The genesis of the Royal Family

On November 30, 1917, King George V signed a Royal Warrant defining and limiting the people who could claim to be a Prince or a Princess of the United Kingdom, so as to quarantine the British Royals from the tangled mess of Highnesses, Serene Highnesses and Royal Highnesses that ran through the now-hated German nobility. According to the Warrant, the privilege of being called “your Royal Highness” would be limited to the children of the monarch, the children of the monarch’s sons and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. The children of the sons of the monarch’s sons would thereafter be addressed in the same style as the child of a duke.

When George V defined the Royal Family in 1917, the 22 princes and princesses of the United Kingdom compromised:

• George V’s children: Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII, and later Duke of Windsor); Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI); Mary, Princess Royal (by marriage, the Countess of Harewood); Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; Prince George, Duke of Kent; and Prince John

• George V’s sisters, Princess Maud (Queen of Norway), Louise, Princess Royal (Duchess of Fife), and Princess Victoria (who never married)

• The surviving children of Queen Victoria, siblings of Edward VII: Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (Governor-General of Canada, 1911-16); Princess Beatrice (Princess Heinrich of Battenburg); Princess Helena (Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein); and Princess Louise Alberta (Duchess of Argyll; her husband was Governor-General of Canada, 1878-83, as the Marquess of Lorne, and the province of Alberta is named for her)

• The children of Victoria’s younger sons, George V’s cousins: Prince Arthur of Connaught; Princess Margaret of Connaught (King Gustaf VI of Sweden’s first wife, grandmother of the current King, Carl XVI); Princess Victoria Patricia of Connaught (’s Canadian Light Infantry); Princess Marie of Edinburgh (Queen of Romania); Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh (Grand Duchess Cyril Vladimirovich of Russia); Princess Alexandra of Edinburgh (Princess Ernst of Hohenlohe-Langenburg); Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh (Princess Alfonso of Spain); Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany; and Princess Alice of Albany (Countess of Athlone; her husband was Governor-General of Canada, 1940-47)

The number of royals decreased by three in 1919: Prince John, George V’s youngest son, died of a seizure at the age of 14; Princess Patricia of Connaught renounced her titles to marry a commoner, Adm. Sir Alexander Ramsay, a younger son of the Earl of Dalhousie; and Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, was stripped of his titles for siding with the Germans in World War I.

Elizabeth II was the first new member of the Royal Family when she was born in 1926.

Interestingly, of the 19 princes and princesses of the UK born since 1917, only two have died: Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, who died of a stroke in 2002, and Prince William of Gloucester, who died in an airplane crash in 1972.

For you people keeping track, the other 17 are:

  • Princess Elizabeth of York (now Elizabeth II)
  • Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
  • Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
  • Prince Michael of Kent
  • Princess Alexandra of Kent (Lady Alexandra Ogilvy)
  • Charles, Prince of Wales
  • Anne, Princess Royal
  • Prince Andrew, Duke of York
  • Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
  • Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
  • Prince George of Cambridge
  • Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
  • Prince Henry (“Harry”) of Wales
  • Princess Beatrice of York
  • Princess Eugenie of York
  • Prince James of Wessex (the Viscount Severn)
  • Princess Louise of Wessex (Lady Louise Windsor)

These last two have a bit of controversy surrounding their princedom and princessdom: although they count as a prince and a princess under the Royal Warrant of 1917, a Buckingham Palace press release issued after the Earl of Wessex’s wedding in 1999 declared that their children would be styled like those of an earl. Constitutional scholars debate whether the press release has the same force of law as the Royal Warrant, and if Lord Severn and Lady Louise are, in fact, de jure Prince James and Princess Louise.

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