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British Royal Family

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British Royal Family

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United Kingdom

The British Royal Family is the family group of close relatives of the monarch of the United Kingdom. There is no strict legal or formal definition in the UK of who is or is not a member of the Royal Family, and different lists will include different people. However, those carrying the style Her or His Majesty (HM), or Her or His Royal Highness (HRH) are normally considered members. By this criterion, the Royal Family will usually include the monarch, the consort of the monarch, the widows and widowers of previous monarchs, the children and male-line grandchildren of the monarch and previous monarchs, the children of the oldest son of the Prince of Wales, and the wives or widows of the monarch's and previous monarchs' sons and male-line grandsons.

Different terms may be applied to the same or similar group of relatives of the monarch in his or her role as sovereign of any of the other Commonwealth realms. For example, for Canada the family is known as the Canadian Royal Family.

Some members of the Royal Family have official residences named as the places from which announcements are made in the Court Circular about official engagements they have carried out. The state duties and staff of some members of the Royal Family are funded from a parliamentary annuity, the amount of which is fully refunded by the Queen to the treasury.[1]

Since 1917, when Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, members of the Royal Family belong, either by birth or marriage, to the House of Windsor. Senior titled members of the royal family do not usually use a surname, although since 1960 Mountbatten-Windsor (incorporating Prince Philip's adopted surname of Mountbatten) has been prescribed as a surname for Queen Elizabeth II's direct descendants who do not have royal styles and titles, and has also sometimes been used when required for those who do have such titles.


On 30 November 1917, King George V issued Letters Patent defining the styles and titles of members of the Royal Family; the text of the notice from the London Gazette is as follows:

In 1996, Her Majesty The Queen modified these Letters Patent, as was evidenced by this Notice from the London Gazette:

On 31 December 2012, Letters Patent were issued to extend a title and a style borne by members of the Royal Family to additional persons to be born, evidenced by this Notice from the London Gazette:[2]

Members and relatives of the British Royal Family historically represented the monarch in various places throughout the British Empire, sometimes for extended periods as viceroys, or for specific ceremonies or events. Today, they often perform ceremonial and social duties throughout the United Kingdom and abroad on behalf of the United Kingdom. Aside from the monarch, their only constitutional role in the affairs of government is to serve, if eligible and when appointed by letters patent, as a Counsellor of State, two or more of whom exercise the authority of the Crown (within stipulated limits) if the monarch is indisposed or abroad. In the other countries of the Commonwealth royalty do not serve as Counsellors of State, although they may perform ceremonial and social duties on behalf of individual states or the organisation.

The Queen, her consort, her children and grandchildren, as well as all former sovereigns' children and grandchildren hold places in the first sections of the official orders of precedence in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Wives of the said enjoy their husbands' precedence, and husbands of princesses are unofficially but habitually placed with their wives as well. However, the Queen changed the private order of precedence in the Royal Family in favour of Princesses Anne and Alexandra, who henceforth take private precedence over the Duchess of Cornwall, who is otherwise the realm's highest ranking woman after the Queen herself.[3][4] She did not alter the relative precedence of other born-princesses, such as the daughters of her younger sons.


The Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the annual Trooping the Colour in 2013.

This is a list of current members of the Royal Family who bear the style of Majesty or Royal Highness:


There are a few immediate family members (a spouse and the children and grandchildren of its current full or deceased members) carrying no royal style who sometimes appear in listings:[6]

  • VAdm Sir Timothy Laurence (the Princess Royal's husband)
    • Peter and Autumn Phillips, the Princess Royal's son and daughter-in-law
    • Zara and Mike Tindall, the Princess Royal's daughter and son-in-law
      • Savannah and Isla Phillips and Mia Tindall, the Princess Royal's granddaughters

Former members

Family tree of members

King George V
Queen Mary
King George VI
Queen Elizabeth
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester
Prince George, Duke of Kent
Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent
The Duke of Edinburgh
The Queen
The Duke of Gloucester
The Duchess of Gloucester
The Duke of Kent
The Duchess of Kent
Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy
Prince Michael of Kent
Princess Michael of Kent
Diana, Princess of Wales[N 1]
(div. 1996)
The Prince of Wales
The Duchess of Cornwall
The Princess Royal
The Duke of York
Sarah, Duchess of York
(div. 1996)
The Earl of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex
The Duke of Cambridge
The Duchess of Cambridge
Prince Henry of Wales
Princess Beatrice of York
Princess Eugenie of York
The Lady Louise Windsor
Viscount Severn
Prince George of Cambridge
  1. ^ The Prince of Wales' first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in 1997. They had divorced in 1996. She lost style of Royal Highness but remained a member of the Royal Family to reflect the fact she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne, Prince William and Prince Harry.

Members of the British Royal Family since 1707

Members of the Royal Family in the Royal box at Westminster Abbey during the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
The British Royal Family in 1880.

The following list includes some of the persons who have been in the immediate families of British monarchs from Queen Anne to George VI. Also listed are some others who may have been related more distantly, by blood or by marriage, to one or more of those monarchs but not necessarily in the same proximity or kinship as the persons currently deemed to be members of the present Queen's Royal Family.

  1. ^ Princess Alexandra was a female-line granddaughter of Edward VII but she was created by her grandfather the King a princess of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness and precedence immediately after all members of the Royal Family with the style Royal Highness. In 1912, Princess Alexandra became the 2nd Duchess of Fife, after the death of her father, Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife. In 1913, Princess Alexandra married her cousin, Prince Arthur of Connaught (for him and their son, Alastair of Connaught, see the list below) and was accorded to her husband's higher style Royal Highness.
  2. ^ Princess Maud was a female-line granddaughter of Edward VII but she was created by her grandfather the King a Princess of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness and precedence immediately after all members of the Royal Family with the style Royal Highness. Following her marriage with Lord Carnegie in 1923, Maud ceased to use the title of Princess and the style Highness and was known as Lady Carnegie, and later The Countess of Southesk. In 1959, the Earl and Countess of Southesk's son and only child, James Carnegie, became the 3rd Duke of Fife, after the death of his maternal aunt, Princess Arthur of Connaught, 2nd Duchess (see the list and note above).
  3. ^ Alastair Windsor was the son and only child of two persons listed above, Prince Arthur of Connaught and his wife, Princess Arthur of Connaught, 2nd Duchess of Fife. He was born a prince of the United Kingdom with the style Highness, as he was a male-line great-grandson of Queen Victoria, but he lost his official Royal status in 1917, when George V issued Letters Patent which excluded Alastair from the list of British Princes and Princesses of Blood Royal. He was the only British prince who lost his status after the 1917 changes. He was the heir to both his paternal and maternal grandfathers' peerages, the Dukedom of Connaught and Strathearn and Dukedom of Fife, which was held by his mother and the 1st Duke's elder daughter, Princess Arthur of Connaught. In 1942, Alastair Windsor inherited the Dukedom of Connaught and Strathearn, after the death of his paternal grandfather, The Prince Arthur. The 2nd Duke of Connaught died unmarried and childless in 1943 and his dukedom became extinct. The Dukedom of Fife passed in 1959, after the 2nd Duchess' death, to her younger sister's son, James, Lord Carnegie.

In other Commonwealth realms

As the Royal Family is shared by other Commonwealth realms, its members will often also conduct official and non-official duties outside the United Kingdom, on behalf of the relevant state.

Further information: Royal Family's role in the realms

Other related articles


  1. ^ Sovereign Grant Act: main provisions
  2. ^ "Crown Office". The London Gazette (60384): 213. 8 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Davies, Caroline (24 December 2005). "First royal Sandringham Christmas for Camilla". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Eden, Richard (24 June 2012). "'"The Queen tells the Duchess of Cambridge to curtsy to the 'blood princesses. The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  5. ^ The Duchess of Cornwall is legally also the Princess of Wales, but does not use this title out of respect for the Prince of Wales' first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales
  6. ^ Court Circular's note on the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Miss Catherine Middleton, dated 30 April 2011.
  7. ^ "Lord Chamberlain's Diamond Jubilee Guidelines". 

Further reading

  • Burke's Guide to the Royal Family. Burke's Peerage, 1973.
  • Cannon, John Ashton. The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Churchill, Randolph S. They Serve the Queen: A New and Authoritative Account of the Royal Household. ("Prepared for Coronation Year") Hutchinson, 1953.
  • Fraser, Antonia (ed). The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England. Revised & updated edition. University of California Press, 1998.
  • Hayden, Ilse. Symbol and Privilege: The Ritual Context of British Royalty. University of Arizona Press, 1987.
  • Longford, Elizabeth Harman (Countess of Longford). The Royal House of Windsor. Revised edition. Crown, 1984.
  • Weir, Alison. Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. Pimlico/Random House, 2002.
  • Royal Family (1969) is a celebrated and reverential BBC documentary made by Richard Cawston to accompany the investiture of the current Prince of Wales. The documentary is frequently held responsible for the greater press intrusion into the Royal Family's private life since its first broadcast.

External links

  • Official website of the British monarchy
  • House of Windsor Family Tree PDF (74.2 KB)
  • "William following Royal precedent". BBC News. 2005-10-21. 
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