Sophie, Countess of Wessex, 55, and Prince Edward, 56, have two children – Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and James, Viscount Severn, 12. While Louise and James are technically a princess and prince, Edward and Sophie eschewed HRH styles for their children in order to give them a “more private” upbringing, a constitutional expert has claimed.
Lady Louise and James were styled after their parents’ Wessex peerage in a bold move which saw Edward and Sophie stretch the limits of royal tradition.
Edward’s older sister Princess Anne, 70, became the first child of a presiding sovereign to reject royal titles for her children.
Anne chose not to give her eldest Peter an official title following his birth in 1977 and did the same for her daughter Zara Tindall in 1981.
Constitutional expert Iain MacMarthanne told Express.co.uk: “In 1973, the then Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips and at that juncture both refused a title for Captain Phillips.”
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He added: “It in effect meant that any children born of the marriage would pass through life without a title.
“With the birth of their son Peter in 1977, and daughter Zara 1981, they continued to eschew titles for the grandchildren of the Queen.”
He added: “In the case of Anne this was the first time that the child of a sovereign had taken this decision.
“As with any action a precedent is set and the use and application of royal titles, or the granting of new titles, is a case in point.”
Prince Edward later followed in his sister’s footsteps but took the royal precedent even further, Mr MacMarthanne claimed.
The expert said: “Without doubt, the Princess Royal’s decision in the 1970s brought the precedent closer to the crown, and has enabled her brother Prince Edward and nephew Prince Harry to push its limits still further creating, in her wake, new ones.”
Mr MacMarthanne explained how Edward set a new precedent styling his children after his Wessex peerage.
He said: “This has been seen in her brother, the Earl of Wessex and Forfar, rejecting the HRH prefix for his children and instead, having his son use his courtesy title Viscount Severn rather than prince.”
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According to Mr MacMarthanne, Edward’s decision paved the way for Prince Harry to reject a royal title for his son Archie Harrison altogether.
Mr MacMarthanne said: “The Duke of Sussex meanwhile has pushed it still further in respect of his son who does not even use his father’s courtesy title.”
Exploring why royal parents have increasingly rejected titles for their offspring in recent years, Mr MacMarthanne claimed the honours have “limitations”.
He said: “Clearly in recent years the decision not to accept, or use titles, has been driven by an understanding of the changing role of the monarchy, and the life a member of the family can expect to lead.”
The expert added: “In real terms, a title can prove more of a hindrance than a benefit.
“Accordingly, in a world less driven by social protocol and deference it seems imminently sensible that members of the family, who will not have a front line role, are not encumbered by the limitations a title might bring.
“Certainly this has been the common explanation given by those who have refused titles, allowing their children instead to pursue a more private life, albeit in a public way, whilst remaining a member of the wider royal family.”
Sophie, Countess of Wessex touched on her and Edward’s decision not to give their children HRH styles in an interview earlier this year.
The Countess told the Sunday Times Magazine: “We try to bring them up with the understanding they are very likely to have to work for a living.
“Hence we made the decision not to use HRH titles.”
Lady Louise and James will be able to choose whether or not they wish to use their HRH styles when they turn 18.
Their mother Sophie has claimed they are “highly unlikely” to do so.
The Countess said: “They have them and can decide to use them from 18, but I think it’s highly unlikely.”