Why Is Kate Middleton Not Called a Princess, But Princess Diana Was?

Names in the British royal family get very confusing. Most members of the royal family have much longer names than most people know. The situation with their last names can also trip you up. And titles make it even more perplexing to figure out what everyone is called (especially when you try to figure out what titles everyone gets when future monarchs ascend to the throne, or somebody gets married).

But one particularly common question is why Kate Middleton isn’t called a princess when Princess Diana was. Ahead, find out everything you need to know about why she isn’t “Princess Kate” even though her legendary mother-in-law was “Princess Diana.”

Strictly speaking, Kate Middleton isn’t a princess

Kate Middleton and Prince William

Kate Middleton isn’t technically “Princess Kate.” | Mark Large-Pool/Getty Images

Metro reports that even though Kate Middleton married Prince William, that doesn’t make her a princess. When she got married, Kate became Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge. Queen Elizabeth II gave Prince William the title of the “Duke of Cambridge” ahead of his wedding. So, naturally, Kate got the feminine version of her new husband’s title. But that still didn’t make her “Princess Kate.” She wasn’t born into the royal family. And she didn’t become a princess just because her husband is a prince.

Neither was Princess Diana, officially

Just as Kate Middleton didn’t become a princess when she married her prince, neither did Diana Spencer, officially. Metro reports that when Diana married Prince Charles of Wales, she became Her Royal Highness The Princess Of Wales. She was also known as Diana, Princess of Wales. Metro notes that Diana “may have had Princess within her full name, it was never her formal title, which would require Princess coming first, followed by her first name, much like Princess Charlotte” or Princess Anne.

Princess Diana even admitted that the title wasn’t correct

Princess Diana

Princess Diana | ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images

The public loved Diana, and it was the public that began referring to the Princess of Wales as “Princess Diana.” But as Metro reports, Diana even pointed out that the title wasn’t technically correct. To assume the title of Princess, you actually have to be born into the royal family, like William and Kate’s daughter, Princess Charlotte.

But that’s where things get interesting: Any daughters that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have won’t automatically be princesses, because any child of the duke and duchess of Sussex won’t automatically have a royal title. (Meaning they’d be a lord or lady, but not a prince or princess.) The same thing applied to William’s children. But Queen Elizabeth II decreed that George, Charlotte, and Louis got their titles as HRHs.

However, both Kate Middleton did — sort of — become a princess

The BBC reports that Kate automatically became Her Royal Highness, Princess William of Wales, when she married William. But she can’t call herself Princess Kate because she has other titles that take precedence over that one. As The Huffington Post notes, William’s Duke title is senior to his Prince title.

The Express, similarly, reports that “Duke is Prince William’s highest rank, and this is what he goes by.” So while Kate is officially “Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus,” her most important title is “Duchess of Cambridge.”

Kate Middleton could become the Princess of Wales, like Diana

When Queen Elizabeth II dies and Prince Charles succeeds her to the throne, Prince William will get one step closer to the crown. Prince William is also likely to become the new Prince of Wales (though he won’t get the title automatically). It’s the title bestowed upon the heir apparent, and Diana was the Princess of Wales during her marriage to Charles.

The Mirror notes that when Prince William becomes the Prince of Wales, Kate Middleton could become the Princess of Wales, adopting the name “as a tribute to the mother-in-law she never met.” Similarly, The Express notes that “if Prince William were to become the Prince of a Principality Kate Middleton could take the major title of princess, becoming Catherine, Princess of Wales, but she may choose to stick with the Duchess title, like Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall has.”

Read more: Why Is Princess Anne So Low in the Line of Succession to the Throne?

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