Keen royal watchers will recall the sense of disappointment that set in after Kate married William and the queen announced that she would be known as the Duchess of Cambridge, and not by the much more regal title of Princess Catherine.
We didn’t want a duchess, we wanted a princess and that was what reports at the time had led us to expect we would be getting. But, no, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge it was, and so there was little surprise when Meghan and Harry were given the same treatment after their marriage last year.
Technically, Kate is also known as Princess William and Meghan is Princess Henry, and there is no reason why they could not be referred to as princesses by the palace. In fact, the failure to do so has been a bit baffling.
But now a new theory has been put forward by the royal writers Victoria Arbiter and Kate Williams: It’s all Camilla’s fault.
Speaking on Yahoo’s royal show, The Royal Box, Arbiter said that, despite Camilla being legally titled as the Princess of Wales, she decided to use the title of Duchess of Cornwall after marrying Prince Charles in 2005 out of respect for Diana, who died eight years before the wedding and was known during her marriage as the Princess of Wales.
The decision to not call Camilla Princess of Wales may also have been made to avoid another public-relations nightmare at the hands of Diana’s fans, who became enraged at the royal family after her death in 1997.
Diana was brutally stripped of the title Her Royal Highness after her divorce, but, in a nonsensical compromise widely criticized at the time, she was allowed to go by the title “Diana, Princess of Wales.”
However, the meddling with the normal nomenclature created a precedent, and the more junior royal wives of the family cannot have less important titles than the top man’s wife.
So, as Williams told the show: “That’s why it’s duchess throughout the royal family—because Camilla is a duchess.”
Fascinating stuff, to fans of the minutiae of class-based British protocol.