How should I address a letter to the Their Royal Highnesses Prince William and his bride, Catherine? I want to send a note which is jointly addressed.
From what I read there could technically be several correct joint forms, but the best one would be a matter of style: I don’t know which one would be the most preferred:
HRH The Prince William
and HRH The Princess William
TRH The Prince and Princess William
(but, normally the most formal form is to write a name by itself, not combined)
HRH The Prince William
and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
(but, this might lower him!)
— Royal Watcher
Before I could figure this out, I got this reply from Chris Young, President of Protocol Diplomacy International – Protocol Officers Association, and truthfully, I could not improve on his explanation.
I would choose
TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Simple reasoning – this is the style the Palace uses with almost complete exclusivity. It is the style on their website, on the Prince of Wales’ website, in the official diaries, in press releases and other correspondence. If it is good enough for Buckingham Palace, then it is good enough for me.
You make a good point that a “duke” is technically lower than a “prince.” However, this is ameliorated by the HRH style. In British royal protocol, the HRH designation is reserved for the Royal Family – and, in specific, these three groups:
** The sons and daughters of the Sovereign
** The grandchildren legitimately born by male offspring. This explains why Beatrice and Eugenie, the children of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, are princesses, but Peter and Zara Phillips, the children of Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, are not. A modern exception to this rule is that the children of TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex (Edward and Sophie) are not styled HRH at the choice of their parents and with consent of the Palace.
** The children of heirs presumptive, i.e., the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales – in this case, any children born to Prince William. (This presents a curious situation, because, technically, any children born to Prince Harry if his father were on the throne would be styled HRH but not if his grandmother were still reigning. The Queen, though, can rectify that by a stroke of her pen.)
Letters patent (an open document issued by a monarch or government conferring a patent or other right) issued by the Queen are often used to grant the title of prince or princess and the style of HRH. (She used this device to create her husband, then Duke Edinburgh, as The Prince Philip in 1957. She likewise created her aunt, Alice, as The Princess Alice in the 1970s.) One such document contemplated your conundrum and described the use of HRH in this way: “This [using HRH] is especially important when a prince holds another title such as duke (or a princess, the title of duchess) by which he or she would normally be addressed. Using the style His (or Her) Royal Highness is directly associated with being a Prince of Princess of the United Kingdom.”
And we see this playing out all the time. Technically Philip is HRH The Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh, but he is often referred to, even formally, as HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. In Scotland, Charles is HRH The Duke of Rothesay – not the Prince of Wales. Andrew is always HRH The Duke of York. And Edward is always HRH The Earl of Wessex.
In sum, royal peers (those who hold dukedoms or earldoms) remain princes. However, their peerage is in addition in – never in lieu of – their princely style.
Thank you, Chris!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info