Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex announced they were expecting their first child back in October, and many Brits responded with the same enthusiasm that met news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s impending arrivals: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
But, unlike his or her older cousins, Meghan and Harry’s new arrival will not be a “Prince” or “Princess.”
That’s because of a century-old decree made by Britain’s King George V in 1917, ABC news royal contributor Imogen Lloyd Webber tells TIME. “At the time, there were revolutions happening across Europe and many monarchies collapsing,” she says. “So George V wanted a slimmed-down monarchy, kind of like Prince Charles is pushing for now.”
In short, the decree says that when it comes to the monarch’s great-grandchildren, only the eldest living son (George) of the oldest living son (William) of the oldest living son (Charles) of the monarch (Elizabeth), should have “the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names”. All the Queen’s other great grandchildren are to be known as Lord or Lady, and would not need to be addressed as “His Royal Highness” or “Her Royal Highness.”
The Queen gave William and Kate’s children special dispensation to become HRHs. In 2013, a few months before George was born, she issued a decree, updating George V’s rules, to ensure that all William and Kate’s children, male or female, would be styled Prince or Princess. The change came a few months before the U.K.’s parliament updated the country’s succession laws to ensure that a new princess would not be bumped down the line to the throne by any younger brothers.
But, according to Lloyd Webber, it’s very unlikely that the Queen will make such an intervention for Meghan and Harry’s child. “There aren’t really grounds for it,” she says. The unborn child’s place at seventh in the line of succession means he or she will probably never take the throne.
“At the end of the day, would Meghan and Harry even want that? Harry has been very honest about being troubled on some levels about being a member of the royal family,” Lloyd Webber says. “And Meghan is the first self-made woman to marry into the royal family, and she’s an American. I think they’ll lean towards the example of Princess Anne [Harry’s aunt] whose children have no titles.”
You might expect the new baby to inherit the titles that their parents received when they married in May: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. That’s the case only if their child is a boy. Lloyd Webber says Meghan and Harry’s son would probably take his father’s title of Duke when he dies, being known in the meantime as the Earl of Dumbarton.
But U.K. law still says only males can inherit dukedoms, meaning that Meghan and Harry’s daughter would likely just be “Lady,” as George V’s decree intended. In July, five women filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights, arguing the rules amount to “state-sanctioned sexual discrimination.” There’s not much the Royal Family can do about that alone, says Lloyd Webber. “That has to come from the House of Lords,” she says. “It’s part of a wider debate in the aristocracy.”
So in all likelihood, we can expect an Earl of Dumbarton or a Lady Mountbatten-Windsor to join the family in spring.