The most elevated members of the ancient aristocratic hierarchy are the Dukes and the Duchesses of the world. 

These esteemed noble ranks represent the epitome of aristocratic status, usually accompanied by grand country estates, considerable wealth and a good deal of social and political influence. 

In the simplest scenarios, a duchess is the wife of a duke, and vice versa – a duke is the husband of a duchess. 

However, the delicate nuances of the aristocratic system that evolved from the Middle Ages often mean that, in reality, these ranks and titles can be a little more complicated. 

Is A Duchess’s Husband A Duke? 

It may be reasonable to ask whether a Duchess’s husband is a Duke, and very often the answer is a simple yes. When a woman marries a Duke, she becomes a Duchess, yet the opposite is not always the case. 

It is far less common for a Duke to attain his title via such an advantageous marriage. The majority of Dukedoms are acquired through inheritance or as a gift from a king or queen. 

There are also some circumstances, when the spouses of a duke or a duchess may have alternative titles. Here are some scenarios when the husband of a Duchess may not be a Duke. 

When A Duchess’s Husband Is Not A Duke

The ranks and titles within the aristocratic system are the esteemed legacies of an ancient social order, and as such, they are often fiercely protected by its members. 

While marriage has long been a traditional and acceptable route to a higher social status, there are occasions when simply marrying into nobility does not guarantee the equivalent noble title of the marriage partner. 

The noble families that bequeath the title to future generations can often include stipulations about marriage and whether the title may be acquired by new husbands or wives. 

For example, the parents of a duchess may elect that any prospective husband of their daughter would not automatically acquire the rank and status of duke upon their marriage. 

In some instances, this is done to protect the son or daughter in question, as a bid to dissuade those pursuing marriage purely as a path to higher social standing. 

In other scenarios, the title of duke may be reserved for other male heirs, such as the son of the duchess. 

While the traditions and practices of the aristocracy play a strong and important role in the continuation of noble lines, the individual families do sometimes intervene and devise certain caveats and conditions that prevent marriage partners from attaining noble ranks by default. 

In such cases, the husband of a duchess would not necessarily become a duke. 

When A Duchess’s Husband Ranks Higher Than A Duke

The esteemed ranks of Duke and Duchess may be one of the highest noble titles within the aristocratic system, yet there are occasions when the husband of a Duchess holds an even more elevated social rank. 

One famous modern example is the husband of the Duchess of Cornwall, who the world knows as Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. 

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall meeting Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in Louisiana, as they arrive to tour the damage created by Hurricane Katrina, November 2005
Prince Charles and Camilla greet FEMA officials as they arrive to tour the damages created by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Robert Kaufmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

While Prince Charles does hold the title of Duke of Cornwall in addition to his other titles, he does not style his name and identity as such, opting to use the higher rank of a royal prince, i.e His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. 

So, in this instance, the husband of the Duchess of Cornwall is not referred to as a duke, but as a higher-ranking member of the royal family and the head of the Windsor bloodline, second only to the current queen, Elizabeth II. 

Similarly, the sons of the Prince of Wales, Princes William and Harry, are also known socially and throughout the world by their princely titles, yet they are both the husbands of duchesses – Prince William’s wife Catherine is the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry’s wife Meghan is the Duchess of Sussex. 

Typically in cases such as these, where the husband of a duchess holds a higher rank than the title of duke, it’s because of legislation that prevents the wife of a prince from becoming a princess, and instead, the couple are gifted an honourary title or peerage, commonly a dukedom created specifically for this purpose. 

This is another example of royals and nobles taking extra precautions to prevent their esteemed titles from being attained or acquired simply through a marital transaction. 

Other Ways To Become A Duke

As with many of the protected ranks and titles within the aristocracy, the title of duke is an exclusive and rare noble status. 

And as the old ways of royals and nobles give way in the modern world to more egalitarian social orders, the likelihood of new noble titles being created by monarchs is vastly reduced from the heyday of the aristocracy, when kings and queens would routinely grant dukedoms and earldoms and lordships and baronies to their favourite subjects. 

As a result, any remaining aristocratic titles are increasingly rare and sought after. Given that the families of the nobility and the royal lines are becoming less inclined to bestow titles on new marriage partners by default, the chances of attaining these noble ranks through marriage are also increasingly reduced. 

Yet, there are still some ways to become a duke, without needing to impress the sovereign, win the heart of a genuine duchess, or inherit an ancient dukedom. 

One such route is to simply purchase one of the few rare noble titles of Duke that are occasionally made available for sale. 

This may seem like a modern approach to acquiring aristocratic status, yet it has actually been practiced by some of the most esteemed members of the nobility throughout the ages. 

It’s certainly a little-known approach to elevating your social status, but as long as you take the time to carefully research the most respected and authentic providers of these noble titles, you can confidently expect to acquire a genuine aristocratic rank and begin to enjoy all the benefits and advantages that have traditionally been the exclusive preserve of highborn nobles or blue-blood royals. 

While these titles are understandably highly valued and only available to the truly discerning, the simplicity of this type of transaction may prove to be an infinitely more straightforward route to becoming a duke than marrying a viable duchess or attaining the approval and acceptance of an ancient family line.