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The use of the definite article before titles is a confusing area - I always hear “Queen Elizabeth visited” and never “The Queen Elizabeth visited”. But I always hear “The Prince of Wales visited” and never “Prince of Wales visited”.

Is there a rule for using — or not using — the definite article before people’s titles?

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Yeah, but you never hear The Prince Charles visited... either. You will hear The Queen visited.... The difference is that when the title is used without the name of the person who carries the title, use the article. When the title and the name of the person are in apposition, eg, The President, Barak Obama, visited..., use the article. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but I can't think of one right now. –  user21497 Dec 25 '12 at 10:21
    
@BillFranke Here's an example. There's an unusual capital letter there too. Protocol is actually quite complicated. –  Andrew Leach Dec 25 '12 at 10:33
    
@AndrewLeach Surely that should be, HRH Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay? What is the reason for that being the way it is? –  spiceyokooko Dec 25 '12 at 10:38
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You have to be careful. The Prince Edward is a pub. –  Barrie England Dec 25 '12 at 11:04
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@AndrewLeach: I think that the title of the speech is simply mispunctuated: "A speech by HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, at the Scottish Business in the Community 30th Anniversary Dinner" should be "A speech by HRH The Prince, Charles, Duke of Rothesay, at the Scottish Business in the Community 30th Anniversary Dinner". –  user21497 Dec 25 '12 at 11:38
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3 Answers

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In certain cases and contexts these are virtual proper names of persons. It should be Her Majesty The Queen. This is why you get The Prince of Wales, The Archbishop of Canterbury, The President of the United States.. etc.

So if you were referring to Prince Charles, it would be Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, not The Prince Charles. If you referred to his title it would be The Prince of Wales.

So The applies to the title, not necessarily the person but it depends on case and context.

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See my comment to Bill in the question. In some circumstances, the heir to the Throne is "The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales". –  Andrew Leach Dec 25 '12 at 10:36
    
@AndrewLeach Fair enough, I did add the caveat in my answer that it depends on case and context. Titles are a minefield! –  spiceyokooko Dec 25 '12 at 10:42
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No! You do not capitalize The in an honorific. It is the Queen of England, where neither the nor of are allowed to be capitalized. Similarly, it is the Seven Hills of Rome that we speak of, never The Seven Hills Of Rome. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 15:14
    
I would need to see an official "The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales". I think it would be "Charles, Prince of Wales" or even "The Prince of Wales Charles, (Duke of etc.)". Multiple Princes, though, would be paired with multiple principalities. –  MετάEd Dec 25 '12 at 15:55
    
@MετάEd I gave a link to the horse's mouth. tchrist is wrong: you do do this in certain specific circumstances. Sometimes I do wish Americans would simply defer to UK people talking about UK eccentricites. Not only is it "The Prince Charles", but The really is capitalised. –  Andrew Leach Dec 26 '12 at 21:14
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"The Prince of Wales" means the particular prince at that instant. But "Queen Elizabeth ", as we know, we can't have articles before proper nouns.

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Are you saying that the Prince of Wales is not a proper noun? Then why is it capitalized? –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 18:46
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Children of the Sovereign are known as 'The Prince ....'. So The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is correct, whereas all other princes etc do not receive the 'The' - eg Prince William. So, when The Prince Charles becomes King, Prince William will become The Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (until he is created Prince if Wales, when he becomes The Prince William, Prince of Wales). In this case it's actually quite straightforward.

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Not correct. We wouldn't say, "The Prince Charles." We would say, "Prince Charles" The definite article is not used except in some very specific situations. –  Rory Alsop Oct 24 '13 at 12:38
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