A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

How can I become Prince of Wales?

December 10, 1976

Dear Cecil:

Of late, I have become interested in becoming the Prince of Wales. However, I am not an English citizen and cannot inherit the throne. I can resort to marrying one of the royal family, though. Would you please tell me who I would have to marry to attain this coveted position?

Cecil replies:

It pains me to have to crush your dreams, Vance, but the only way to become the Prince of Wales is to have very highly placed relatives. And even if you'd been blessed with the charming and graceful Queen Elizabeth for a mother, your princehood wouldn't come automatically. The Sovereign's eldest son acquires a few titles at birth--in the English peerage, he becomes the Duke of Cornwall; in the more effusive Scottish heirarchy, he's the Duke of Rothesay, the Earl of Carrick, the Baron of Renfrew, and all-'round Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland--but he only becomes the Prince of Wales (and simultaneously the Earl of Chester) at his parent's behest. Not that there's a whole lot of suspense--only one British ruler, Edward III, has taken the throne without the title since Edward I acquired it for the English royal family by killing the last Welsh Prince of Wales in 1282. Prince Charles was granted his title in 1958 when he was ten years old, his sterling leadership capacities being apparent even at that early age. When Charles turned 21 in 1969, he was formally presented to the Welsh people at the princely estate in Wales, Caernarvon Castle, where he actually managed to utter a few words in the native language. The Teeming Welsh Millions looked him over and decided to keep him, as if they had a choice or even cared very much.

Marrying into the royal family won't do you a whole lot of good. The wives of princes are automatically royal, but the husbands of princesses can only hope to receive a courtesy title. Just before Prince Philip married the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947, the late King George was kind enough to make him Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth finally condescended to grant the poor guy "the style and dignity" of a Prince of the United Kingdom.

So far, though, Captain Mark Phillips, Princess Anne's soulmate, hasn't seen so much as a crummy barony--the pits of the peerage. In fact, Princess Anne has been shortshrifted herself: as Queen Elizabeth's eldest daughter, she's entitled to become the Princess Royal (the female equivalent, more or less, of the Prince of Wales), but the old lady hasn't gotten around to it yet. For Anne, however, the title would only be a small comfort--she can only become Queen if she eliminates her two younger brothers, the Princes Andrew and Edward, along with Charles, which isn't going to be easy. They only look stupid.

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