The Ruling of 1917

The Ruling of 1917

Whitehall, 11th December 1917.

The KING has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date the 30th ultimo, to define the styles and titles to be borne henceforth by members of the Royal Family. It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour; that save as aforesaid the titles of Royal Highness, Highness or Serene Highness, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess shall cease except those titles already granted and remaining unrevoked; and that the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes.

(London Gazette, issue 30428, Dec. 14, 1917, p. 2.)

With this ruling, George V restricted the usage of the style HRH and the title of Prince or Princess to: 

  1. the children of the monarch  
  2. the children of the sons of the monarch
  3. the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales only 

It was further stated that the remaining grandchildren of the monarch’s sons should be given the style and title afforded to the children of the peerage rank of a Duke (thus Lord/Lady). This law is still in place today and applies to the sons of Queen Elizabeth and the grandchildren of Charles III. 

However, the children of The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh do not use HRH nor do they use the style Prince or Princess, preferring instead in the case of his son to use his father’s secondary title of Earl of Wessex, and in the case of his daughter, the style of a Duke’s daughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor. For more information see The Edinburgh Children.

The usage of HRH was further restricted by the late Queen Elizabeth, to working members of the Royal Family only. Thus, The Duke of York, The Duke of Sussex  and The Duchess of Sussex do not use HRH, even though they are, under the 1917 ruling, entitled to do so. 

The ruling is there to clarify the situation but that does not mean it has to be followed by those to whom it applies.  

Image, top: The six children of King George V in 1910. (Back row) Prince Albert, Prince Henry, Prince Edward, (Front row) Prince John, Princess Mary, Prince George

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