Keeping Her Name. How Diana Remained “Princess” After Divorcing the Royal Family

We know her as Diana, Princess of Wales, but before she married Prince Charles, she was Lady Diana Spencer, not “Princess”. So how did she continue to be known as a princess after her divorce?

Although Diana was the daughter of an Earl, she was not royalty and only became a princess because she joined the royal family through marriage. While married to Prince Charles, she was called “Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales”. With a divorce Diana would no longer be royalty. She would lose the privileges that come with the title. As a result, she would technically be required to curtsey upon greeting her ex-husband, ex-in-laws, and even her sons.

Diana knew the consequences of losing her title and requested to keep the name in the divorce. Prince Charles insisted she give it up. Queen Elizabeth stepped in mediated their divorce.  She allowed Diana to keep the lesser title “Diana, Princess of Wales.” Diana only had to give up “Her Royal Highness”.

Although the question of royal title never comes up in a U.S. divorce, the question of keeping a family name does. In the U.S divorcing spouses get to choose what name they will use after a divorce, regardless of how their ex feels about it. A husband cannot take away the name he gave his spouse.

Although some divorcees may not like the idea of their ex continuing to use their last name after the divorce, there isn’t much they can do about it. After all, people can change their legal name to just about anything they want in our country. Prince changed his name to a symbol, Marilyn Monroe used to be Norma Jean Mortenson, and someone in Wisconsin legally changed their name to “Beezow Doo-doo Zopittybop-bop-bop.”

The only name arguments divorce attorneys raise in court is when a parent wants to change the name of the child. A divorced mother might want to add her maiden name to the child’s last name. Or a father who was not on the birth certificate, but has shown the court to be the father, wants the child to take his last name.

With Diana we are talking about more than a name. With the name “Princess of Wales” comes privileges that are worth something. The title could be looked at as an asset. If the title is determined to be an asset a judge could step in and decide. Does an English court even have authority over the royal family and their use of titles? This issue could have opened a bigger legal issue for the royal family It was very wise of Queen Elizabeth to step in and resolve the issue.