The Volokh Conspiracy

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Americans Talk About an "Article V Convention"—Britons About the "George V Convention"


For those interested in the subject (and not just the label), check out this post at the UK Constitutional Law Association, Craig Prescott: Modernising the Monarchy: Moving Beyond the 1917 Letters Patent and the "George V Convention":

In March 2021, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gave one of the most extraordinary interviews ever held with a member of the Royal Family. It may have a profound and long-lasting effect on the monarchy, an institution that remains central to the UK's constitutional arrangements. Already, there are calls for reform. This blog focuses on the section of the interview that discussed the lack of princely status for Archie, the Sussexes' eldest child.

The aim is not to address the Duchess's specific points, as the media have scrutinised them in great detail. Instead, the issue of Archie's status is the key that opens the door to a range of issues that the monarchy faces as a political institution. The fallout from the interview creates the opportunity to reflect on how the titles of prince and princess should be distributed in the future while considering the changing role of the Royal Family and Prince Charles' preference to "slim down" the institution.

(1) What is the "George V Convention"?

The first issue is the rules themselves. The "George V Convention" as discussed by Meghan, takes the form of Letters Patent issued by the King in 1917. Letters Patent (where the plural is also the singular) is a legal document, effectively an open letter, that expresses the Royal Will. In this context, Letters Patent confer the "style, title or attribute of Royal Highness", together with the "titular dignity" of prince or princess prefixed to their Christian names. A title or dignity is an incorporeal hereditament, a form of intangible property….

Thanks to Paul Twyman for the pointer.