Margaret Minnicks is an online writer who writes about the royal family.
According to royal historians and an age-old law, Queen Elizabeth is the legal guardian of her eight minor great-grandchildren. In case of the death of the 94-year-old queen, her son Prince Charles who will then be King of England will have legal custody of his grandchildren.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are proud parents of three children, Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and 2-year-old Prince Louis. However, they do not have legal custody of any of them.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have one child, Archie, born May 2019. They are expecting another child in 2021. Then Queen Elizabeth will have nine great-grandchildren. Here is the list:
- Savannah Phillips, Peter Phillips' daughter
- Isla Phillips, Peter Phillips' daughter
- Mia Tindall, daughter of Zara Tindall
- Lena Tindall, daughter to Zara Tindall
- Prince George, oldest son of Prince William
- Princess Charlotte, only daughter of Prince William
- Prince Louis, youngest son of Prince Harry
- Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor
Why Queen Elizabeth Has Legal Custody
There is a law that is more than 300 years old that gives the monarch custody of the minors. Ten out of 12 judges passed the law in 1717. The majority decided the monarch has the right to supervise and make major decisions for minor children.
King George was the monarch at the time the law was passed, and it was never taken from the royal rule book or revised in any way. He favored the law because he did not have a good relationship with his son, the future King George II. Therefore, he wanted to be guardian over his grandchildren.
The original wording of the law states that the monarch is in charge of the grandchildren's education and their care, where they live and travel, appointing their caregivers and giving them permission to marry.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Children
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not have the legal guardians of Archie and will not have custody of any other children born to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The rule still stands, but it might change for Prince Harry and Meghan since they are more modern than royals in the past. Also, they have stepped down from being senior royals and are now living in the United States.
According to royal expert Marlene Koenig, the law was legislated again in 1772 during the reign of King George III and is still enforced to this day. Therefore, legally Queen Elizabeth has the final say over how her minor great-grandchildren should be raised. This is especially true when it comes to their upbringing, education, travel, and marriage.
When Prince William and Harry were minors, Prince Charles needed his mother's permission to travel with them. Of course, Queen Elizabeth was accustomed to saying yes, but the permission had to be requested in advance. Before Princess Diana's death, she also needed permission for her children to travel with her.
In the late 1990s, Prince Charles needed Queen Elizabeth's permission to send teenager Prince William on a holiday to the United States.
Custody arrangements were not stated in the divorce decree of Prince Charles and Diana. Neither was it stated in Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's divorce decree. That's because the parents never had legal custody of their children in the first place. Therefore, the monarch's arrangements were not affected.
Before her death, Princess Diana requested to have her children raised by her brother and mother. However, her wish was ignored by the Palace.
The Present Day Law
Even though the law still exists on paper, is it enforced today? Queen Elizabeth is still the legal guardian of the three children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She will also have legal custody of any children born to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The royal expert did say that while the law still exists, it is more of a formality than what is actually enforced. Koenig says if and when Prince Charles becomes King of England, he will also have legal custody of his grandchildren. More than likely, he will not enforce the law. He will be more respectful of his sons' parenting style and probably will not need to require them to get permission concerning important decisions. Prince Charles understands what it is like to have to ask permission to raise children because he had to do the same when his own children were minors.
When Charles becomes king, technically he will have custody of his grandchildren, but he isn't likely to override major decisions.
Donna Turner on March 14, 2020:
Thats some law, I didnt think the Oueen had that much say when it came to there children. Then why is it that Kate has the authority to tell them to stay away from Kenningston Palace,cause there raising there kids with out all those rules.. Im confused or I just got bad gossip.
Carole on December 02, 2018:
You have very good knowledge of these royal laws and give a better understanding by good research
Susie Gabrik on November 29, 2018:
That's a LOT of power for one person!
Litza on November 15, 2018:
Very interesting, I’ve never heard of this law before.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on October 23, 2018:
Larry, I hadn't heard of the law before, but I found it very interesting to write about. Thanks for reading my article.
Larry Slawson from North Carolina on October 23, 2018:
Wow, that's really interesting. I had never heard of this law before.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on August 27, 2018:
Yes, Amelia! There are some very interesting royal laws that have been on the books for years.
Amelia Bauman from Clearwater, Florida on August 27, 2018:
Wow! I knew that Lady D had to ask Queen's permission, but I thought it was due to piety and tradition, when in fact there's an actual law!
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on August 25, 2018:
Thanks so much for your encouragement, Anne. Your kind comments help me to "keep keeping on!"
Anne Cox on August 25, 2018:
I think: You always top yourself in your writing, Margaret. Not only is this article so well-written, it is also fascinating history about why so the Queen has custody. Astounding.