15 October 2018

UK: Sussex pregnancy

Kensington Palace issued the following press statement this morning:
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019.

Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public.
This was the text which was released from the official Twitter account. But according to The Telegraph and other newspapers, the statement also said that:
The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted for the couple.

Ms Doria Ragland is very happy about the lovely news and she looks forward to welcoming her first grandchild.
The happy news was published first today in order not to overshadow the York Brooksbank wedding on Friday, and the public was informed shortly after the expecting couple had landed in Sydney, Australia. In the next 16 days the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are going to carry out 76 engagements in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.

According to The Telegraph, «A source said the Royal family were told the news on Friday at the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, and were able to congratulate the couple there in person.»

The decision to tell the happy news to family and friends at the royal wedding on Friday has obviously caused some critical comments in various social media. I prefer to focus on more important and interesting aspects, such as constitutional matters.

The baby will be born into the world as no. 7 in the line of succession to the British throne, after his or her father, and before Prince Harry's uncle the Duke of York. It will also mean that the Earl of Wessex will no longer be included in the top ten list.

As many newspapers and royalty watchers have commented on already, the baby will not be titled Prince or Princess with the style of Royal Highness unless the Queen decides otherwise. This is in accordance with the Letters Patent of 30 November 1917, which said:
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.) 
On 31 December 2012, the Queen decided by Letters Patent that «all the children of the eldest son of The Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour.» (Published in The Official Gazette on 8 January 2013).  If this decision had not been made, Princess Charlotte would have been styled Lady Charlotte Mountbatten-Windsor and Prince Louis Lord Louis Mountbatten-Windsor.

In other words, the baby, if a girl, will be styled Lady X Mountbatten-Windsor, while a boy will by courtesy be styled Earl of Dumbarton, which is the Duke of Sussex's second (lesser grade) title. But as already mentioned, the Queen could decide to issue a Letters Patent equal to the one published in 2013. In my opinion, that would be the best way forward, as the child would eventually, unless the Letters Patent of 1917 is changed in the meantime or the Sussex decides on something similar  to the Wessex solution*, be upgrated to Prince or Princess as soon as the Prince of Wales succeeds to the throne. The baby would then of course be a grandchild of the monarch.

But one thing is my private opinion, which really doesn't matter that much, another is what the Queen decides. Many people have argued that the Letters Patent of 1917 should be changed in order to reduce the number of royals (i.e. royal princes and princesses). But I would question the necessity, as the current number is bound to drop when the oldest generation dies out anyway. There are limits to how small the number of working royals can be, considering the relatively large British population and all the Commonweatlh countries where the British monarch serves as head of state. Even if the role of the monarch and the royal family is changed, they will still be on demand to carry out many engagements.

Therefore I personally think it is a pity that Princess Beatrix and Princess Eugenie of York, as it appears today, have not been asked to become working royals. I am sure they would do a great job. With the York princesses out of the question, the number of working royals could some time in the future be limited to William, Catherine and their 3 children as well as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Having the latter's child or children on board as well would in my opinion be an advantage. It will be interesting to see what the current and future monarch finally decide.

Another matter is of course that the Letters Patent of 1917 some time in the future has to be brought into (better) agreement with the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.

* «On June 19, 1999, at the time of Prince Edward's wedding, it was announced that The Queen had decided, with the agreement of Prince Edward and Miss Rhys-Jones, that any children of their marriage should not be given the style of His or Her Royal Highness, but would have courtesy titles as sons or daughters of an Earl.» The children of the Earl and Countess of Wessex are therefore styled Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and Viscount Severn.

Updated on Tuesday 16 October 2018 at 22.45 (I wrote from the future baby's point of view and managed to write that the Duke of York was Prince Harry's great uncle while in fact he is of course his uncle. The typical mistake one makes when one think one thing and write something else ...).

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