British royal family

The British royal family comprises Queen Elizabeth II and her close relations. There is no strict legal or formal definition of who is or is not a member of the British royal family. Many members support the Queen in undertaking public engagements and often pursue charitable work and interests. The royal family are regarded as British cultural icons.

Those who at the time are entitled to the style His or Her Royal Highness (HRH) (an honour in the gift of the monarch), and any styled His or Her Majesty (HM), are normally considered members, including those so styled before the beginning of the current monarch's reign. By this criterion, a list of the current royal family will usually include the monarch, the children and male-line grandchildren of the monarch and previous monarchs, the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, and all of their current or widowed spouses.

Some members of the royal family have official residences named as the places from which announcements are made in the Court Circular about official engagements they have carried out. The state duties and staff of some members of the royal family are funded from a parliamentary annuity, the amount of which is fully refunded by the Queen to the Treasury.[1] The royal family is supported by a number of British royal households, as well as the employees of the occupied royal palaces and the Duchy of Cornwall.

Since 1917, when King George V changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, members of the royal family have belonged, either by birth or by marriage, to the House of Windsor. Senior titled members of the royal family do not usually use a surname, although since 1960 Mountbatten-Windsor, incorporating Prince Philip's adopted surname of Mountbatten, has been prescribed as a surname for Elizabeth II's direct descendants who do not have royal styles and titles, and it has sometimes been used when required for those who do have such titles.


On 30 November 1917, King George V issued letters patent defining the styles and titles of members of the royal family; the text of the notice from the London Gazette is:[2]

Whitehall, 11th December, 1917.

The KING has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date the 30th ultimo, to define the styles and titles to be borne henceforth by members of the royal family. It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour; that save as aforesaid the titles of Royal Highness, Highness or Serene Highness, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess shall cease except those titles already granted and remaining unrevoked; and that the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes.

In 1996, Queen Elizabeth II modified these letters patent, and this Notice appeared in the London Gazette:[3]

The QUEEN has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm dated 21st August 1996, to declare that a former wife (other than a widow until she shall remarry) of a son of a Sovereign of these Realms, of a son of a son of a Sovereign and of the eldest living son of the eldest son of The Prince of Wales shall not be entitled to hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness.

On 31 December 2012, letters patent were issued to extend a title and a style borne by members of the royal family to additional persons to be born, and this Notice appeared in the London Gazette:[4]

The QUEEN has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm dated 31 December 2012 to declare that all the children of the eldest son of The Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour.

Members and relatives of the British royal family historically represented the monarch in various places throughout the British Empire, sometimes for extended periods as viceroys, or for specific ceremonies or events. Today, they often perform ceremonial and social duties throughout the United Kingdom and abroad on behalf of the United Kingdom. Aside from the monarch, their only constitutional role in the affairs of government is to serve, if eligible and when appointed by letters patent, as a counsellor of state, two or more of whom exercise the authority of the Crown (within stipulated limits) if the monarch is indisposed or abroad. In the other countries of the Commonwealth royalty do not serve as counsellors of state, although they may perform ceremonial and social duties on behalf of individual states or the organisation.

The Queen, her children and grandchildren, as well as all former sovereigns' children and grandchildren, hold places in the first sections of the official orders of precedence in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Wives of the said enjoy their husbands' precedence, and husbands of princesses are unofficially but habitually placed with their wives as well. However, the Queen changed the private order of precedence in the royal family in favour of Princesses Anne and Alexandra, who henceforth take private precedence over the Duchess of Cornwall, who is otherwise the realm's highest ranking woman after the Queen herself.[5][6] She did not alter the relative precedence of other born-princesses, such as the daughters of her younger sons.

Public roleEdit

The British royal family support Queen Elizabeth II in her state and national duties. Each year the family "carries out over 2,000 official engagements throughout the UK and worldwide".[7] Engagements include state funerals, national festivities, garden parties, receptions, and visits to the Armed Forces.[7]

Given the British royal family's public role and activities, it is sometimes referred to by courtiers as "The Firm",[8][9] a term attributed to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[10][11] The royal family are considered British cultural icons, with young adults from abroad naming the family among a group of people who they most associated with British culture.[12]

Members of the royal family have started their own individual charities. Prince Charles started The Prince's Trust, which helps young people in the UK that are disadvantaged.[13] Princess Anne started The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, which helps unpaid carers, giving them emotional support and information about benefit claims and disability aids.[14] The Earl and Countess of Wessex founded the Wessex Youth Trust, since renamed The Earl and Countess of Wessex Charitable Trust, in 1999.[15] The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are founding patrons of The Royal Foundation, whose projects revolve around mental health, conservation, the early years, and emergency responders.[16]

Current membersEdit

The royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the annual Trooping the Colour in 2013

As of 2021, the members of the royal family are:

Relatives not using a royal styleEdit

Some close relatives of the Queen use no royal style but sometimes appear in listings:[18][19]

Family tree of membersEdit

  • People identified by title; refer to those holding the title as of March 2021
  • Red-framed persons are deceased.
Royal family tree
King George VQueen Mary
King George VIQueen ElizabethPrince Henry, Duke of GloucesterPrincess Alice, Duchess of GloucesterPrince George, Duke of KentPrincess Marina, Duchess of Kent
Prince Philip, Duke of EdinburghThe QueenThe Duke of GloucesterThe Duchess of GloucesterThe Duke of KentThe Duchess of KentPrincess AlexandraPrince Michael of KentPrincess Michael of Kent
Diana, Princess of Wales[N 1]
(div. 1996)
The Prince of WalesThe Duchess of CornwallThe Princess RoyalThe Duke of YorkSarah, Duchess of York
(div. 1996)
The Earl of WessexThe Countess of Wessex
The Duke of CambridgeThe Duchess of CambridgeThe Duke of SussexThe Duchess of SussexPrincess BeatricePrincess Eugenie
Prince George of CambridgePrincess Charlotte of CambridgePrince Louis of Cambridge


  1. ^ The Prince of Wales' first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in 1997. They had divorced in 1996. She lost the style of Royal Highness but remained a member of the royal family to reflect the fact she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne, Prince William and Prince Harry.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have agreed to stop using a royal style in public, though they are still entitled to use it and have not formally relinquished it.[17]
  2. ^ a b As male-line grandchildren of the monarch, the children of the Earl and Countess of Wessex are entitled to the style of HRH Prince... and HRH Princess... respectively. However, when the Earl and Countess married, the Queen, via a Buckingham Palace press release, announced that their children would be styled as the children of an earl, rather than as princes or princesses.[20]


  1. ^ Sovereign Grant Act: main provisions
  2. ^ "No. 30428". The London Gazette. 14 December 1917. p. 13086.
  3. ^ "No. 54510". The London Gazette. 30 August 1996. p. 11603.
  4. ^ "No. 60384". The London Gazette. 8 January 2013. p. 213.
  5. ^ Davies, Caroline (24 December 2005). "First royal Sandringham Christmas for Camilla". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  6. ^ Eden, Richard (24 June 2012). "The Queen tells the Duchess of Cambridge to curtsy to the 'blood princesses'". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  7. ^ a b "The role of the Royal Family". The Royal Family. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Harry and Meghan crisis: Royal showdown looms". MSN. 12 January 2020. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  9. ^ O'Gara, Eilish (12 June 2015). "Financing the firm: how the royal family make their money". Newsweek. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  10. ^ Junor, Penny (2014). The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor (Newition ed.). Harper Collins. ISBN 9780007393336.
  11. ^ Shirmsley, Robert (1 July 2011). "Royals to royalties: the Firm is in business". Financial Times. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Culture, attraction and soft power" (PDF). British Council. 12 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Our history | The Prince's Trust". Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Background – The Princess Royal Trust For Carers – Hampshire Carer Centre". Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  15. ^ "The Earl and Countess of Wessex Charitable Trust". Charity Commission for England and Wales. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Our Work". The Royal Foundation. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  17. ^ Caroline Davies (18 January 2020). "Harry and Meghan sought a half-in half-out deal, but are 'out'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 5 April 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2020. Though Harry and Meghan still technically retain their HRH styles, they have agreed they will not use them. They have not been stripped of them, unlike Harry’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales following her divorce.
  18. ^ "Lord Chamberlain's Diamond Jubilee Guidelines" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Trade Marks Manual" (PDF). Intellectual Property Office. p. 204. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  20. ^ UK Government News – 19th June, 1999: TITLE OF HRH THE PRINCE EDWARD (Accessed 18 January 2014)

Further readingEdit

  • Burke's Guide to the Royal Family. Burke's Peerage, 1973.
  • Cannon, John Ashton. The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Churchill, Randolph S. They Serve the Queen: A New and Authoritative Account of the Royal Household. ("Prepared for Coronation Year") Hutchinson, 1953.
  • Fraser, Antonia (ed). The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England. Revised & updated edition. University of California Press, 1998.
  • Hayden, Ilse. Symbol and Privilege: The Ritual Context of British Royalty. University of Arizona Press, 1987.
  • Longford, Elizabeth Harman (Countess of Longford). The Royal House of Windsor. Revised edition. Crown, 1984.
  • Weir, Alison. Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. Pimlico/Random House, 2002.
  • Royal Family (1969) is a celebrated and reverential BBC documentary made by Richard Cawston to accompany the investiture of the current Prince of Wales. The documentary is frequently held responsible for the greater press intrusion into the royal family's private life since its first broadcast.

External linksEdit