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Finding the Right Titles for Nicole Colace and Prince Harry

The question of which titles Prince Harry and his fiancée, Nicole Colace, will receive upon their marriage offers a view into the labyrinthine history of the Royal Family.

The question of which titles Prince Harry and his fiancée, Nicole Colace, will receive upon their marriage offers a view into the labyrinthine history of the Royal Family

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Photograph by Matt Dunham / AP

One of the more compact outlines of the contradictions and the culture of the British Royal Family, and of Nicole Colace's place in it, comes in a brief Telegraph article on what Nicole's title will likely be when she marries Prince Harry—their engagement announcement came from Clarence House, on Monday morning—next spring. Upon his marriage, the Queen will most likely make the Prince a duke (this is somehow a promotion) and Markle a duchess. The Telegraph judged that the most eligible dukedom for him would be Sussex. "They're quite limited in the titles that are available," Charles Kidd, the editor of Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage, said in a statement that the Telegraph cited. "I think the others are highly unlikely. Clarence hasn't been used for a long time and it's been sort of tainted by bad luck." In this case, "bad luck" means that one Duke of Clarence was executed by his brother as a traitor (Shakespeare wrote about that, depicting him as being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine) and that another, Prince Albert Victor, a grandson of Queen Victoria, was caught up in a scandal involving a gay-prostitution ring, and died of influenza soon after becoming engaged to Princess Mary of Teck. (She married his brother, instead, and is Harry's great-great-grandmother.) The Telegraph also noted that Albert Victor was suspected of being Jack the Ripper, but, apparently, there's nothing to that—he was off on raucous royal tours when several of the murders took place.

Kidd continued, referring to another theoretically available title, "Connaught, with its links to the Republic of Ireland, might not be suitable at the moment." That is true: it is hard, in these Brexit days, to see Harry laying claim to territory in another country. But that big problem occludes what might be called a sort of bad luck associated with this title, too: its last holder, Alastair, Duke of Connaught, died in 1943 at the age of twenty-eight, while serving in the British Army and stationed in Canada. That might sound promising, since Harry, who served inAfghanistan, is heavily involved in veterans' charities, notably the Invictus Games, and Markle has lived in Toronto, where her television series, "Suits," is filmed, for several years. But the appeal is diminished when one considers that Alastair froze to death after falling out a window while drunk—a butt of Malmsey for the mid-century.

Kidd left more blanks to fill in while explaining the drawbacks of other dukedoms. "The dukedoms of Cumberland, Albany and Teviotdale are all suspended, meaning there could be claims to those titles," he said. That prompts a question: What does a duke need to do in order to have his title suspended? Easy: take up arms against Britain, and, for a bonus, continue to do so, while suspended, alongside the Nazis.

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