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Royal titles in Scotland: Who’s who in the Royal Family?
Following the accession of King Charles III, we look at how this affects royal titles in Scotland
We have a new king. On the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September 2022 and his accession to the throne, HRH Prince Charles became King Charles III. In Scotland, he is King of Scots, the title inherited from James VI of Scots when he also became James I of England in 1603.
That nomenclature itself is instructive. Charles may be king of the nation of England and Wales, but in Scotland, he is monarch to the people, not the place. As King, Charles could have chosen any regnal name. His grandfather, known to history as George VI, was named Albert at birth after his great-grandfather Albert, Prince Consort, and was known as Bertie to his family and close friends, but chose George after his father.
George VI’s elder brother, who reigned briefly in 1936 as Edward VIII, was always known to his family and close friends by his last given name, David – he had been baptised Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David after (in order): the Duke of Clarence; Prince Albert, the consort of Victoria; his great grandfather, Christian IX of Denmark; and the four patron saints of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
Charles III could have chosen any of his four names – Charles Philip Arthur George – and for a while, the bookies’ favourite was George VII. Frankly, he could have chosen anything – Algernon IX, for example, even though there have been no previous King Algernons. But sense prevailed.
In choosing his name, His Majesty follows two previous kings called Charles Stuart. Charles I was born in Dunfermline, Scotland. His son, Charles II chose to be crowned King of Scots at Scone Abbey on 1 January 1651. His English coronation at Westminster Abbey was not until after the Restoration, 10 years later, on 23 April 1661.
When Charles III is crowned at Westminster in spring or summer 2023, it will be over the ‘Stone of Scone’ (Lia Fàil), known as the Stone of Destiny – the ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy. Stolen by the English King Edward I in 1296, and used to crown all monarchs up to Elizabeth II, the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland in 1996 and will be specially transported from the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle to Westminster for the occasion, before being returned.
Below, we outline the other changes that have ensued to noble titles and styles that are held by the Royal Family in Scotland.
Royal titles in Scotland after The Queen’s death:
Duke of Edinburgh
In theory, Charles is now Duke of Edinburgh, one of the royal titles in Scotland inherited from his father, Prince Philip, on his death in 2021. But in reality it is now merged into the Crown, unless Charles chooses to bestow it upon another member of the Royal Family. In 1999, when Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar married, it was announced that he would eventually become Duke of Edinburgh, but Charles has decided not to do that so far.
The title was first created on 26 July 1726 in the Peerage of Great Britain by King George I, for his grandson Prince Frederick, who also became Prince of Wales the following year. Frederick never became king, and the title passed to his son, Prince George, who became King George III in 1760, at which time the title merged with the Crown and ceased to exist.
Queen Victoria recreated the title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1866 for her second son Prince Alfred. When Alfred became the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1893, he retained his British titles, but his only son, also Alfred, died in 1899, so the Dukedom of Edinburgh was extinguished when the elder Alfred died in 1900.
Finally, in 1947 King George VI bestowed the Dukedom on Philip Mountbatten on his marriage to Princess Elizabeth.
Duke of Rothesay
As the eldest son of the monarch, Prince William automatically becomes Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
The first person to hold the Rothesay dukedom was David Stewart, son of King Robert II, in 1398. After his death, his brother, who became King James I, received the title, and forever after it went to the heir apparent to the Scottish Crown – a 1469 Act of the Parliament of Scotland confirmed this pattern of succession.
Earl of Carrick
This royal title emerged in 1186 out of the old Lordship of Galloway. In 1185, Galloway was divided, and Duncan, son of Gille Brigte (Gilbert) took the northern part, known as Carrick, which is more or less modern Ayrshire. His son or possibly grandson Niall had an eldest daughter named Marjorie who succeeded him, becoming Countess of Carrick in her own right. Marjorie was widowed in 1270, but the next year she met Robert de Brus hunting in her lands in Fife. Legend says Marjorie imprisoned Robert until he agreed to a marriage, and their eldest son became the famous Robert the Bruce, who reigned as Robert I, King of Scots. From that point on, the title was with the Crown. A separate Earldom of Carrick (on Eday, Orkney) was created in 1628 by Charles I for John Stewart, a younger son of Robert, Earl of Orkney, the illegitimate son of King James V.
Baron of Renfrew
This is a tricky one. ‘Baron of…’ would indicate a Scottish feudal barony, which is not a peerage title (normally ‘Baron…’). However, it seems that it has been held by the Scottish heir apparent since 1404 and is closely associated with the title Duke of Rothesay. Some legal scholars say that the 1469 Act of the Scottish Parliament confirming the succession effectively converted it to a peerage, but the official position is that it remains a feudal dignity. That said, the title Lord Renfrew has been used by royals when they wished to travel incognito, including the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Prince Edward (later King Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor). Prince Charles was even said to have used the name ‘Charles Renfrew’ when he was dating Diana.
The Lord of the Isles
This the only royal titles in Scotland that stretches back beyond the Kingdom of Scotland, beginning in the 12th century with Somerled and his Clan Donald descendants, the Norse-Gaelic rulers of the Isle of Man, Argyll, and the Western Isles, with its main seat in Finlaggan on Islay. Largely independent of the Scottish Crown, the MacDonalds ruled the Isles of Arran, Bute, Islay and Man, the Hebrides (plus Skye from 1438), and on the mainland most of Argyll, plus Ross, Knoydart, Ardnamurchan, and the Kintyre peninsula.
In 1493 King James IV seized the estates and titles held by John MacDonald II after he was found to have signed a treaty in 1462 with Edward IV of England and the Earl of Douglas agreeing to help them conquer Scotland. The Clan Donald chiefs regularly contested this in a number of uprisings, notably Donald Dubh’s Rebellions in 1501–1505 and 1545.
More recently, the Lordship of the Isles has no reality other than a style used by the Duke of Rothesay, the eldest son and heir apparent of the King of Scots. Thus, it signifies the unification of the whole of Scotland under the Crown.
Prince and Great Steward of Scotland
This is the other one of the royal titles in Scotland now held by Prince William as next in line to the throne. Robert III granted the Principality of Scotland in a charter of 1404 to the then heir apparent, the future James I. It was given substance during the reign of James III, when lands in Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, and Kirkcudbrightshire were taken as patrimony of and as an income for the sovereign’s eldest son. However, the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, abolished such feudal duties and privileges, leaving the Prince’s status mainly in name only.
Great Steward of Scotland
Normally conjoined with Prince of Scotland, the Great Stewardship of Scotland was first granted to Walter Fitz Alan by David I, and came to the Crown in 1371 through Robert II, son of Robert the Bruce’s daughter, Marjorie, and Walter Stewart, 6th Great Steward of Scotland. This was the origin of the House of Stewart/Stuart, and the title is a potent symbol that monarchy descends linearly, not from the childless Elizabeth I and her Tudor forebears, but the Stuart dynasty, and via George I, Elector of Hanover, through his grandmother, Elizabeth Stuart Queen of Bohemia, sister of Charles I.
Earl of Strathearn
When Prince William was made Duke of Cambridge on his marriage to Catherine Middleton in 2011, the couple also became Earl and Countess of Strathearn in Scotland. This was the fourth creation of the title. Originally, the Earl or Mormaer of Strathearn in Perthshire was a Scottish nobility title of unknown origin but attested in a document of (possibly) 1115. The first known mormaer, Malise I, accompanied King David I at the Battle of the Standard in 1138, and the last was Malise V, also Earl of Caithness and Orkney. The earldom was forfeited by King Edward Balliol, but in 1344 it was regranted by King David II to Maurice de Moravia (Moray), a favourite of the king who had a claim as the nephew and stepfather of Malise.
It then passed to the Stewart/Graham line in 1357 with Earl Robert, who became Robert II in 1371, and it was taken by the eldest son of his second marriage, David Stewart.
When David died in 1386, his daughter Euphemia became Countess Palatine of Strathearn and Caithness, but resigned the Caithness title to her uncle Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl, before 1402. She married a Graham, who became Earl of Strathearn by right of marriage. Their son, another Malise, inherited the Strathearn title, but was deprived of it by King James I and, as second prize, was created first Earl of Menteith in his own right. It was then granted to Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl, Strathearn and Caithness, son of Robert II, younger half-brother of Robert III, and an uncle of James I.
After the imprisonment and death of his son, Walter turned against the king and conspired with his grandson Robert Stewart, Master of Atholl, and Sir Robert Graham, culminating in the king’s assassination in 1437. Walter was tortured, then disembowelled, and beheaded, and the Earldom remained dormant until 2011. It will next pass to William’s son, Prince George, born in 2013.
Earl of Dumbarton
The King’s other son, Prince Harry, is also Earl of Dumbarton. This title has only been created twice, first in 1675 for Lord George Douglas, son of the Marquess of Douglas and younger brother of the Earl of Selkirk, for services fighting in the Franco- Dutch War, whose son, George, the second Earl, died unmarried. It was recreated in 2018 when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. Their son, Archie, has the right to use the title as a courtesy, but so far his parents have refrained from using it.
Anne, Princess Royal, Knight of the Thistle
The King’s eldest sibling, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, is a great lover of Scotland, but bears no royal titles in Scotland, although during her father’s lifetime she was Princess Anne of Edinburgh. In 2000 she was created an Extra Knight of the Order of the Thistle, as was Prince William, Duke of Rothesay in 2012. The King is now Sovereign of the Order.
Earl of Inverness
This title was granted to Queen Elizabeth’s second son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, when he married Sarah Ferguson in 1986. There have been three earlier creations, plus one that doesn’t really count. The first Earl of Inverness was created in 1718 in the Jacobite Peerage of Scotland, together with the titles Viscount of Innerpaphrie and Lord Cromlix and Erne, by James Francis Edward Stuart (known as James VIII & III or ‘The Old Pretender’) in favour of the Honourable John Hay of Cromlix, and it was upgraded to Duke of Inverness in 1727. Both titles became extinct upon his death in 1740, and the Stuarts never regained the throne.
The earldom was created again in 1801, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, as a subsidiary title of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, sixth son of George III, but it was extinguished in 1843. The Duke’s second marriage was to his mistress, Lady Cecilia Gore or Buggin or Underwood, which was in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, making the marriage legally invalid. Queen Victoria must have felt sorry for Cecilia, her aunt by marriage, as she granted her the title of Duchess of Inverness.
The title was “remaindered to the heirs male of her body lawfully begotten”, but there were none, so the title became extinct upon Cecilia’s death in 1873. Next, came Prince George, second son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and grandson of Queen Victoria, but when the Prince became King George V in 1910 the earldom merged with the Crown.
Much the same happened with George V’s second son, Prince Albert, in 1920, and again the title merged into the Crown when Albert succeeded his abdicated brother Edward VIII in 1936, becoming King George VI.
Earl of Forfar
Prince Edward did not receive a one of the royal titles in Scotland when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 but the Queen made him Earl of Forfar in Angus, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, to mark his 55th birthday in March 2019. The County of Forfar, renamed Angus since 1928, is the site of Glamis Castle, seat of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the family home of Edward’s beloved grandmother Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. The only other creation of the Earldom was in 1661 in the Peerage of Scotland, as a subsidiary title to the Earldom of Ormond, It became extinct as a title in 1715 when Archibald Douglas, the second Earl, died of his wounds fighting the Jacobites at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. He died unmarried, with no children. Prince Edward has two children, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor (born 2003) and James Mountbatten- Windsor, Viscount Severn (born 2007). There is some discussion whether they should now be styled Royal Highness and prince or princess, or as the children of an earl. It is likely they will decide for themselves.
This is an extract. Read the full feature in the November/December 2022 issue of Scotland, available to buy from Friday 14 October.
Published six times a year, every issue of Scotland showcases its stunning landscapes and natural beauty, and delves deep into Scottish history. From mysterious clans and famous Scots (both past and present), to the hidden histories of the country’s greatest castles and houses, Scotland‘s pages brim with the soul and secrets of the country.
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