As Sarah Ferguson prepared to become Her Royal Highness The Princess Andrew on Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth II granted her son a new brace of titles, throwing a curve to all those trying to keep royalty straight.
"The queen has been pleased to direct that the Prince Andrew should be created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh. This will be gazetted at 10 o'clock this morning and takes effect immediately," Buckingham Palace announced shortly before the wedding.
Thus the former Miss Ferguson, as wife of the Duke of York, becomes the Duchess of York and could also be known as the Countess of Inverness and Baroness Killyleagh. None are familiar names to people around the world who had learned her nickname was "Fergie" and thought she was going to be called Princess Andrew.
First Name Lost
In court parlance, her own first name falls into disuse, and as a Miss Smith often becomes Mrs. Jones after she marries Mr. Jones, she takes her husband's name and title.
The British Royal Family has a surname in reserve--Windsor--but the queen and her immediate family do not go by it, using their titles and first names instead. Titles in some cases become preferred names, but the public does not always oblige by calling royals according to protocol.
How the public and news media will handle her name remains to be seen. British broadcast commentators immediately began calling the couple the Duke and Duchess of York in descriptions of their carriage ride away from Westminster Abbey moments after their marriage.
The London Standard, the capital's only afternoon newspaper, tried to sum up the transition for Miss Ferguson with the headline: "Enter Fergie, Duchess of York."
The York title joins four other royal dukedoms now in use: Cornwall, held by Prince Charles; Edinburgh, held by the queen's husband, Prince Philip, and Gloucester and Kent, both held by cousins of the queen.
The York title often has been bestowed on the monarch's second son. Its most recent holder was the queen's late father, who was created Duke of York in recognition of his service in World War I. He became King George VI when his elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936.
Aside from the royal dukes, there are 26 noble dukes in Britain, men who hold hereditary titles.
Charles Kidd, editor of Debrett's Peerage, a bible of the nobility, noted that royal dukes can outrank royal princes in the British system. The royal Duke of Kent outranks his younger brother, Prince Michael of Kent, Kidd said.