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UK Royal Family: Who is in it and how does it work?


image copyrightHarpo Productions/Joe Pugliese

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s much-anticipated television interview with Oprah Winfrey has been broadcast on both sides of the Atlantic.

The couple spoke frankly about racism, mental health, the media and their experience inside the Royal Family.

Who is in the Royal Family?

The 94-year-old monarch and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip), who is 99, have four children, eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPrincess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947

Other members of the Royal Family include:

  • The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), 72, who is married to the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) – he is the Queen’s eldest child and will become king when she dies
  • The Duke of Cambridge (Prince William) who is married to the Duchess of Cambridge (Catherine) – William is the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales
  • The Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry) is William’s brother – he is married to the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan); last year, they said they would step back as senior royals and now live in Los Angeles

How do you become a royal?

Someone who marries a royal becomes a member of the Royal Family, and they are given a title when they marry.

For example, Lady Diana Spencer became Princess of Wales when she married Prince Charles in 1981.

However, to become king or queen, you must have been born into the Royal Family.

Prince Charles is first in line to the throne. His eldest son Prince William, is second in line, and William’s eldest son, Prince George, is third.

What happens at royal weddings?

Royal weddings often take place at some of the oldest and grandest places, and attract huge crowds.

The Queen and Prince Philip were married in 1947 at Westminster Abbey, which was founded in 960 AD and is next door to the Houses of Parliament.

More than six decades later, in 2011, crowds lined the streets outside the Abbey to celebrate the marriage of her grandson William, to Catherine Middleton. They became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

image captionThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled in a carriage from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace

Other royals have exchanged vows at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, which is more than 900 years old.

The weddings there include Prince Harry’s to Meghan Markle in 2018.

What about when there is a royal baby?

A number of senior royals have been born at St Mary’s Hospital in London.

Princess Diana gave birth to Prince William and Prince Harry there, and the Duchess of Cambridge her three children: Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five, and Prince Louis, two.

Both women were photographed with their husbands and babies outside the hospital.

image copyrightPA
image captionPrince William was born in 1982

What does the Royal Family do?

The Queen meets with the prime minister once a week, as a reminder of her place in government, but the prime minister doesn’t seek her approval for policies.

The Queen and other senior royals carry out official engagements.

Family members also represent her in visits to other countries. For example, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carried out an official visit to the Republic of Ireland last March.

image copyrightJulien Behal
image captionThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met Irish President Michael D Higgins at his residence during their visit to the Republic of Ireland.

Many are patrons for charities, and some have established their own – such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for young people.

They have close ties to the armed forces. Prince William served in the Royal Air Force and Prince Harry served in the Army.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPrince Harry served in Afghanistan

Do royals always carry out official duties?

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe Duke and Duchess of Sussex now live in the US with their son

The Duke of York (Prince Andrew) stepped away from royal duties in 2019.

Where does the Royal Family get its money?

Every year, the UK government gives the Queen a single payment called the Sovereign Grant.

This is based on 25% of the Crown Estate’s revenue from two years previously. The Crown Estate is an independent commercial property business. It includes the 4,800-acre Windsor Great Park and the Ascot racecourse in Berkshire, but is mostly made up of residential and commercial property.

The Sovereign Grant, which is £85.9m for 2020-21, supports official royal duties and maintains occupied royal palaces.

Where do members of the Royal Family live?

image copyrightPA Media
image captionMembers of the Royal Family celebrated the Queen’s official birthday at Buckingham Palace in 2019.

The Queen’s official London home is Buckingham Palace.

She usually spends weekends and a month over Easter at Windsor Castle in Berkshire. However, she and Prince Philip have lived there throughout the pandemic.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall live in Clarence House – less than half a mile from Buckingham Palace – when they are in London.

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, also live nearby – in Kensington Palace.

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