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?

  • 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, 2012 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, 2012 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? Dec 25, 2012 at 10:38
  • 2
    You have to be careful. The Prince Edward is a pub. Dec 25, 2012 at 11:04
  • 1
    @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, 2012 at 11:38

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 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, 2012 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! Dec 25, 2012 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, 2012 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.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 25, 2012 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, 2012 at 21:14

Not correct Rory! The children of the Sovereign are all styled with the definite article e.g HRH The Prince Edward, HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. The confusion arises when the children of the Sovereign are granted honorific titles or peerages e.g The Prince Of Wales, The Princess Royal. The Duke of York etc. The first two of these examples are only accorded to the children of the Sovereign. Therefore, officially, The Prince of Wales is styled in this way or as The Prince Charles but not coupled together. Similarly with The Princess Anne.

The definite article is accorded to the remaining children of the Sovereign e.g. HRH The Prince Andrew, Duke of York though often in common usage reduced to HRH The Duke of York. However, the definite article accords the status of a child of a Sovereign whereas the grandchild of a Sovereign has no definite article and is styled either HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Kent or less formally, HRH The Duke of Kent, the definite article here belonging to the peerage rather than the individual.


"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.

  • Are you saying that the Prince of Wales is not a proper noun? Then why is it capitalized?
    – tchrist
    Dec 25, 2012 at 18:46

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.

  • 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, 2013 at 12:38

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