From the Duchess of Cambridge to Princess Eugenie, it can be hard to understand just why and how a royal has the title that he or she does. And that's before you factor in nobility further down the line of succession, like Lady Kitty Spencer or Lady Amelia Windsor. But while the system of how royals get their titles seems to be a complicated one, the answer is actually quite simple.
It all comes down to what's called the peerage system. The peerage is a system comprising both hereditary and lifetime titles in the United Kingdom, and according to Marlene Koenig, royal expert and author of the blog Royal Musings, the five ranks of nobility are Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron. If you're not a peer, you're a "commoner," even if you are otherwise a royal.
According to Debrett's, a courtesy title is a title such as Lord, Lady or The Honourable, which is usually used by the sons, daughters, daughters-in-law, brothers, sisters, and sisters-in-law of a peer.
The peerage system is why some women in the public eye have the title of "lady." Lady Kitty Spencer, is the daughter of an earl. Her father is Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, a.k.a Princess Diana's younger brother, so she gets the courtesy title of "Lady."
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Similarly, Lady Amelia Windsor is a Lady because she is the daughter of George Windsor, Earl of St. Andrews. She is also currently 38th in the line of succession to the British throne, as her paternal grandfather, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent is a first cousin of Elizabeth II, but that doesn't change her title.
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But while the title of Lady may sound fancy, courtesy titles can't be inherited by children, and it's a few ranks below women like Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, who is married to a peer. However, before Meghan and Prince Harry got married and he was granted the title of the Duke of Sussex, he was technically a commoner, too.
As Koenig explains, "Royals who are not peers are legally commoners as well. Prince Harry was a commoner until [he was] created Duke of Sussex. In English law, the only people who are not commoners are the Sovereign and peers of the realm."
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