Connaught? Ross? Clarence? Or maybe even Kendal?
In the end, Queen Elizabeth II opted for the odds-on favourite on Saturday morning, conferring the title of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex on Prince Harry as he prepared to wed American actress Meghan Markle.
Meghan, in turn, became the Duchess of Sussex as soon as they were declared man and wife in St. George’s Chapel.
The dukedom is steeped in royal tradition, stretching all the way back to 1801, when it was first conferred on Prince Augustus Frederick, Queen Victoria’s uncle and the sixth son of King George III.
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He reportedly had terrible handwriting, a lovely singing voice, and was a bit of a rebel – marrying twice against the wishes of his father. That, interestingly, meant his wives never used the title Duchess of Sussex so Meghan will be the first woman ever to do so.
When Prince Augustus Frederick died in 1843, the title “Duke of Sussex” went extinct. Then, on Saturday morning, it was given new life.
Because of the peculiarities of the British peerage, however, there have been Earls of Sussex in the intervening years. Victoria’s third son, Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, was given that title and passed it on to his descendants. But it, too, went extinct when Arthur’s grandson died in 1943.
Sussex was the frontrunner right from the beginning among royal watchers, mainly because it was free to use, and mercifully free from scandal.
Clarence is tainted by more than a bit of bad luck, for instance, with one Duke of Clarence executed by his brother as a traitor (Shakespeare even wrote about that particular incident). Another Duke of Clarence, the grandson of Queen Victoria, got himself mixed up in a scandal involving a gay-prostitution ring. He later died of influenza at just 28.
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Connaught isn’t much better. With its close ties to the Republic of Ireland, it wouldn’t have made the best choice. The last holder, Alastair, Duke of Connaught, died in 1943 while stationed in Canada with the British army, which seems like it might be a good fit considering Harry’s ties to the military. But Alastair froze to death after falling out a window while drunk.
And then there was Windsor, which was a non-starter given that the last Duke of Windsor was the former King Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry another American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, and had some rather uncomfortable ties to the Nazis.
So Sussex it was. Their new titles will tie Harry and Meghan to Sussex’s spectacular countryside in south east England. It’s a predominantly rural area, dominated by quaint seaside towns, beaches, the Sussex Downs and the High Weald.
It’s home to the Sussex pond pudding, which is basically a mound of butter on a plate, the Sussex spaniel and (for a period at the end of his life) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
If you thought Harry’s new name ended with Sussex, you’d be wrong. Like his older brother Prince William, Harry is also getting two other titles from his grandmother on his wedding day to be used within the United Kingdom.
Along with the dukedom, he and Meghan will be known as the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton in Scotland and Baron and Baroness of Kilkeel in Ireland (Kilkeel has actually never been used before). Good luck keeping them all straight.
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