A hierarchy of British titles from the monarch to a knighthood

Caroline Allen
Contributor
There are more titles in the Royal family than you might've realised. [Photo: Getty]

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they were stepping down as “senior” members of the Royal Family, questions were asked about how that would affect their titles.

Before their announcement, their official titles were His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex.

It was thought that the Queen might strip them of their titles or give them new ones more aligned with their new role within the Royal Family.

However, Harry and Meghan will both be keeping their titles, although they will no longer use the HRH part.

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His/Her Royal Highness used to be reserved for the sons and daughters of sovereigns and the male-line grandchildren of sovereigns are entitled to the style.

That’s why Beatrice and Eugenie (Prince Andrew’s children) both have HRH but Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall (Princess Anne’s children) don’t.

In 2012, the Queen changed this before the impending arrival of Prince George. That meant that regardless of gender, all children of the eldest living son could have the title.

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As Duke and Duchess is the highest royal title after King/Queen and Prince/Princess, the Queen could have downgraded Prince Harry to one of his lesser titles, namely the Earl of Dumbarton.

All senior royals have numerous titles, but only go by their highest-ranking one. Prince Harry will continue to hold the title of Earl of Dumbarton, but it will not be the title he uses.

His son Archie could have been given that title, but Harry and Meghan decided against it, opting for Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor instead.

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Dukes and Duchesses

Traditionally, dukes and duchesses were of royal blood and only given the title when they came of age and inherited it. That’s why Prince Harry was only known as the Duke of Sussex after he got married.

Today, there are two types of dukedoms: royal and non-royal.

Royal dukes consist of the likes of the Duchy of Lancaster (Queen Elizabeth), the Duke of Cornwall (Prince Charles) and the Duke of Cambridge (Prince William).

Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster, is godfather to Prince George. [Photo: Getty]

There are currently a number of non-royals who are still known as dukes. The duke of Westminster is a prime example of this. He’s also godfather to Prince George.

Famously, Sir Winston Churchill was offered dukedom of London but declined in order to stay as part of the House of Commons.

Marquess and Marchioness

According to Debrett’s, a marquess sits below a duke and above an earl.

There are currently 34 marquesses in the UK, but none of them have the celebrity status that the Royal Family have acquired.

The title was introduced in 1385 and it was known to be “very unpopular” with current earls at the time, given that marquess was all of a sudden known to be a higher ranking.

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Earl and Countess

Earl is the longest-held title in the United Kingdom, which is why the earls were pretty incensed when the marquess title swept in and knocked them down a peg.

There are 191 earls in the UK, but this number doesn’t include the most famous: Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Prince Edward is known as the Earl of Wessex, a role bestowed upon him by the Queen.

It’s often wondered why Prince Edward holds less of a rank than that of his two brothers, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.

There are differing reports of why this is the case, as he was set to be Duke of Cambridge (a title Prince William now holds) but according to The Telegraph it’s thought to be because Edward liked the sound of the Earl of Wessex.

He won’t hold this title forever, though. The Sunday Times reported he’s likely to take the title of Duke of Edinburgh when his father passes away.

Prince Edward was meant to be the Duke of Cambridge but decided upon the Earl of Wessex instead. [Photo: Getty]

READ MORE: Here’s how a royal is stripped of their title

Viscount and Viscountess

There are currently 115 viscounts in the UK; this doesn’t include courtesy viscounts, who may find themselves with this title as the sons or daughters of earls or other viscounts.

The oldest viscount title is that of Viscount Hereford, which is currently being held by Robin Devereux.

Typically, viscounts live mostly under the radar, with Viscount Hereford previously holding the job title of director of private clients for Bonhams Auctioneers.

Baron and Baroness

This is the lowest-ranked title and also the most popular, with 426 hereditary barons and nine hereditary baronesses.

There’s technically one rank below this, known as baronet, which is meant to outrank a knighthood as it earns the holder the title of lord or lady, rather than sir or dame.

Although Prince William and Prince Harry both hold higher-ranked titles, they do have a baron title too.

Prince Williams is Baron Carrickfergus and Prince Harry’s is Baron Kilkeel.

Knighthood and Damehood

One final title that is bestowed on people by the Queen is a knighthood.

It’s given to people for their achievements or service to the country and can be given for a person’s dedication to politics, arts and entertainment, military, business and many more areas.

It has famously been rejected by the likes of John Cleese, David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Jon Snow.

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