Queen Elizabeth got Prince Harry and Meghan Markle the ultimate wedding gift: Brand new royal titles!
After they say “I do,” Harry and Meghan will be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The Queen announced the news early Saturday morning, before the family gathers to watch Harry and Meghan exchange vows at St. George’s Chapel. Harry was also given the titles of Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel, which will be used in Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively.
“The Queen has today been pleased to confer a Dukedom on Prince Henry of Wales. His titles will be Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel,” the palace said in a statement. “Prince Harry thus becomes His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex, and Ms. Meghan Markle on marriage will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.”
In the months before their wedding, Sussex was widely speculated to be the dukedom that the Queen would choose for her grandson and his new bride. Sussex was also one of only two dukedoms available for Harry. (The other was the Duke of Clarence.)
Meghan will now be most commonly referred to as the Duchess of Sussex — though technically, since she is married to a prince, she is a princess, but she won’t be given an official princess title.
Ahead of Prince William‘s wedding in 2011, when royal watchers were speculating on what title he’d get after marrying Kate Middleton, Clive Cheesman of the College of Arms in London, who advises on royal titles, that the dukedoms of Cambridge, Sussex and Clarence were available. William, of course, was given Cambridge, leaving just two options for the Queen to choose from for Harry.
Bestowing titles to members of the royal family on their wedding day is a longtime tradition. When William and Kate got married, they became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. When Prince Andrew and Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson tied the knot, the Queen made them the Duke and Duchess of York (the title that once belonged to the Queen’s own father before he became King George VI.) It’s not always dukedoms that she hands out: When Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, they became the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
However, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana got married 1981, the Queen did not give them a new title as Charles already had a dukedom of his own: The Duchy of Cornwall. This is because Charles is the heir to the throne and the Prince of Wales. The Duchy of Cornwall is given to the Prince of Wales as a source of income.
According to the Duchy’s website, it’s a private estate (first set up in 1337) that generates revenue and provides a personal income to the Prince of Wales. When the Queen dies and Charles becomes king, William will likely become the Prince of Wales, as well as the Duke of Cornwall.
Just like most royal dukedoms, the title Duke of Sussex carries quite a bit of history. Though it first appeared as early as the 800s, it’s traceable origins start with Prince Augustus Frederick, son of King George III (who was the British monarch during the American Revolution.) The King bestowed the title on sixth son in 1801 — this was before the time of titles coinciding with marriage, as Augustus at the time was unmarried.
His first marriage, to Lady Augusta Murray, had been annulled because it did not abide with the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. Because of this, the two sons the couple had together were considered illegitimate, and were not able to inherit the title. He eventually married again, to Lady Cecilia Underwood, but that marriage did also not uphold the Royal Marriages Act, so she was not made the Duchess of Sussex. Augustus died in 1843, and the title died with him.
The title will take a different, happier route with Harry and Meghan. The couple’s marriage, of course, has already been approved by the Queen. (Just like Augustus, Harry needed her approval under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.) And Meghan will make history as the first Duchess of Sussex.