No family captivates the world
quite like the royal family of the United Kingdom. From the birth of
new babies to exciting dating rumors, there’s nothing we don’t want to know
about Queen Elizabeth II and her fascinating relatives — and that includes the
origins of their titles.
Prince William isn’t just a
prince, after all; he’s also the Duke of Cambridge, though that’s not a title
that he was born with — it’s one his grandmother bestowed on him when he
married Kate Middleton. Why Cambridge? Because the queen said so, that’s why.
OK, it’s not quite that simple, but it almost is.
The origin of the
locations in royal titles (and non-royal titles) all go back to the United
Kingdom’s rich history, even though the meaning behind those titles has changed
The first thing you need to
understand to get to the bottom of why there’s a Duke of York and a
Duke of Kent is the peerage system. The system has its origins in feudal times,
and it’s basically a system of ranking the nobles. According to the peerage
experts at Debretts, peers of the realm would swear fealty to the
monarch, who would then bestow land or money to them for their loyalty.
There are five possible titles
in the peerage system, and, ranked from highest to lowest, they are: duke
(duchess), marquess (marchioness), earl (countess), viscount (viscountess), and
As a duke, a man is entitled
to a dukedom. In the past, when Prince William became the Duke of
Cambridge, he would have inherited the land that goes with the title, but these
days, the titles are more honorary than anything else.
Only the reigning monarch can
bestow dukedoms, and there are currently five royal dukedoms in
use and at least 16 dukedoms that are “available,” in many cases
due to the previous title holder not having a male heir to pass their title to.
That’s right: only men can inherit titles, so if a duke or earl has no sons,
their title could be transferred to a distant male relative or become extinct
when they die.
While non-royals can be peers,
it’s the royal family that captivates everyone’s imagination, and they are the
ones whose titles you’re likely curious about.