Royal styles and titles: Files from the UK National Archives
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21st. March 1917.
Dear Harris,
We have been trying, but without success, to ascertain whether or not Princess Mary of Cambridge (afterwards the Duchess of Teck) was born a Royal Highness. Neither in the Record Office, the College of Arms, or the Lord Chamberlain's Office is there any record, except that Her Royal Highness was born in Hanover on 27th. November 1833. Possibly the Home Office may be able so supply the information.

Yours very truly,

S.W. Harris Esq: C.B.  
Home Office.


The use of the style "Royal Highness" is now governed by the Letters Patent of 1864, which give it to (1) all children of a sovereign, and (2) all children of the sons of a sovereign.

It is perfectly clear that under this rule the Duchess of Teck (Princess Mary of Cambridge) as the daughter of a son of George 3, was "Royal Highness" from 1864 onward; the question is as to her position before 1864.

In O.S. 8933/1 is a memorandum by Garter as to the use of the style "Royal Highness" with an examination of the precedents for the method of addressing members of the Royal family since the accession of James I.

It is clear from these that the style "Royal Highness" was never given to the grand children of a sovereign, and not always to the children of a sovereign, before 1750; that between 1750 and 1864 the practice of calling the children of the sons of a sovereign "Royal Highness" gradually became common; but that - as the preamble to the Letters Patent of 1864 shows - there was no authoritative ruling on the subject until those letters were issued.

I find that both the Duchess of Teck and her elder sister Princess Augusta were called "Royal Highness" in the Acts of Parliament granting them annuities. This would not of itself confer the style; but Garter points out in his memorandum --I think rightly - that as such Bills originate in a Royal Message the style given in the Message must be regarded as emanating from the Sovereign.

The Act relating to the Duchess of Teck was passed in 1850; the Message to the Lords (Hansard CXIII p.77) simply calls her Princess Mary of Cambridge, but that to the Commons (Hansard CXII p.1455) expressly styles her "Royal Highness. I think the use of the style in a formal Message of this kind must be treated as a conferment of it by the Sovereign.

The result then will be that the Princess Mary of Cambridge was not born a Royal Highness, as in view of the language of the Letters Patent if 1864 it is impossible to maintain that she had a right to the style in virtue of her birth but that it was conferred on her by Queen Victoria in 1850 when her Majesty used it in her Message to the House of Commons.

AJE [Arthur John Eagleston]

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