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January 11, 2013 10:49 PM   Subscribe

when diana spencer married prince charles, she was since known as princess diana—so much so that i had to look up her former surname to be reminded what it was. so why is the duchess of cornwall commonly referred to still by her given name, kate middleton?
posted by violetk to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Is Kate Middleton officially a princess? She's a duchess.

Diana was known as a princess because she was married to the Prince of Wales, first in line to the throne. So "prince" was in his title. Andrew is a prince, but his title for the moment is Duke of Cornwall.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:57 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably because the name Kate is a lot more common than the name Diana. I mean, "Princess Diana" evokes a pretty singular image, whereas "Duchess Kate" does not.

I also suspect that it has something to do with changing social attitudes about women and marriage, and also the changing role of British royalty. Someone like Kate holds on to her own identity today a lot more strongly than Diana would have been allowed to.

I'm also pretty sure we're only talking about the way these people are referred to in the media, since Kate is officially styled Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
posted by Sara C. at 11:00 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Princess Diana wasn't technically correct either.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:00 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


that still doesn't explain why she's still referred to as kate middleton? (and i believe you mean charles, not andrew.)
posted by violetk at 11:00 PM on January 11, 2013


There also was certainly a time when Diana was more known by her maiden name, and I'm curious about how long it took for the vestiges of that to wear off in the media.
posted by Sara C. at 11:01 PM on January 11, 2013


Kate was in the media eye. For longer (and in a different era) than Diana was.
posted by k8t at 11:04 PM on January 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, Kate and William dated for years and years before they were married (she was derisively called Waity Katie in the British press) so people were more familiar with her maiden name for a longer time. Also, she's a commoner unlike Diana who came from a titled family.
posted by sweetkid at 11:07 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


She's the Duchess of Cambridge. She is called Kate Middleton in the media because she has a longstanding media identity - she and William dated for almost a decade before marriage. Nobody had heard of Diana Spencer before her engagement, and she was called Lady Di by the US press!
posted by DarlingBri at 11:08 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


oops, yes, duchess of cambridge, not cornwall!

yes, i believe lady diana was correct as she was the daughter of an earl.
posted by violetk at 11:08 PM on January 11, 2013


She's actually HRH Princess William technically.

But she's called by Kate Middleton by the media because that's how the media and the public had come to know her for a long time. She's been with William for many years now. I imagine the royal media calls her that because it reflects her common roots.
posted by inturnaround at 11:09 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Diana was on the scene publicly for a very brief time before the marriage. Kate and William have been together ages. So, tabloid habit, basically.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:09 PM on January 11, 2013


William and Kate are both properly addressed as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and the Duke and Duchess of Strathearn in Scotland). While William is still a prince, she is not (and will never be) a princess. When he ascends the throne after his grandmother (Queen Elizabeth II) and father (Charles, Prince of Wales), he will be King and at that point, she will be Queen. But she does not, and will not, take on the title of Princess. (Any child they have, though, will apparently inherit Prince/Princess.)

As first in line to the throne, Charles is Prince of Wales, so his wife was naturally the Princess of Wales. (Note that Camilla is a duchess and will become a princess, not a queen upon Charles' ascension, due to that whole messy divorce/remarriage business, plus the public's adoration of Diana.) Since William is the Duke of Cambridge (that title supercedes the fact that he is heir to the title Prince of Wales), Kate is called a Duchess.

According to Wikipedia:

Catherine's full title and style is Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus.

Further on Wikipedia, emphasis mine:

As a titled royal, Catherine holds no surname, but when one is used, it is Mountbatten-Windsor. Many media outlets, however, refer to her by her maiden name, Kate Middleton.

More on her titles here:

http://www.dukeandduchessofcambridge.org/the-duchess-of-cambridge/titles-and-heraldry/titles
posted by juliebug at 11:17 PM on January 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


My take on this is because some elements of the class-conscious British public don't want anyone to forget that Kate Middleton is from a middle-class background. There's a popular perception of Kate's family as grasping, ruthlessly ambitious social climbers, and of Kate herself as someone who was so keen to be on the throne that she basically waited around doing nothing for ten years until William got around to proposing (hence the nickname 'Waity Katie')

Populist publications such as the Daily Mail love to stir up this sentiment among their readers, hence why they often refer to the Duchess of Cornwall by her full maiden name.
posted by RubyScarlet at 11:31 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's also worth pointing out that the more formal of the British media definitely refer to her as the Duchess of Cambridge now.
posted by kadia_a at 12:08 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Populist publications such as the Daily Mail

Interestingly, per Google News search limited to site:uk, the Daily Mail refers to her properly. The Mirror does not, and the Independent seems to vary depending on whether it's a news story or a column. Otherwise, the only outlets using "Kate Middleton" are blogs and magazine websites such as Marie Claire. I think this overall thesis "commonly referred to" is false.

When you divide results by "site:uk" and "-site:uk" (to exclude the rest of the world or exclude the UK respectively) you find a 10:1 world:uk usage of "Kate Middleton" and a pretty much even world:uk usage of "Duchess of Cambridge" -- and as noted that includes a lot of non-journalistic entities.

the Duke and Duchess of Strathearn in Scotland

An Earldom in the current creation, I believe.

As to the Princess of Wales, that is, it should be made clear, what is referred to as a courtesy title. She was not a princess "in her own right", so it was technically incorrect to call her "Princess Diana". By contrast, the title of Prince given to Prince William is a customary "dignity" which does not confer the courtesy title on his spouse, so Kate cannot be a Princess (by that means; in theory -- I believe juliebug is wrong on this -- she will become Princess of Wales when Wiliam is conferred the title by his father after accession, or by another title of Prince that could be created solely for him by either his father or grandmother).

The basic thing you need to know about titles is that they aren't as simple and automatic as you think. Each title is a specific creation via letters patent by the Crown and comes with its own rules of inheritance or expiration. Prince of Wales, for example, is not an inherited title, and Charles did not formally receive it until he was "invested" as a teenager, some few years after his mother became Queen. More generally, not everyone in the royal family actually has a title beyond the first or second generation, and some choose not to use theirs.
posted by dhartung at 12:31 AM on January 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Diana was called both Lady Di and Diana Spencer for a really long time. I bet eventually people will get used to calling her not-Kate Middleton.

It's because it's still relatively new....her name change. It takes me years to get used to my female friends getting married and changing their surnames to their husbands. (And not just because I judge them a little bit for doing it.)
posted by taff at 12:34 AM on January 12, 2013


Juliebug:

Note that Camilla is a duchess and will become a princess, not a queen upon Charles' ascension, due to that whole messy divorce/remarriage business, plus the public's adoration of Diana.

She may not be called the Queen but she will, in fact, become HM Queen. The wife of the King is always the Queen.

This isn't an optional thing.
posted by tonylord at 2:07 AM on January 12, 2013


juliebug: While William is still a prince, she is not (and will never be) a princess
Not true. Assuming her father-in-law doesn't die before his mother, she'll become Catherine, Princess of Wales when her husband becomes Prince of Wales.

And while we're at it:
As a titled royal, Catherine holds no surname, but when one is used, it is Mountbatten-Windsor.
That would be a little weird, since her husband and brother-in-law have both been using 'Wales' as a surname for the last 20 years or so.

Even republicans can know this shit if they grew up in the right country. Damnit.
posted by genghis at 2:21 AM on January 12, 2013


What Taff says. Princess Di was known as Lady Di for years afterwards.

The British press who want official access to the royal family don't use "Kate Middleton."

Pressures on character count in headlines means "The Duchess of Cambridge" often gets shortened to Kate, just as happens for Camilla with her title and almost every other royal bar the Queen. Who gets called Her Maj.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:27 AM on January 12, 2013


That would be a little weird, since her husband and brother-in-law have both been using 'Wales' as a surname for the last 20 years or so.

They use "Wales" as we might use a surname, but that's not actually their surname, it's the name of their Royal House. Their proper surname (if one was to be used) is Mountbatten-Windsor, which, if you think about it, makes sense -- if/when William accedes to the throne, he will no longer be William of Wales because, well, he'll be King. If/when Harry is given his own title (rather than the one he takes as member of the Prince of Wales' household), he will also no longer be "Wales" but something else (perhaps York?).

Catherine might currently be married to a member of the House of Wales, but she is not a member of that House:
the title of Prince given to Prince William is a customary "dignity" which does not confer the courtesy title on his spouse
So using "Wales" for her surname would be incorrect. If she has a surname, it is Mountbatten-Windsor.
posted by devinemissk at 6:52 AM on January 12, 2013


nthing the prevalence of "Lady Di" post-marriage, especially in the foreign press. And Sarah Ferguson has never not been Fergie to the tabloids. As others have said, it's really a case of an established media identity -- a kind of stage name, but one bestowed by others -- persisting in spite of whatever changes about the formal title.
posted by holgate at 6:57 AM on January 12, 2013


I think surnames as used by the royals are something of a practical courtesy title anyway. When William and Harry went to boarding school, uni and then into the military, they had to register as something and the name they used was Wales, making Harry for example Captain Wales and not Captain Mountbatten-Windsor. William was known as William Wales. See: video.

I would be curious to see their birth certificates because the protocol of this is all a bit vague.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:50 AM on January 12, 2013


I would be curious to see their birth certificates because the protocol of this is all a bit vague.

FWIW, on the queen's birth record, no surname is given for her father.
posted by Knappster at 9:01 AM on January 12, 2013


> There also was certainly a time when Diana was more known by her maiden name, and I'm curious about how long it took for the vestiges of that to wear off in the media

Going just on my memory, for whatever that's worth, "Princess Diana" didn't really pick up until immediately after her death.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2013


> Diana was called both Lady Di and Diana Spencer for a really long time.

> Going just on my memory, for whatever that's worth, "Princess Diana" didn't really pick up until immediately after her death.

Nthing both of these statements. "Princess Diana" still sounds weird to me. It was always Lady Di or Diana Spencer. Worth noting too, that the things for which she is remembered and beloved were sniffed at by some early in the marriage as seeming common -- she had worked as a nanny (in the US!), all the charity work on uncomfortable topics like AIDS and leprosy and homelessness, etc.
posted by desuetude at 12:03 PM on January 12, 2013


The whole surname thing has actually been a vague question ever since Victoria, who had lawyers look into it for some legal documents she had to sign. I don't think you can say that it's "William Wales" outside of his military context -- everything out there seems to indicate that the legal name is Mountbatten-Windsor and that's probably what will appear on any birth certificate (if it's decided it must be included!) or property title. For almost all other purposes, though, it's irrelevant as protocol dictates she will be known as the Duchess of Cambridge.

Going just on my memory, for whatever that's worth, "Princess Diana" didn't really pick up until immediately after her death.

One aspect of this is that her style changed upon divorce (after a hasty decree to catch up with the concept). Her married style was Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales (no first name at all), which became Diana, Princess of Wales afterward. The Ngram Viewer (note: books) does indicate an uptick in usage of "Princess Diana" around that time.
posted by dhartung at 1:10 PM on January 12, 2013


dhartung:

Quite right, my mistake. William became Earl of Strathearn and Kate became Countess of Strathearn.

As to what might happen to the title of Prince of Wales, it's not automatic once Charles accedes the throne. So while I was wrong in that Kate will never be a Princess (since, if, upon ascension to the throne, Charles grants Prince of Wales to William, at which case we'll start calling them Prince William and Princess Catherine the way we called them Prince Charles and Princess Diana), it's not 100% guaranteed. It appears that the title was idle/rolled into the Sovereign's title when Edward VIII became King in 1936 and there wasn't a new one until Charles got it in 1958. This is mainly because Prince of Wales generally goes to the eldest son (the heir apparent) and in the case of George VI, he had two daughters -- Elizabeth and Margaret, neither of whom became Princess of Wales. (I don't even think female heirs can be Princess of Wales at the moment, to be honest, but hopefully those laws will be changing the way the crown succession laws are.)

tonylord:

She may not be called the Queen but she will, in fact, become HM Queen. The wife of the King is always the Queen.

This isn't an optional thing.


It kind of is, actually. There was all kinds of public backlash to the idea of Camilla EVER being queen, so Charles basically promised that she would be HRH the Princess Consort.

FAQ on the Prince of Wales/Duchess of Cornwall UK site: http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/faqs/will-the-duchess-become-queen-when-the-prince-becomes-king

genghis:

Yup, if William becomes Prince of Wales (not automatic, as mentioned above to dhartung), Catherine will become Princess of Wales.

As to the "Wales surname", from Wikipedia:

As a British prince, William does not use a surname for everyday purposes. For formal and ceremonial purposes, the children of Princes of Wales, like the children of Royal Dukes, use the title of Prince or Princess before their Christian name and their father's territorial designation after it. So Prince William was "Prince William of Wales". Such area-based surnames are discarded by women when they marry and by men if they are given a peerage of their own, such as when Prince William was given his dukedom.

So basically, if William joined the military now, he would use Cambridge as his surname, not Wales, because he's now the Duke of Cambridge. But because his territorial designation beforehand was Wales, that's what he used then.
posted by juliebug at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2013


Possibly not germane, but re Cambridge as a hypothetical surname, I've seen flippant internet sources refer to Kate as "Kate Cambridge" on occasion.
posted by Sara C. at 2:10 PM on January 12, 2013


I think Tom and Lorenzo call them "Bill and Cathy Cambridge"
posted by jaimystery at 2:19 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


The entire surname thing is in fact cobblers anyway. Think about why you need a surname and then imagine you're part of the family that permanently provides the head of state. See? No purpose to it whatsoever.

To answer the actual question at the top of the page, though:

She's still referred to as Kate Middleton in some quarters because she was known to the papers for nine or ten years before she was married, whereas the same period for Diana was about one. Inertia, basically.

[And while you're right and basically nobody referred to Diana by her original surname for long, lots of the world continued to refer to her as 'Lady Di' from the moment she appeared on TV for the first time until after she was dead. Ever see Amelie?]
posted by genghis at 5:36 AM on January 13, 2013


It appears that the title was idle/rolled into the Sovereign's title when Edward VIII became King in 1936

Well, to be accurate, the title has been rolled into the Sovereign since Edward II (the first English Prince of Wales, so named by his father Edward I). As with any other non-hereditary title it simply lapses upon the death or succession to the Crown of the holder.

My comment was specifically assuming that tradition would be upheld and that when William becomes heir apparent (barring various types of misfortune), he would in turn be invested with the title Prince of Wales. Obviously there is no guarantee that will happen, but it would certainly grant the Duchess a new style.

I don't even think female heirs can be Princess of Wales at the moment

I bet you that it's simply tradition which meant that George VI did not take the step of investing Elizabeth with the title. I suspect that any sovereign would be free to issue the letters patent to a daughter, and a daughter expected to be Queen in her own right today would be expected to have the same honorifics as heir apparent as a son.

I'm no constitutional scholar of the UK, but the basic legal framework of any title derives from the letters patent. As the Prince of Wales is not a sovereign and the inclusion of Wales in the UK is not federal, this isn't a title that is restricted by law the way the Crown of England is.
posted by dhartung at 2:40 PM on January 13, 2013


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