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Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Kids Won't Be Princes or Princesses

Good Housekeeping logo Good Housekeeping 18/3/2019 Caroline Picard
Meghan Markle wearing a hat: The couple's potential children won't necessarily become His or Her Royal Highnesses thanks to the Letters Patent issued by King George V in 1917. © Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images The couple's potential children won't necessarily become His or Her Royal Highnesses thanks to the Letters Patent issued by King George V in 1917.

Sounds the alert: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal baby is practically due any day now. The only hitch: The couple's future child won't necessarily become a prince or princess. The royal family has a lot of rules about titles, and Queen Elizabeth II is known to issue some decrees of her own when it comes to royal babies. Here's what you need to know about this newest addition's official name.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Titles

a person standing in front of a wedding dress: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex kisses his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex as they leave from St. George’s Chapel on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. © WPA Pool - Getty Images Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex kisses his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex as they leave from St. George’s Chapel on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England.

The couple officially got their titles His and Her Royal Highness The Duke and Duchess of Sussex when they married last year on May 19, 2018. The Queen traditionally hands out new titles on wedding days - like Prince William and Kate Middleton becoming the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - and this one came as no surprise.

Without the monarch's intervention, Meghan would have simply become Her Royal Highness, Princess Henry of Wales - not Harry, mind you, but the feminized styling of her husband's official name. Becoming a duchess served as a prestigious bonus, even if she's not "Princess Meghan" per se. (Princesses only descend from royal blood, which is why it's not "Princess Kate" or technically even "Princess Diana.")

The Royal Baby's Title

a man and a woman looking at the camera: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit a local secondary school on February 24, 2019 in Asni, Morocco. © Pool/Samir Hussein - Getty Images Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit a local secondary school on February 24, 2019 in Asni, Morocco.

Even with their fancy-sounding addresses, the couple's potential children won't get the same treatment according to law and custom right now. If Harry and Meghan decided on the name Alice for a girl, for example, she would officially go by Lady Alice Mountbatten-Windsor. Mountbatten-Windsor is the official last name of the royal family, as fans of The Crown will remember.

A son gets a slightly fancier-sounding title: Earl of Dumbarton, his father's secondary title used in Scotland, peerage expert William Bortrick told PEOPLE. Eventually he would inherit "Duke of Sussex" from Prince Harry, but per the rules right, now a daughter would not.

The reason behind the surprising stylings stems from the Letters Patent issued by King George V in 1917. The decree essentially limited royal titles amongst the monarch's great-grandchildren except for the person most directly line to the throne (a.k.a. Prince George), but it's not set in stone.

How the Title and Name Could Change

a person sitting at a table with a vase of flowers: Princess Charlotte of Cambridge with her mother Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. The Queen issued a decree about Charlotte © WPA Pool - Getty Images Princess Charlotte of Cambridge with her mother Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. The Queen issued a decree about Charlotte

Queen Elizabeth II has changed the titles of her youngest descendents before. She stepped in before Princess Charlotte was born to give her, Prince Louis, and any future siblings the same stylings afforded to Prince George. She could very well do the same again to honor her beloved grandson and his wife.

Members of the royal family have also turned down royal titles before. For example, Prince Edward, the Queen's son, and Sophie Rhys-Jones decided with the monarch in 1999 that their kids Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn would not be called a princess or prince even though they were entitled to it.

The couple attributed this to a "clear personal wish ... appropriate to the likely future circumstances of their children." With Prince Harry now sixth in line to the throne after the birth of Prince Louis, he and Meghan may also like the idea of a more subdued role for their children.

Speaking of subdued, there's a strong chance their child would also go by yet another name in school. Just like how Prince George is known as "George Cambridge" in his classroom, his cousin could use the last name "Sussex" when it comes time to enroll in preschool.

One thing's for certain: As of right now, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's baby won't be a prince or princess. That doesn't mean that he or she won't be extraordinarily cute.

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