Prince William and Kate Middleton don't have full legal custody of their children; neither will Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Just like many rules that the royals have to follow, this is another rule that they cannot escape from.

                            Prince William and Kate Middleton don't have full legal custody of their children; neither will Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince William and Kate Middleton (Source:Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are proud parents of their three children but as it turns out, they do not have full custody of them. The custody of their children lies in the hands of children’s 92-year-old great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Just like many rules that the royals have to follow, this is another that they cannot escape from.

“The sovereign has legal custody of the minor grandchildren,” royal expert Marlene Koenig said. However, this rule is not new. It so happens that this rule for formed decades ago, around the 1700s and ever since then, it has not been changed. One could say that the law was brought into place because of the relationship that was shared between King George I and his son, the future King George II

Kate Middleton and Prince William do not have full custody of their children (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“This goes back to King George I [who ruled in the early 1700s], and the law’s never been changed. 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," Marlene told

The law, which is more than 300 years old was passed by a majority of 10 out of 12 judges in 1717, who decided the monarch’s “right of supervision extended to his grandchildren and this right of right belongs to His Majesty, King of the Realm, even during their father’s lifetime”.

According to Koenig, who has written two books on the history of the British royal family and has also written dozens of articles about the royal family, the law was legislated once again in 1772, when King George III was in power. Ever since then it has never been superseded by new legislation.

The law still stands strong till date and over the years it has also impacted how the royals take care of their children. For instance, on some occasions, it is the queen who has the final say and no matter how their biological parent might want something to happen, if it is a no from the queen, there is no arguing. “When [Princes Harry and William] were little, Prince Charles asked the Queen if both children could fly on a plane together to Scotland, to which the Queen said yes,” Koenig said.

“Technically, they needed permission for travel. The Queen has the last word on parenting decisions like that," he continued. This was not the only time when the queen's approval was required. In the absence of the Queen’s permission, Princess Diana was not allowed to fly with her children to Australia shortly before her death. She later needed  Prince Charles to ask for permission before he sent William, when he was a teenager, off on a holiday camp in the USA in the late 1990s.

Another example of the custody came when Prince Charles and Princess Diana decided to divorce. “Custody is not included [in those divorce documents] because they did not legally have custody of their children, to begin with,” Koenig said.

This law also explains why Diana's wishes for her brother and mother to be Harry and William’s legal guardians were ignored by the palace. Diana did not have the final say on the boys’ upbringing or anything to do with the “care and control” of her two sons because it was the queen who did. 

According to Koenig, in the event of the Queen’s passing, the legal custody of George, Charlotte, Louis, and any other grandchildren in the palace will be passed onto their grandfather Prince Charles who would then be king. The situation will be the same for the children of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle. However, Koenig believes that Prince Charles "understands they want to raise their children privately … the only thing Charles might ask for is more pictures."