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HO 286/50


HON 9/1/1

HO Memo

The Title of Prince

Minutes

In the course of some talk on heraldic matters the other day the S of S said that he had been informed that in this country the title Prince did not connote sovereignty or supremacy and he asked me to let him have a note on the subject.

I therefore prepared the note within which S of S has seen. I showed it to Garter whose agreement with the view in the note that normally Prince in this country is a courtesy title is set out in his letter of 22nd June within. I have placed within a copy of the LP of 1910 creating Edward Prince of Wales.

This paper should be noted and preserved for future reference if required.

HAS
23/6/54

[noted in Warrants Note Book p. 420; copy of memorandum in Appendix section 82. FJD]

The Title of "Prince" In Great Britain the use of the title of "Prince" by the children of the Sovereign is comparatively modern.

During the Middle Ages the King himself was never referred to as "Majesty", but in a number of other ways, e.g. "Our Sovereign Lord The King", "The King's Highness", and "The King's Grace". "Majesty" as a description of the Sovereign came into use in the 16th century when in an age of nationalism and of grave danger, first from the Holy Roman Empire, then Prance, and then Spain, this Realm of England was declared in the Act forbidding Appeals to Rome in 1533 an Empire.

With the increased splendour of the dignity of the Sovereign" came an increased dignity for the sons of the Sovereign, and Henry VII's reign was the first in which all the King's sons began to be styled "Princes". The exception had been the eldest son of the Sovereign who, since the reign of Edward HI, had always been Duke of Cornwall by birth and, with one exception (Henry VI), Prince of Wales by creation.

Edward I had conferred the Principality on his eldest son, afterwards Edward II, who was summoned to and sat in Parliament as Prince of Wales, but Edward the Black Prince was the person to whom the Principality as well as the Dukedom was granted. The Patent for the creation of Edward, the son of Henry VI, as Prince of Wales in 1453-4 contains the words:-
"We have made and created and by these Presents make and create him the said Edward, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, and to the same Edward we give and grant and by this Charter have confirmed the name, style, title, state, dignity, and the honour of the said Principality that he may therein in governing rule and in ruling direct and defend ... invested him to have and to hold to him and to his heirs Kings of England for ever."
The Dukedom of Cornwall - the first creation of a Duke in England - annexed certain specified possessions to the Duke of Cornwall (the Black Prince) "habendum eidem duci et ipsius et heredum suorum regum Anglie filiis primogenitis et dicti loci ducibus in regno Anglie hereditarie successuris".

The Black Prince was created Prince of Wales in 1343 and presumably was given executive functions in the Principality, if the terms in which the infant son of Henry VI was created Prince of Wales followed precedent, as no doubt they did.
[The Patent of June 1910 creating Edward Prince of Wales contains the words: "that he may preside there and may direct and defend these parts". an interesting example of the survival into the 20th century of words of several centuries antiquity wholly inappropriate in modern conditions.]
In the 16th century Wales was incorporated with England, made subject to English law and was then governed through the Council of Wales. For centuries the Prince of Wales has had no executive responsibilities in the Principality and as such has Lad no Sovereignty. The Principality of Wales was not a Sovereign House as some of the Principalities on the Continent, particularly in Germany, e.g. the Prince of Lichtenstein.

In Scotland the eldest son of the Kings of Scotland was created Duke of Rothesay in 1398, and like the Duke of Cornwall certain lands "dominium de Bute, cum castro de Rothesay /and various other lands] ... Princibus primogenitis Regum Scotie, successorum nostrorum, perpetuis temporibus futuris uniantus, incorporentur et annexentur". Apparently the title "Prince of Scotland", the origins of which are by no means clear, was an established title by about 1500. The first Charter creating the Principality of Scotland was granted in 1404 by King Robert III and was made permanent by Act of Parliament (Scots) somewhere about 1470. Henry, the eldest son of James VI was Prince of Scotland in 1603 at the Union of the Crowns but was not created Prince of Wales until 1610. At his death, his younger brother Charles became Prince of Scotland. The title was last used in 1649 when Charles II became King on his father's execution: I ignore the use of the title by the Old Pretender.

Although the title Prince of Scotland has not been used it is interesting to record that in the Patent creating King George V's eldest son Prince of Wales he is described as "Prince of the United Kingdom and of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Great Steward of Scotland ....[23 June 1910]

No Prince of Wales has had Sovereign Powers in his Principality for centuries and there has been no Prince of Scotland for three centuries. In Great Britain the style of "Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" is merely a title, implies no notion of Sovereignty or territorial supremacy and is restricted to Princes of the Royal Family. It is purely a courtesy and the holders of that title remain commoners until they are raised to the Peerage, the only exception being the eldest son of the Sovereign who at birth or, as in the case of Prince Charles, at his mother's accession to the Throne, immediately becomes Duke of Cornwall.

HAS

17th June, 1954.

College of Arms
Queen Victoria Street
London EC4

From
The Hon George Bellew, K.C.V.O.
Garter Principal King of Arms

Personal
22nd June 1954

Dear Austin,

Title of Prince

I return your Memo, and I have only the following observation to make:-
  1. The title of Prince is (in this country) normally a courtesy title indicating certain degrees of relationship to the Sovereign and having no power to govern.
  2. An exception is, for example, the title Prince of Wales, which, though it is in fact only titular, does in theory confer power to govern, in that "he may preside there (Wales) and may direct and defend those parts" (Patent of creation) ; also he sits in the House of Lords as Prince of Wales (although it could be argued that since the British peerage knows no higher degree than Duke he really sits as Duke of Cornwall, or whatever it may be).
  3. There would seem therefore to be two quite distinct "kinds" of Prince:- (a) those born within a certain degree of relationship to the Sovereign, and (b) those specially created.
  4. In regard to (a) the title, so to speak, denotes a genus. Thus the son of a Sovereign is born a Prince, and all the Prince's sons are Princes: even if they are all alive at the same time.
  5. In regard to (b) all depends on the terms of creation. One may have theoretical dominions, and power to govern (as a Prince of Wales), and another none (as the Prince Consort).
  6. The Oxford English Dictionary has some information under the words Prince, Princeps, Prince Royal, etc..
Yours sincerely,

G.R. Bellew
Garter

Sir Austin Strutt, K.C.V.O., C.B.,
Home Office,
Whitehall, S.W.1


Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester.

George the Fifth by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King Defender of the Faith To all Archbishops Dukes Marquesses Earls Viscounts Bishops Barons Baronets Knights Justices Provosts Ministers and all other Our faithful Subjects Greeting know Ye that We have made and created and by these Our Letters Patent do make and create Our most dear Son Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay Earl of Carrick Baron of Renfrew Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland Duke of Saxony and Prince of Saxe Coburg and Gotha Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester and to the same Our most dear Son Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Have given and granted and by this Our present Charter do give grant and confirm the name style title dignity and honour of the same Principality and Earldom And him Our said most dear Son Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David as has been accustomed We do ennoble and invest with the said Principality and Earldom by girting him with a sword by putting a Coronet on his head and a gold ring on his finger and also by delivering a gold rod into his hand that he may preside there and may direct and defend those parts To hold to him and his heirs Kings of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas for ever Wherefore We will and strictly command for Us Our heirs and successors that Our said most dear Son Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David may have the name style title state dignity and honour of the Principality of Wales and Earldom of Chester aforesaid unto him and his heirs Kings of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas as is above mentioned.

In Witness etc.

Witness etc. the twenty third day of June 1910

By His Majesty's Command.

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