Monday, 3 December 2012

Duchess of Cambridge pregnant with heir to the British throne

The British royal court today announced that the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Catherine or Kate) is pregnant with her first child. The court did not say when the baby is expected to be born, only that “the pregnancy is in its very early stages”. Royal pregnancies are normally not announced until the end of the third month, but it seems this was announced already now to prevent speculations after the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London this afternoon for treatment for very acute morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum).
As the firstborn child of the Duke of Cambridge (Prince William of Britain) the child will be born as third in line to the throne, following its father and its grandfather, the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles). However, if it is a girl she will, under current legislation, be bypassed in the succession by a younger brother, but there is currently a constitutional process going on in the sixteen realms of which Elizabeth II is Queen to introduce gender-neutral succession. If the baby now expected is a girl, this will be done retroactively, so the expected child will be the future monarch whether it is a boy or a girl.
The child will be the third great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II, following the two daughters of Peter Phillips (the son of Princess Anne). Although it is not unusual for Britain to have a royal family consisting of four generations (this was the case from 1948 to 1953 and from 1982 to 2002) it will be the first time since 1894-1901 that there will be three heirs in direct line to the British throne.


  1. Would you happen to know when an announcement of the child's title, if any, would be released? Many have speculated that Queen Elizabeth may depart from the 1917 letters patent and grant a princessly title to a firstborn daughter. Today's announcement, however, made no mention of titles.

    1. Indeed, according to the 1917 letters patent a firstborn daughter would be Lady Victoria (?) Windsor, while a firstborn son would be Prince George (?) of Cambridge. But to be honest it seems Elizabeth II and the current court care little for letters patent, so I suppose they will just "let it be known" how the child will be styled. (After all, there was no letter patent when it was decided that the children of Prince Edward should not be known by their rightful titles).

    2. The palace has apparently made it known to journalists that a daughter will be a princess from birth. Given that the court has thus far opted not to make a formal announcement, I suppose one will not be forthcoming prior to the birth.

    3. Yes, but (as you know) that will not be the case according to the 1917 letters patent. But on the other hand, "letting it be known" seems to be how Buckingham Palace does things these days, while current "legislation" is ignored when it suits them.

    4. I must admit that I remain ignorant (despite attempts to locate this information) regarding the legal distinction between letters patent and other proclamations issued by the British monarch.

    5. I think the simple explanation is that letters patent are written rules which can only be changed by the monarch's issuing new letters patent. In recent years this has not been done; instead one has chosen simply to let it be known that people should be styled so and so. The consequence is for instance that the person who the British court refer to as Lady Louise Windsor is actually a Princess of the UK.


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