Do We Call Her Princess Catherine Now?

As ever, the royal name game proves complex.

Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty)

For the 11-plus years she’s been in the royal family, the debate has raged: What, exactly, do we call the woman born Kate Middleton? (Okay, technically she was born Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, but you get the drift.)

She’s most recognizable, perhaps, by Kate Middleton. For 11 years, from her wedding day on April 29, 2011, to the day after Her Majesty’s death on September 8, 2022, she was Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Now, however, she is Princess of Wales. The question begs to be answered: Is she Princess Catherine now? (In the royal family, nicknames are generally not used with formal titles, so, if anything, it would be Princess Catherine, not Princess Kate.)

If you ask PEOPLE, it’s a yes—Princess Catherine is what they will refer to her as, along with the title Princess of Wales. The outlet does clarify, though, that in headlines and upon first reference, she’ll still be Kate Middleton “so readers can quickly find the stories they are searching.” (Marie Claire does the same.)

Let’s get granular for a moment. Very technically, Princess Catherine is actually not correct—“according to the experts at Debrett’s, a U.K. authority on etiquette and titles, she is properly styled as Catherine, Princess of Wales, rather than ‘Princess Catherine,’” the outlet reports. “Also technically correct: Princess William of Wales.” (But all of that is a bit of a mouthful.)

Kate still retains the status of Duchess of Cambridge, by the way; she’s also been given a new duchess title since the day after the Queen’s passing—the Duchess of Cornwall, formerly held by her stepmother-in-law Camilla, who is now Queen Consort alongside husband King Charles III. (Kate too will one day be Queen Consort when her husband, Prince William, ascends to the throne. Queen Consort is a Queen who is married to a King, rather than a Queen—like Queen Elizabeth II—who inherited the throne.)

So why did we never call her Duchess Catherine for the 11 years prior to last week? “Unlike the title of Princess, Duchess is never used before a first name,” PEOPLE reports. “Instead, the correct usage is Catherine, Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge. However, the Princess title is of higher rank and therefore will be primarily used.” (Though technically Camilla was Princess of Wales through her marriage to the Prince of Wales, she never publicly used that title because it was so closely associated with Princess Diana, his first wife.)

Kate will be Princess Catherine until King Charles III’s reign ends and William’s begins—whenever that may be.

How about the trio formerly known as the Cambridge kids? Though the most widely used royal surname is Mountbatten-Windsor (that’s Archie and Lili’s last name, for example), prior to the Queen’s death Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis all went by the last name Cambridge. Now, though, that their parents are Prince and Princess of Wales, this means a last name change for the three: they are now George Wales, Charlotte Wales, and Louis Wales. (Imagine starting school at Lambrook on September 8 with the surname Cambridge and coming back to school September 9 with the last name Wales.)

“The new last name follows precedent set by their father,” PEOPLE reports. “Because of his own father’s position, William was known as William Wales during his school years at Eton and St. Andrews, and as Captain Wales in the Army.” (Same goes for Harry.)

What’s in a name? If you’re royal—a lot

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.