For instance, Prince William is also "Duke of Cambridge."

His grandfather, Prince Philip is Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Marioneth, and Baron Greenwich, among others.

How do they come by these non-royal titles and why? They're all "lesser" than "Prince."

  • 1
    According to Wikipedia, Royal Dukedoms, like those you list, are not "non-royal". Royal Dukedoms outrank non-royal Dukedoms. The British Monarch is the fount of honour and grants titles of honour by issuing letters patent. The process seems motivated by tradition and the desire to slot people into an appropriate place in the order of precedence. Sep 28 '17 at 19:54
  • @RedGrittyBrick: That explains the Dukedoms, but do you have an answer for Earl of Marioneth or Baron of Greenwich?
    – Tom Au
    Sep 28 '17 at 20:08
  • The other titles are subsidiary titles. I don't know why the Queen created them for him. I wonder if it was because he had given up rights to the Greek and Danish thrones on becoming a British subject - so he lost several titles, the Queen may have wished to grant him a similar set of honours - but this is just speculation. Sep 28 '17 at 20:24
  • @RedGrittyBrick At the time, it was George VI who was the monarch, not the Queen. Sep 28 '17 at 20:32
  • 1
    @Azor-Ahai: I asked this (your) question on Politics because I thought it would do better here than on history. If you would like to ask your version of this question, I would "stand down" in your favor by removing my question.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 28 '17 at 21:38

Royal dukedoms are personal gifts of the British monarch, and traditionally assigned to family members. The titles are not necessarily passed on to the holder's offspring; they may become vacant when the holder dies or accedes to a more senior title.

Some titles, such as Duke of Cambridge, are almost entirely honorific.

Others come with significant lands and revenues. Prince Charles is Duke of Cornwall; this title comes with 570 km^2 of land, generating an income of £19 million per annum. When the title is vacant, this revenue is collected by the monarch.

Having the lands and responsibilities of a dukedom is considered a mark of adulthood. In times past, it would have helped train the holder for other royal duties and perhaps eventually becoming King; and hopefully ensured that the reigning monarch had a reliable manager for a portion of the royal lands. The custom of awarding dukedoms to younger royals is to some extent a relic of this practice.

Prior to House of Lords reform in 1999, a royal dukedom entitled the holder to a seat in the upper house of the British Parliament, although in modern times members of the royal family seldom voted or attended debates. After the 1999 reforms, royal dukes no longer have seats in the Lords.

Finally, the awarding of titles can symbolise the commitment of the royal family to all parts of the UK. The Duke of Cambridge was until recently a pilot at an air rescue service based in Cambridge; the Duke of Edinburgh has maintained some other ties to the city, for instance serving for many years as Chancellor of Edinburgh University.


Titles can be passed onto sons.

Such titles are in the gift of the Monarch. There is a tradition of awarding a title, usually a Dukedom upon the younger sons of the monarch when they marry. These titles can then be passed down to their children. So Prince Edward, who is also Earl of Wessex, can pass his title on to his son, who is currently styled Viscount Severn. If he hadn't been given the Earldom, his son would not have had a title.

The bestowing of several titles on, for example, Prince Phillip, is part of the system. It looks pretty silly from the outside, but I'm told that members of the aristocracy take it seriously, and it would have been considered an insult for him to have received less.

  • Not necessarily so. The royal dukedoms (Edinburgh, York, Cambridge) become vacant upon the death of the holder. Oct 2 '17 at 9:47
  • @RoyalCanadianBandit Do you have a source for that? I'd understood that of the three you listed, Edinburgh and Cambridge were likely to revert to the crown once Prince Charles/William ascends to the thrown, while Prince Andrew has only daughters.
    – origimbo
    Oct 2 '17 at 10:55
  • I was mistaken about York, it could be inherited (but won't be, unless Prince Andrew remarries and has a son). But Cornwall, for example, would become vacant if Charles became King. AIUI if the Queen dies before Prince Philip, he would continue as Duke of Edinburgh until his own death, but the title would not pass to Charles or William. Oct 2 '17 at 11:02
  • Cornwall is a special case and has been for centuries, being a relic of a feudal system otherwise abolished. Supposedly, HM Queen Elizabeth wants Prince Edward to be created Edinburgh after Philip dies and the title reverts to the Crown. However, I've never seen any evidence that it doesn't devolve on heirs male otherwise. The normal succession would be Philip -> Charles -> William... and Charles on by becoming King, the title would cease to exist (merge with Crown)
    – eques
    Feb 12 '18 at 18:10

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