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It's shouting into the headwinds of romantic swoonery, but today's wedding will not create Princess Meghan.

Quaint and odd they may be, but the rules of the royal road are both clear and strict, and neither tabloids nor TV will change them. In the House of Windsor, princesses are born, not made--not even by marriage.

No members of the British royal family can put the title "prince" or "princess" in front of their names unless they are born royal. So technically, there can be no Princess Meghan, just as there was no Princess Diana.

Yet, confusingly, Meghan Markle, like Kate Middleton, will have the "style" of "princess of the United Kingdom"--essentially her job description--but not the "title." It's one more nugget of headache-inducing royal arcana that someone can be a princess without being called "princess."

What will she be called, then?

Traditionally, just before a marriage, the monarch puts out what are called "letters patent," a kind of royal wedding gift to the son or grandson, making him a royal duke.

It sounds like a demotion from "prince," but it isn't. It's a bonus. A royal dukedom is a super-duper-dukedom.

Under Windsor house rules, that royal dukedom--the rumor is the queen will make Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex--spares Meghan Markle from bearing the clumsy title of "Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Wales." Instead, she would be "HRH the Duchess of Sussex," just as the former Kate Middleton is "HRH the Duchess of Cambridge."

The title doesn't come with any land--they won't be getting the county of Sussex as a wedding present--and the couple would be only the second Duke and Duchess of Sussex in modern royal history. The first, Queen Victoria's favorite uncle, walked her up the aisle at her wedding because her father was dead.

It really is a kind of strange magic that a woman in a white dress says a few words in a church and becomes a royal highness. But when a princess born to royal rank marries a commoner, his status does not rise to match hers. Sexist, right? When Princess Margaret married a photographer, the queen made her sister's new husband an earl, in part so their children--the grandchildren of a monarch--would not be plain "Mr." and "Miss."

The queen has been paring back the scale of the royal family to match modern sentiment, so it's probable that any children Meghan and Harry have will not be royal highnesses, but simply Lord or Lady Whatever. That's what the queen did with the children of her youngest son, Edward.

Got it? Good. Now, cut this out and carry it in your wallet, and win those bar bets with the bold but accurate declaration, "There's no such person as Princess Meghan!"

Editorial on 05/19/2018

Print Headline: What do we call her now?

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