The popular Prince of Wales who should have become the crowned and annointed Edward VIII (q.v.) gave up his throne because Church and State would not recognise his plan to marry a twice-divorced lady from America. As we know, the Prince married his lady from Baltimore, and abdicated as well. When all the fuss had died down in the Thirties, and the Prince became the Duke of Windsor, the question arose as to whether or not his American wife should become ‘Her Royal Highness’, as indeed her husband was HRH.
The problem British governors had was that many considered it unconstitutional that the Duchess of Windsor should not be HRH, perhaps because the Law in England does not recognise a morganatic marriage. But then where did that leave George VI. He had married a fine Scottish girl with an ancient name and the castles to go with it, but she was not royal. In our times a Prince of Wales has twice married morganatically too – Lady Diana Spencer, and after her awful death Camilla Parker-Bowles.
If we look further back into history we find George III’s sister-in-law was a HRH as well as being Duchess of Gloucester (a royal title) and she was the illegitimate daughter of a dress-maker. We also discover that a good deal of ignorance is spread about in our highest circles. Even known writers on ceremonial sometimes make silly statements. For example, in the corridors of power people insisted that the Duke of Edinburgh should be made a Prince, by a special grant. Those insisters should have consulted the genealogists, as all British Dukes, Marquesses and Earls are princes already, as honorary cousins of the Monarch. Thus the Duke of Northumberland, the Marquess of Hertford and the Earl of Derby are all princes. Most people do not know that of course, but it used to be proclaimed by the herald in the most formal style in the old days of great ceremonial, such as state funerals and other superior occasions. After all, a Duke is addressed officially by the Crown as ‘Our right trusty and right entirely beloved Cousin’. On some other occasions it is: ‘Most High, Potent and Noble Prince’, or ‘Most Noble and Puissant Prince’. The Duke of Edinburgh, who is, thank Heaven, still with us was and is automatically a Prince, quite apart from being a Royal Highness.
All this is all very well, but the lady from Baltimore who married King Edward VIII was disallowed the HRH, with a lot of pushing behind from Church, State, and the royal family itself, on the female side. Indeed she was denied this undoubted right, up to her death in 1986.