If you’ve been calling Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge “Princess Kate” this whole time, you’d be wrong. And though you might like how it sounds, “Princess Meghan” will be just as inaccurate after Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry this weekend.
I know, I know, we like the idea of Markle becoming a princess like in a Hollywood movie, but the way these royal designations work is complicated.
To be a “princess,” you have to be the child of a monarch and inherit the title from your mother or father. Instead, both Markle and Prince Harry will become a duchess and duke, which is the highest designation of royal peerage.
However, it would also be appropriate to refer to Markle as Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Wales, sharing the title with her husband in the same way that Princess Diana was formally referred to as Diana, Princess of Wales.
But that designation is a bit too formal. Harry and Markle will become the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — a title that Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon her grandson and his bride just before the ceremony on Saturday.
Way back in Britain’s royal history, sons of the monarch would be granted a dukedom when they came of age. Today, that honor is typically bestowed when the son marries, and the title the queen chooses is effectively ceremonial. Traditionally, your title had to do with land ownership but today it’s almost entirely up to the queen to decide what the title will be.
The title carries with it some historical significance. In the case of the Duke of Sussex, the last person to hold that title, King George III’s sixth son Prince Augustus Frederick, who died in 1843 with no heir. The title has been vacant since then, and Markle would likewise become the first ever Duchess of Sussex.
Markle is also the first biracial, divorced, American woman to be welcomed into the royal family.
Watch the royal wedding on May 19 from St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in London.