The story of Meghan Markle, the American actress who married a prince, has captured the imagination of people all around the world. 

The high-profile couple, known formally as The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has become headline news across the globe, with the world’s media avidly following their every move. 

The interest in these modern royals has been heightened by their controversial TV interviews, the Netflix series documenting their journey, and the release of a tell-all memoir – a rare inside peek into the notoriously private personalities within the British Royal Family. 

Yet, despite all the media frenzies and coverage, the decision of Prince Harry and his wife to step back from their official royal duties had created a good deal of confusion as to their new roles, as well as their official titles and their status within the royal family. 

So, here are some insights into the new and unprecedented roles that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have so boldly and bravely chosen for themselves and their family. 

Is Meghan Markle A Princess Or A Duchess? 

When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in May 2018, she officially became a princess of the British Royal Family. Her status as the wife of a royal prince, according to the ancient convention within the systems of royalty around the world, granted her the role of princess

Yet recent changes within the legislature around the styling of ‘new princesses’ i.e. the women who marry into the royal family, meant that Meghan was not formally known as a princess. For example, she has never been referred to as Princess Meghan – at least not officially. 

Instead, the new wives of royal princes of recent generations have instead been granted titles that relate to their husbands’ other titles. Many royal princes have official royal and noble titles other than that of prince, and this is nothing new – it has been a common scenario throughout the ages. 

In recent years, new titles have been offered to young princes upon their marriage, as a gift from the monarch, and these have largely been the titles and statuses that the new wives have been formally allowed to use. 

In the case of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the titles Duke and Duchess of Sussex were granted to them by Queen Elizabeth II, as a type of wedding gift, but also as a carefully chosen status and styling of their new formal titles. 

So, even though Meghan Markle married a royal prince, it was decided that her title would relate to Prince Harry’s new title of Duke of Sussex, i.e. that she would become the Duchess of Sussex. 

For the question, Is Meghan Markle a princess or a duchess?, the answer is, in a sense, both. She is technically a royal princess, and she is also a duchess, courtesy of the title she received from the queen when she married Prince Harry. 

Yet, the larger issue, when it comes to official royal protocol and status, has more to do with the rank of Meghan Markle within the British Royal Family. 

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex – Fuzheado, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What Is Meghan Markle’s Official Royal Title? 

Even though Meghan Markle is technically a princess, her official royal title, as decided and decreed by the late Queen Elizabeth II, is the Duchess of Sussex. 

The title of duchess may appear to be a lesser title than that of princess – and in reality, it usually is a lower rank, in that a princess is usually a member of royalty, whereas a duchess is usually a member of the aristocracy or nobility, which ranks below royalty in the social hierarchies of the world. 

Yet, in the case of Meghan Markle, she is what’s regarded as a Royal Duchess. A Royal Duchess is usually a high-ranking female within the royal family, often married to a prince, yet whose title, for various reasons, is not that of a princess. 

The same was historically true for the wives of Prince William and his father, Charles, when he was the Prince of Wales. Catherine and Camilla – even though they were married to royal princes – were not styled as such. Instead, they were granted the title of a royal duchess. 

In the case of Catherine, she was officially known as the Duchess of Cambridge, in respect of her husband’s title of the Duke of Cambridge, a gift from his grandmother the Queen when he got married. 

The former Duchess of Cambridge has since been elevated to the official title of princess when her husband William became the Prince of Wales after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. 

In the case of Camilla, even though she married the Prince of Wales, and so could have legitimately been styled and titled as the Princess of Wales, the decision was made for her not to adopt that title, out of respect for Prince Charles’ first wife, Diana, who had been known around the world as the Princess of Wales. 

Instead, Camilla was granted the title of Duchess of Cornwall – another example of an official princess using the title of Duchess. Of course, Camilla has since assumed an even more elevated role than that of a princess as she is now known as HRH, Camilla, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom. 

Meghan Markle – A Royal Duchess 

In her rank as a royal duchess, Meghan Markle is in esteemed company. She is the sister-in-law of the Princess of Wales, who is the wife of the heir to the throne, and the daughter-in-law of the Queen Consort, who is the wife of the King of England. 

Her rank and role within the royal family were revealed for all the world to see during the recent ceremonies and official events within the British Royal Family, which positioned Meghan and her husband among the high-ranking royals. 

So, even though she’s not officially referred to as a princess, her marriage to the son of the king ensures her status as a royal duchess is an eminent role within the hierarchy. 

Yet the couple’s recent decisions to step away from their official roles and to go public with their stories has had clear and controversial ramifications for their status within the modern monarchy of Great Britain. So, even though Meghan is still regarded as a royal princess and styled as a royal duchess, her future rank, role and title within the British Royal Family remains to be seen.