Royal Dukedoms in the United Kingdom

Royal Dukedoms in the United Kingdom

A Royal Duke is a duke who is a member of the British Royal Family, entitled to the style of "His Royal Highness". The current Royal Dukedoms are, in order of precedence:
*Edinburgh, held by The Prince Philip
*Cornwall (England) and Rothesay (Scotland), held by The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
*York, held by The Prince Andrew
*Gloucester, held by Prince Richard
*Kent, held by Prince Edward

In detail

With the exceptions of the dukedoms of Cornwall and Rothesay (which can only be held by the eldest son of the Sovereign), these dukedoms are hereditary according to the Letters Patent that created them, which contain the standard remainder "heirs male of his body". The British monarch also holds and is entitled to the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster, and within the borders of the County Palatine of Lancashire is by tradition saluted as "The Duke of Lancaster" (even when the monarch is a Queen regnant, she does not use the title "Duchess").

Past Royal Dukedoms include:

The Hanoverians occasionally combined two territorial designations into a single royal dukedom—for example, the Duke of York and Albany. Other combinations included 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, emphasizing the unity of the (then new) United Kingdom. Such Hanoverian Dukes were generally also given an Irish title.

The dukedoms of Albany and Cumberland are not vacant but were suspended in 1917, 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. There was speculation that Prince Edward would receive a dukedom such as Cambridge or Sussex upon his marriage in 1999, but instead he received the lesser title Earl of Wessex. At the same time as his appointment as Earl of Wessex, it was announced that Prince Edward will be created Duke of Edinburgh on the death of both of his parents as Prince Charles will succeed to the title on his father's death. The Dukedom of Edinburgh will become a non-royal dukedom with Prince Edward's grandchildren.

In the United Kingdom, there is nothing about a particular dukedom that makes it "royal". Rather, these peerages are called Royal Dukedoms because they are 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. [] 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, 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 legally "time does not run against the King", so that the 1520 order is theoretically still in effect, in fact the "Blood Royal" clause seems to have fallen into desuetude sometime in the 19th century. Thus peers of the Blood Royal who are not grandchildren of a Sovereign no longer enjoy 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 sons of a Sovereign, the sons of a Sovereign's sons, and the eldest living son of the eldest son of a Prince of Wales. For example, 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. 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 Arthur Windsor, Earl of MacDuff (1914–43), briefly succeeded to his peerages. However, as a duke, the second Duke of Connaught, a male-line great grandson of Queen Victoria, he was simply styled "His Grace".

The marriages of the eldest daughters of various Sovereigns, known as Princesses Royal, have created interesting situations. Princess Louise, Princess Royal to her father King Edward VII, married a commoner in 1900. Her husband was created Duke of Fife, so that she could be styled HRH The Duchess of Fife. The dukedom was a non-royal one, as it continues today. Princess Mary, Princess Royal to her father King George V, married Viscount Lascelles—succeeded as 6th Earl of Harewood—in 1922, retaining her HRH. There was no elevation to a dukedom. Princess Anne, Princess Royal to Queen Elizabeth II, has taken no title for herself or either of her commoner husbands, though there is absolutely nothing to impede the Sovereign creating a title—almost certainly an earldom, as for HRH Princess Margaret on her marriage to a commoner as Earl of Snowdon in 1961 &bdash; at any time. Camilla, second wife of the current Prince of Wales, is styled HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and when in Scotland HRH The Duchess of Rothesay, being two of the subsidiary titles of the Prince of Wales.

Forms of Address

*Begin: Sir
*Address: His Royal Highness the Duke of _____
*Speak to as: Your Royal Highness


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. 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, while the Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay has use of the heir apparent's coronet, and the current Dukes of Gloucester and of Kent, as grandsons of a Sovereign bear the corresponding coronet.


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