Prince of Wales

The "Prince of Wales' Feathers".  This Heraldic badge of the Heir Apparent is derived from the ostrich feathers borne by Edward, the Black Prince. The German motto means "I serve."
The "Prince of Wales' Feathers". This Heraldic badge of the Heir Apparent is derived from the ostrich feathers borne by Edward, the Black Prince. The German motto means "I serve."
Standard of the Prince of Wales, as used in England and Northern Ireland
Standard of the Prince of Wales, as used in England and Northern Ireland

The Heir Apparent to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom (and formerly Kingdom of Great Britain, and England) is traditionally invested with the title of Prince of Wales. The current Prince of Wales is The Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II.


Originally the title was given to rulers of Wales, such as Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, as in Welsh it was "Tywysog Cymru". While in dictionaries and in common tongue today the term "Tywysog" will be translated as "Prince", the literal translation of the term is "Leader" (The verb tywys means to lead). The translation of "Prince" was used by Englishmen to undermine the power of the rulers of Wales, causing them to appear inferior to the Kings of England (as a Prince is lower than the King in the hierarchy), when in reality they were of equal rank.

The tradition of investing the heir of the monarch of Britain with the title of "Prince of Wales" began in 1301, when King Edward I of England, having completed the conquest of Wales, gave the title to his heir, Prince Edward (later King Edward II of England). According to a famous legend, the king had promised the rebellious Welsh natives that he would name "a prince born in Wales, who did not speak a word of English" and then produced his infant son to their surprise (and presumable chagrin); but the story may well be apocryphal, as it can only be traced to the 16th century. However, Edward II certainly was born at Caernarfon while his father was campaigning in Wales, and like all infants, could not at the time speak English. (Indeed, growing up in the royal court over the succeeding years his first language may well have been Norman French, not English.)

Prior to the conquest of Wales, only a handful of native princes had claimed the title of Prince of Wales, the country having been divided into smaller principalities for most of the post-Roman period. In 1218 Llywelyn the Great had the title bestowed upon him and his successors by the 11-year old Henry III. It was inherited by his son Dafydd ap Llywelyn in 1240 and again by his nephew Llywelyn the Last in 1246. In 1282 Llywelyn was 'deposed' by Edward I of England and the title became dormant. Edward I conquered Wales and in 1301 granted the Principality to his eldest son, also named Edward. The Principality, nowadays, is always conferred along with the Earldom of Chester. The convention began only in 1399; all previous Princes of Wales also received the earldom, but separately from the Principality. Indeed, before 1272 a hereditary and not necessarily royal Earldom of Chester had already been created several times, eventually merging in the crown each time. The earldom was recreated, merging in the Crown in 1307 and again in 1327. Its creations since have been associated with the creations of the Principality of Wales.

Succession order and claimants

Owain Glyndŵr (1349-1416) is probably the best-known Welsh pretender, though whether he was pretender or Prince of Wales depends upon your source of information. Officially, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who died in 1282, was the last native and arguably greatest Prince of Wales. Since 1301, the Prince of Wales has been the eldest living son of the King or Queen Regnant of England (subsequently of Great Britain, 1707, and of United Kingdom, 1801). The word "living" is important. Upon the death of Prince Arthur, the Prince of Wales, Henry VII invested his second son, the future Henry VIII, with the title. The title is not automatic, however, but merges into the Crown when a prince dies or accedes to the throne, and has to be re-created by the sovereign.

Nevertheless, it is Glyndŵr whom many remember as the last native Prince of Wales. He was indeed proclaimed Prince of Wales by his supporters on 16 September 1400, and his revolt in quest of Welsh independence was not quashed by Henry IV until 1409. Later, however, one of Glyndŵr's cousins, Owain Tudor, would marry the widow of Henry V, and their grandson would become Henry VII, from whom the current British monarch is descended (through his daughter Margaret Tudor, who was married off to James IV of Scotland). So, in a way, Glyndŵr might be said to have had the last laugh.

Heraldic insignia

The Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales

As heir apparent to his mother or father the reigning sovereign, the Prince of Wales bears the Royal Arms differenced by a white label of three points, like any eldest son. To represent Wales he bears the Coat of Arms of the Principality of Wales, crowned with the heir-apparent's crown, on an inescutcheon-en-surtout.

He has a badge of three ostrich feathers (which can be seen on the British Two Pence coin); it dates back to the Black Prince and is his as the English heir even before he is made Prince of Wales.

In addition to these symbols used most frequently, he has a special standard for use in Wales itself. Moreover, as Duke of Rothesay he has a special coat of arms for use in Scotland (and a corresponding standard); as Duke of Cornwall the like for use in the Duchy of Cornwall. Representations of all three may be found at List of British flags.

Other titles, investiture and style

The Principality of Wales and Earldom of Chester must be created, and are not automatically acquired like the Dukedoms of Cornwall and Rothesay, which are the Heir Apparent's titles in England and Scotland, respectively (note: the heir apparent is not necessarily Duke of Cornwall). The dignities are not hereditary, but may be re-created if the Prince of Wales predeceases the King. For example, when Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales predeceased King George II, his eldest son, Prince George (the future George III) was created Prince of Wales.

Princes of Wales may be invested, but investiture is not necessary to be created Prince of Wales. Peers were also invested, but investitures for peers ceased in 1621, during a time when peerages were being created so frequently that the investiture ceremony became cumbersome. Most investitures for Princes of Wales were held in front of Parliament, but in 1911, the future Edward VIII was invested in Caernarvon Castle in Wales. The present Prince of Wales was also invested there, in 1969. During the reading of the letters patent creating the Principality, the Honours of the Principality of Wales are delivered to the Prince. The coronet of the heir-apparent bears four-crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, surmounted by a single arch (the Sovereign's crowns are of the same design, but use two arches). A gold rod is also used in the insignia; gold rods were formally used in the investitures of dukes, but survive now in the investitures of Princes of Wales only. Also part of the insignia are a ring, a sword and a robe.

The Prince of Wales is styled His Royal Highness (HRH). The same style is given to the Princess of Wales, by virtue of her marriage. However, as was shown in the case of Diana, Princess of Wales, the style lapses if a Prince and Princess divorce, as it is only hers by virtue of marriage to the Prince of Wales, not in her own right.

Princes of Wales, past and present

The holders of the title have been:

Prince of Wales Parent From To Title passed on because…
Llywelyn ab Iorwerth Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd 1218 1240 natural succession
Dafydd ap Llywelyn Llywelyn ab Iorwerth 1240 1246 natural succession
Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Gruffydd ap Llywelyn 1246 1282 conquest by Edward I
Edward Edward I 1301 1307 acceded as Edward II
Edward, the Black Prince Edward III 1343 1376 died
Richard of Bordeaux Edward, the Black Prince 1376 1377 acceded as Richard II
Henry of Monmouth Henry IV 1399 1413 acceded as Henry V
Edward, Duke of Cornwall Henry VI 1453 1471 died
Edward Plantagenet Edward IV 1470 1483 acceded as Edward V
Edward, Duke of Cornwall Richard III 1483 1484 died
Arthur, Duke of Cornwall Henry VII 1486 1502 died
Henry, Duke of Cornwall Henry VII 1502 1509 acceded as Henry VIII
Henry, Duke of Cornwall James I 1603 1612 died
Charles, Duke of Cornwall James I 1612 1625 acceded as Charles I
Charles, Duke of Cornwall Charles I 1630 1649 acceded as Charles II
James Francis Edward Stuart James II 1688 1689 father's deposition
George Augustus, Duke of Cornwall George I 1714 1727 acceded as George II
Frederick Louis, Duke of Cornwall George II 1727 1751 died
George Frederick 1751 1760 acceded as George III
George, Duke of Cornwall George III 1762 1820 acceded as George IV
HRH Prince Albert Edward Victoria 1841 1901 acceded as Edward VII
HRH Prince George, Duke of Cornwall Edward VII 1901 1910 acceded as George V
HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall George V 1910 1936 acceded as Edward VIII
HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall Elizabeth II 1958   current title-holder



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