Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, comes out of Westminster Abbey, with her husband Britain's Prince William (not pictured) following their wedding ceremony, in central London, on April 29, 2011. AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA / Getty Images
By Maria Puente, USA TODAY
Happy birthday, Duchess Kate: Your baby, if it's a girl, will get the title of princess, thanks to the queen.
Today is the 31st birthday of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. So far there's no word on what she and Prince William are doing to celebrate, although he is believed to have taken time off from his RAF base in Wales to spend the day with her in London.
But the headlines today in the British press should be a welcome gift: The Telegraph is reporting that Will's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, has decided to ensure that their baby, due in the summer, will receive the title of princess if it's a girl.
That's a big change: Under ordinary circumstances, only the eldest son of the eldest son of Prince Charles would receive the title of "prince," and a girl would be titled only as "lady." The queen's grandfather, George V, decided in 1917 that this would be the practice.
But the queen has the right to change the practice. She used a process known as "letters patent," which means she can order a change without Parliament being involved.
Her decree was issued Dec. 31 and was published in the London Gazette, the official government journal for such announcements.
"The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm dated 31 December 2012 to declare that all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour."
The British are already changing ancient boys-trump-girls succession rules so that Will and Kate's first child, even if a girl, will become a future monarch even if she eventually has younger brothers.