4

On the Wikipedia page for Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, it states:

He married Elizabeth on 20 November 1947. Just before the wedding, he was created Baron Greenwich, Earl of Merioneth and Duke of Edinburgh.

Why was it necessary to grant him multiple titles at different levels? Wouldn't the dukedom suffice?

My guess was that Greenwich is in England, Merioneth in Wales, and Edinburgh in Scotland, but that leaves out Northern Ireland, which as far as I can tell had been a part of the UK (as Northern Ireland) since 1922, before they were married, and I can't find any information to substantiate that.

  • Well, the three titles had the three constituent parts of Great Britain covered, even if not the whole of the United Kingdom. The diagram included with this post on chat may help explain the difference. – sempaiscuba Sep 27 '17 at 16:43
  • @sem But George VI was the King of the United Kingdom, not Great Britain at least according to his Wikipedia page. – Azor Ahai Sep 27 '17 at 16:46
  • You can't be king of the UK without also being king of Great Britain (in full, it's "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"). TBH, although I knew he'd been granted those titles (as well as the facts that he became a naturalised British citizen and effectively gave up the title "Prince of Greece" in 1947), I've never given the matter a lot of thought. Perhaps the government of the day was being uncharacteristically sensitive towards Irish sensibilities? – sempaiscuba Sep 27 '17 at 18:07
  • @sempaiscuba I guess I don't get why they'd leave out Northern Ireland or why he needed a title in each country anyway – Azor Ahai Sep 27 '17 at 18:08
  • 1
    The title in each country emphasises the "British" (rather than "English") nature of the monarchy. Northern Ireland is often treated differently from Great Britain due to the nationalist sympathies there. I suspect that this was a case in point. – sempaiscuba Sep 27 '17 at 18:17
5

The short answer is: "It's complicated".

I'll try to keep it as simple as possible, but first we need some background.


The announcement of Philip's engagement to Princess Elizabeth was made on 10 July 1947. Ahead of this, Prince Philip had become a naturalised British Subject on 28 Feb 1947 and adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother's family. At this time he also renounced his Greek citizenship, and his right of succession to the Crowns of Denmark and Greece.

This was all to do with worries of public reaction to a perceived "foreign" prince marrying the heir to the British throne in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. It was much better to stress the fact that his great-great-grandmother was Queen Victoria, that he had served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the war, and that he had formally renounced his claim to the (foreign) thrones of Greece and Denmark.

[Interestingly, In 1957, by a court ruling in the case Attorney-General v. Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover established that all descendants of Sophia of Hanover - including Philip - were already naturalised British subjects under the terms of the Sophia Naturalisation Act 1705.]


But the whole concept of "Britishness" is fraught with difficulties. Great Britain is the union of the countries of Scotland, England and Wales. The name was defined in the first sections of the Union with Scotland Act 1706 and the Union with England Act 1707. The United Kingdom is the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Again, the name was defined in an Act of Parliament, this time the Union with Ireland Act 1800. The name was originally the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but this was later amended to United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland when southern Ireland became independent of the UK (see below).

Britain

I did say it was complicated! I have seen that diagram fairly described as:

"one of the most complex Venn Diagrams an everyday schmoe will ever be expected to Grok."

Scotland and Northern Ireland have always had different legal systems from that in England and Wales (even after the Acts of Union), and since further powers have been devolved from Westminster, the situation has become even more complex!


One thing that has emphasised the "British", rather than "English", nature of the monarchy is the range of titles held by each member of the Royal family.

As you say, Prince Philip (then, just Lieutenant Sir Philip Mountbatten, K.G., R.N.) was granted the Titles "Royal Highness", "Baron Greenwich", "Earl of Merioneth" and "Duke of Edinburgh" by Letters Patent from the King just before he married. The grants were gazetted on 21 November 1947.

This gave him titles in all of the nations of Great Britain. Obviously, this would not only have reinforced Philip's British credentials, but also emphasised the "British" nature of the Royal family itself.


So why wasn't Philip also granted a title in Northern Ireland?

The relationship between Great Britain and Ireland has always been complicated. Let's limit ourselves here to the first half of the twentieth century.

From 1922, the southern part of the island of Ireland became independent of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland exercised its option to remain within the UK, although a significant minority in Northern Ireland wanted to be reunited with the independent south.

At that point, the Irish Free State in the south remained a dominion of the British Empire, which meant that its people remained British subjects. This remained the case until the Ireland Act of 1949, even though - in Irish law - Ireland had been virtually a republic since the end of the Second World War, and perhaps even earlier.

Now, the marriage of Prince Philip to Princess Elizabeth was less than 18 months before the Ireland Act of 1949 came into effect. Granting Philip titles in Ireland at that time would have been insensitive at best. This presumably explains that particular omission.


In recent years, the situation has improved considerably, which is why it was possible to grant William the title of Baron Carrickfergus in 2011.

In fact, on 22 February 1957, the Queen granted Prince Philip the title of "Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". This was gazetted on 22 February 1957.


Source

  • Good answer, can I ask why William didn't get a Welsh title at all? – Azor Ahai Sep 28 '17 at 14:57
  • @Azor-Ahai As I mentioned in an earlier comment, probably because he will be the next Prince of Wales when (if) Prince Charles becomes king. – sempaiscuba Sep 28 '17 at 14:59
  • oh, right. very intricate' – Azor Ahai Sep 28 '17 at 15:01
  • "The United Kingdom is the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland." No, it isn't. The United Kingdom is the united kingdom(s) of England and Scotland, created by the Acts of Union 1706/7. – TheHonRose Sep 28 '17 at 20:55
  • 1
    @TheHonRose A common misunderstanding. This is from the 1706 Act: "That the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall upon the First day of May which shall be in the year One thousand seven hundred and seven and for ever after be united into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain" – sempaiscuba Sep 28 '17 at 21:15
3

A few additions to the excellent answer that we have already:

  • Duke of Edinburgh was a title that had been created and gone extinct three times previously. All of the previous creations were for princes who had been born into the Royal Family; awarding it to someone who was marrying into the family was recognition that he was going to be an important part of the monarchy, as he has been.

  • Making him Baron Greenwich was recognition of his successful naval career, since Greenwich had been an important Royal Navy site for centuries.

  • The implications of Earl of Merioneth are less obvious. It's a historic county within North Wales, and a strongly Welsh-speaking area. This might have been an attempt to make up for the lack of a Prince of Wales in that generation, but that's supposition.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.