If you’ve ever been on Twitter during a “what is Kate’s last name” debate, you know to stay far, far away from that fire. For whatever reason, the most hotly debated topic is Kate’s official title. On her wedding day, Catherine received a royal title befitting of her new royal status as the wife of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Baron of Carrickfergus. Since then, she was no longer Kate Middleton, but rather Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness of Carrickfergus.
The Duchess of Cambridge
When Kate married William, she became the Duchess of Cambridge. This is her main royal title and is used most often when in England and abroad on royal tours.
The Dukedom of Cambridge was first used as a peerage in 1664. Over the next three centuries, “Cambridge” would become an earldom and marquessate as well. The Cambridge title has been held by many future monarchs and high profile royals, including George II and Edward IV.
The title was – somewhat obviously – named after the city of Cambridge, which has been around since before Roman times. The town holds great prestige due to its long history, rich culture, and iconic university.
The Countess of Strathearn
Kate’s title when she is in Scotland is the Countess of Strathearn. Since she will one day be the queen consort of Scotland, it is custom for heirs and their spouses to take on a “Scottish title” representing a region of the country. Prince William is the Earl of Strathearn and Catherine is the Countess of Strathearn.
The first recorded Earl of Strathearn lived around 1138. The earl was the provincial leader of the district of Strathearn. It was not used as an official royal peerage until the 16th century.
According to the Strathearn website: “Strathearn straddles both the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands – glens, lochs, mountains and open spaces to the north – rich farmland and towns on the lowlands to the south. This was originally one of Scotland’s ancient Celtic Earldoms, with the title Earl of Strathearn, however the title expired and the lands became used for royal hunting from the 12th Century. “
The Baroness of Carrickfergus
When Catherine is in Northern Ireland, which is a province of the United Kingdom, she is called Lady Carrickfergus. The title is officially styled as “Baron Carrickfergus” for William and “Baroness Carrickfergus” for Catherine.
The title did not come into the history books until the mid-19th century, when it was bestowed upon the 3rd Marquess of Donegal. He was the only person to have been given the title, having died in 1883 with no heirs, until Prince William was given the peerage upon his marriage.
Carrickfergus is the oldest town in Country Antrim, with its history dating back to the 12th century. The town boasts a gorgeous Norman castle and picturesque marina and waterfront. It has had many touches with fame despite its unknown status, including acting as a dock for the Titanic and being the ancestral home of Andrew Jackson.
But is Kate a Princess?
Technically, yes. Kate is married to Prince William which does, technically, make her a princess. However, she is NOT Princess Kate. She is “Princess William.” The reason why is a complicated, confusing explanation including bloodlines, heirs, birthrights, and antiquated laws. She is a princess because she is married to a prince, similar to when Bridget marries Mark Darcy, she becomes a Darcy.
So what’s her last name?
She does not have one. Period, no ifs, ands, or Middletons. As a married woman, Kate renounced her maiden name and took the name of her husband. Since Prince William – as a royal – does not have a last name, neither does Kate. When it is absolutely, positively required (which it hardly ever is), Catherine may use the name “Cambridge” or “Windsor.” These are not her surname, but names that she uses in place of a surname.
In the future…
When Charles, the Prince of Wales, becomes sovereign, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be given the title Prince and Princess of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. Their titles (Cambridge) will return to the “title bank” for later use. When this happens, they will likely be called Prince William and Princess Catherine. Kate’s title will most likely be Catherine, Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, followed by her other granted titles. Eventually, Catherine will become queen consort and everyone who called her “Waity Katie” will eat their words.