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. Many members represent the British monarchy and support the monarch in undertaking public engagements and often pursue charitable work and interests. The royal family are regarded as British cultural icons.
The monarchical head of state of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms is Queen Elizabeth II. She is the head of the royal family. She has four children, eight grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren.
- The core of the royal family is made up of Queen Elizabeth II; Charles, Prince of Wales; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex; and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. They carry out royal duties full-time.
- Lower profile relatives who perform some duties are Prince Edward, Duke of Kent; Princess Alexandra; Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester; and Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester.
- Other members of the royal family who do not carry out official duties are Prince Andrew, Duke of York; Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex; Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; Princess Beatrice; Princess Eugenie; Katharine, Duchess of Kent; and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
The Duke of Kent
Titles and surnames
The monarch's children and patrilineal grandchildren, and the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, are automatically entitled to be known as prince or princess with the style His or Her Royal Highness (HRH). Royal peerages, often dukedoms, are bestowed upon most princes prior to marriage. Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, children of the Queen's daughter, Princess Anne, are therefore not prince and princess. Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and James Mountbatten-Windsor, Viscount Severn, though entitled to the dignity, are not called prince and princess because their parents, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, wanted them to have more modest titles. Prince Charles reportedly wishes to reduce the number of titled members of the royal family when he becomes king.
Per tradition, wives of male members of the royal family share their husbands' title and style. Princesses by marriage do not have the title prefixed to their own name but to their husband's; for example, the wife of Prince Michael of Kent is Princess Michael of Kent. Sons of monarchs are customarily given dukedoms upon marriage, and these peerage titles pass to their eldest sons.
Male-line descendants of King George V, including women until they marry, bear the surname Windsor. The surname of the male-line descendants of Queen Elizabeth II, except for women who marry, is Mountbatten-Windsor, reflecting the name taken by her Greek-born husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, upon his naturalisation. A surname is generally not needed by members of the royal family who are entitled to the titles of prince or princess and the style His or Her Royal Highness. Such individuals use surnames on official documents such as marriage registers.
Official duties are undertaken on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II by her children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, and cousins and their spouses. Among her cousins, only the children of King George V's sons carry out royal engagements. The family support the Queen in her state and national duties, with the exception of constitutional functions. If the sovereign is indisposed, two Counsellors of State are required to fulfil her role, of which Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Andrew can serve.
Each year the family "carries out over 2,000 official engagements throughout the UK and worldwide", entertaining 70,000 guests and answering 100,000 letters. Engagements include state funerals, national festivities, garden parties, receptions, and visits to the Armed Forces. Many members have served in the Armed Forces themselves, including the Queen's sons and grandsons. Engagements are recorded in the Court Circular, a list of daily appointments and events attended by the royal family. Public appearances are often accompanied by walkabouts, where royals greet and converse with members of the public outside events.
Annual events attended by the royal family include the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, and the National Service of Remembrance. According to historian Robert Lacey, the Queen has said that investitures of the honours recipients are the most important thing she does. Prince William, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne also perform investitures. Family members represent the Queen on official visits and tours to other countries as ambassadors to foster diplomatic relations. They have also attended Commonwealth meetings on the monarch's behalf. The royal family also participates in state visits on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which includes the welcoming of dignitaries and a formal banquet. Journalist James Forsyth has referred to the family as "soft power assets".
Given the royal family's public role and activities, it is sometimes referred to by courtiers as "The Firm", a term that originated with George VI. Members of the royal family are politically and commercially, avoiding conflict of interest with their public roles. 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. Members are expected to promote British industry. Royals are often members of the Church of England, headed by the monarch, and have previously served as Lord High Commissioner to the Church of Scotland.
Members of the royal family are patrons for approximately 3,000 charities, and have also started their own nonprofit organisations. Prince Charles started The Prince's Trust, which helps young people in the UK that are disadvantaged. 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. The Earl and Countess of Wessex founded the Wessex Youth Trust, since renamed The Earl and Countess of Wessex Charitable Trust, in 1999. 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.
In 2019, following the negative reactions to the "Prince Andrew & the Epstein Scandal" interview, the Duke of York was forced to resign from public roles; the retirement became permanent in 2020. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex permanently withdrew from royal duties in early 2020. Following these departures, there is a shortage of royal family members to cover the increasing number of patronages and engagements.
Media and criticism
Royal biographer Penny Junor says that the royal family has presented itself "as the model family" since the 1930s. Author Edward Owen wrote that during World War II, the monarchy sought an image of a "more informal and vulnerable family" that had a unifying effect on the nation during instability. In 1992, the Princess Royal and her husband Mark Phillips divorced; the Prince and Princess of Wales separated; a biography detailing the Princess's bulimia and self-harming was published; her private telephone conversations surfaced, as did the Prince's intimate telephone conversations with his lover, Camilla Parker Bowles; the Duke and Duchess of York separated; and photographs of the topless Duchess having her toes sucked by another man appeared in tabloids. Historian Robert Lacey said that this "put paid to any claim to being a model of family life". The scandals contributed to the public's unwillingness to pay for the repairs of the Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire. A further "PR disaster" was the royal family's initial response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.
In the 1990s, the royal family formed the Way Ahead Group, made up of senior family members and advisers and headed by the Queen, in a quest to change in accordance with public opinion. The 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton led to a "tide of goodwill", and by the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 the royal family's image had recovered. A 2019 YouGov poll showed that two-thirds of British people were in favour of maintaining the royal family. The role and public relations of the extended royal family again came under increased scrutiny due to the Duke of York's friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and allegations of sexual abuse, along with his unapologetic conduct in the 2019 interview about these subjects and subsequent 2021 lawsuit.
In a 2021 interview, the Duchess of Sussex, who is of biracial heritage, alleged with her husband that a member of the royal family had expressed concern about the skin colour of their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. The interview received a mixed reaction from the British public and media, and several of their claims were called into question. The Duke of Cambridge said the royal family were "very much not a racist family". In June 2021, documents revealed that "coloured immigrants or foreigners" were banned by the Queen's chief financial manager at the time from working for the family as clerks in the 1960s, prompting black studies professor Kehinde Andrews to state that "the royal family has a terrible record on race". In response, the palace stated that it complied "in principle and in practice" with anti-discrimination legislation, and that second-hand claims of "conversations from over 50 years ago should not be used to draw or infer conclusions about modern-day events or operations."
Historically, the royal family and the media have benefited from each other; the family used the press to communicate with the public, while the media used the family to attract readers and viewers. With the advent of television, however, the media started paying less respect to the royal family's privacy. Princes William and Harry have had informal arrangements with the press whereby they would be left alone by the paparazzi during their education in return for invitations to staged photograph opportunities. William has continued the practice with his family posts on Instagram. Relations between the media and British royals have been destabilized by the rise of the digital media, with the quantity of articles becoming paramount toward gaining advertising revenue, with neither side able to exercise control. A 2021 BBC documentary suggested that briefings and counter-briefings from different royal households was the reason behind the negative coverage about members of the royal family. Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace, which represent the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge respectively, described these suggestions as "overblown and unfounded claims".
Senior members of the royal family, who represent the monarch, draw their income from public funds known as the sovereign grant. The sovereign grant is an annual payment of the British government to the monarch. It comes from the revenues of the Crown Estate, which are commercial properties owned by the Crown. Members of the royal family who receive money from the sovereign grant must be accountable to the public for it and are not allowed to make money from their name.
The security of the royal family is not paid from the sovereign grant but is usually met instead by the Metropolitan Police. The royal family, the Home Office, and the Metropolitan Police decide which members have a right to taxpayer-funded police security. Extended members do not retain automatic right to protection; in 2011, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie ceased receiving police security.
The monarch's official residence in London is Buckingham Palace. Announcements of the births and deaths of members of the royal family are traditionally attached to its front railings. The Queen tends to spend weekends at Windsor Castle. The Queen's Scottish residence is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where she resides at the beginning of each summer. While in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle serves as a residence for members of the royal family.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall's official residence is Clarence House. Another London residence of the Prince of Wales is St James's Palace, which he shares with the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra. Princess Alexandra also resides at Thatched House Lodge in Richmond. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester have their residences and offices at apartments in Kensington Palace, London. The Duke and Duchess of Kent reside in Wren House on the palace grounds. The Duke of York and his family live at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, while the Earl and Countess of Wessex reside at Bagshot Park in Surrey.
- Royal descent
- Military service by British royalty
- Education of the British royal family
- List of honours of the British royal family by country
- List of longest-living members of the British royal family
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