Kate Middleton and Prince William are the proud parents of three royal kids—Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—but they technically don’t have legal custody over any of them, thanks to a 300-year-old royal rule, News.com.au reports.
“The sovereign has legal custody of the minor grandchildren,” royal historian and founder of Royal Musings blog Marlene Koenig told the outlet.
“This goes back to King George I [who ruled in the early 1700s], and the law’s never been changed,” Koenig explained. “He did it because he had a very poor relationship with his son, the future King George II, so they had this law passed that meant the King was the guardian of his grandchildren.” The law was passed in 1717 and legislated again in 1772, but hasn’t been changed since.
This means the Queen had custody of Prince William and Prince Harry when they were minors, but it’s unclear if she has custody of George, Charlotte, and Louis, since they’re her great-grandchildren, Koenig tells BAZAAR.com. King George I didn’t have great-grandchildren when the law was made.
However, when Prince Charles becomes king, he will have custody of his grandchildren, which include William’s kids and Prince Harry’s son with Meghan Markle, Archie.
For the sovereign, “custody” means having a say in the grandchild’s upbringing, travel, and education, News.com.au reports. The original text of the law even says the monarch is in charge of the grandchildren’s “education and the care,” “ordering the place of their abode,” “appointing their governors and governesses,” and “the care and approbation of their marriages.”
We previously saw the law in action when William and Harry were young. Prince Charles used to have to ask her Majesty for permission to fly them out to Scotland with him, News.com.au reports. In one instance, the Queen did not grant permission when Princess Diana asked to bring her sons to Australia shortly before her death.
“Technically, they needed permission for travel. The Queen has the last word on parenting decisions like that,” Koenig told the site.
The centuries-old law is also the reason why custody of children wasn’t included in Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s divorce papers. (The latter two are parents to Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie of York.)
“Custody is not included [in those divorce documents] because they did not legally have custody of their children to begin with,” Koenig explained.
Although the legislation still stands today, the royal family “doesn’t make a big deal” out of it, Koenig added. Don’t expect Prince Charles to seriously override his sons’ parenting decisions.
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