent and Strathearn, Cumberland and Teviotdale, Connaught and Strathearn and Clarence and Avondale. The idea was often to combine an English title with a Scottish one, emphasising the unity of the (then new) United Kingdom. Such "double dukedoms" were generally also accompanied by the grant of an Irish subsidiary title; each double dukedom was one dukedom named for two places, not two dukedoms.

Dukedoms created for the sons of Queen Victoria[edit]

Queen Victoria had four sons, the eldest of whom was the Prince of Wales and future Edward VII. Royal Dukedoms were created for her three younger sons.

Dukedoms created for the sons of Edward VII[edit]

In addition to the current royal dukedoms, the following dukedoms were created for British princes.

Suspended dukedoms[edit]

The dukedoms of Albany and Cumberland-and-Teviotdale are not vacant but were suspended in 1919, as their holders were also reigning German rulers when Britain was at war with Germany in World War I; there still exist heirs to these titles who could apply for their restoration.

The senior male line descendant of the last Duke of Albany is Prince Hubertus of Saxe Coburg Gotha.

The senior male line heir of the last Duke of Cumberland is Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, estranged husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco.

Forms of address[edit]

  • Address: His/Her Royal Highness The Duke/Duchess of (X)
  • Speak to as: Your Royal Highness
  • After: Sir/Madam


While non-royal dukes are entitled to a coronet of eight strawberry leaves, to bear at a coronation and on his coat of arms, royal dukes are entitled to princely coronets (four crosses patée alternating with four strawberry leaves). The coronets of the royal family are dictated by letters patent. The Duke of York bears by letters patent, and the Duke of Edinburgh was granted in 1947 use of, the coronet of a child of the sovereign (four crosses patée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis), while the Duke of Cornwall and of Rothesay has use of the Prince of Wales Coronet, the Duke of Cambridge the coronet of a child of the heir-apparent and the current Dukes of Gloucester and of Kent, as grandsons of a sovereign bear the corresponding coronet.

At coronations, apart from the differentiation of princely coronets from ducal coronets, a royal duke is also entitled to six rows of ermine spots on his mantle, as opposed to the four rows borne by an "ordinary" duke.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh, ed. (1973). "Appendix C: Titles Traditionally Associated with the Royal Family". Burke's Guide to the Royal Family. London: Burke's Peerage Ltd/Shaw Publishing Co. pp. 183, 336–337. ISBN 0-220-66222-3. 
  2. ^ Francois Velde. "Order of Precedence in England and Wales". Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  3. ^ Squibb, G.D. (1981). "The Lord Chamberlain's Order of 1520, as amended in 1595". Order of Precedence in England and Wales. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. pp. 99–101. 
  4. ^ "no. 38452". The London Gazette. 9 November 1948. p. 5889. 
  5. ^ Eilers, Marlene. Queen Victoria's Descendants. Rosvall Royal Books, Falkoping, Sweden, 1997. p. 45. ISBN 91-630-5964-9
  6. ^ "The Duke of Gloucester". The official website of the British Monarchy. 
  7. ^ "The Duke of Kent". Official website of the British Monarchy. 
  8. ^ "The Prince of Wales: styles and titles". 


  1. ^ It will be seen that this rule would have meant that Prince Charles and Princess Anne would not, from birth, have had royal status or be called Prince and Princess, as they were the children of the daughter of the sovereign. So immediately prior to the birth of Princess Elizabeth's first child, King George VI issued letters patent dated 22 October 1948 declaring that Princess Elizabeth's children with Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh would take royal status and be called Prince or Princess from birth.[4]

See also[edit]