Why Royals Keep Their Titles After Their Country Abolishes the Monarchy

As more than 4.1 billion people tuned in to watch Queen Elizabeth II's funeral on Monday, many were left scratching their heads at some of the royals in attendance.

Greece's Queen Anne-Marie and Crown Prince Pavlos confused some viewers, as the Greek monarchy was abolished after a referendum in 1974 and its members live in exile in London.

Margareta, the Custodian of the Crown of Romania, who was also at the funeral, holds her title, even though, in 1947, communists forced the king to abdicate the throne.

(L-R) Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, Prince of Venice, during a parade on January 21, 2018 in Rome. Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis arrives at The Fashion Awards 2018 at Royal Albert Hall on December 10, 2018 in London. Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece attends a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey on March 29, 2022 in London. The three have kept their royal titles, despite their countries no longer having a monarchy. Getty Images Europe/Stefano Montesi/Mike Marsland

While Romania's royal family was allowed to return in 1997 and had its royal residences given back to them, its existence remains largely superficial.

However, a general rule of etiquette is to refer to a royal by their titles, even if they have been deposed and their country does not recognize them or their hereditary appellations.

Another convention is for a royal to keep the titles they held when deposed until they die, without the usual succession applying. For example, a king will retain that title, but his children will not inherit it upon his death. So, a crown prince will remain so, even in the event of his parents' death.

One tweet went viral after a BBC viewer questioned the legitimacy of referring to Pavlos using the full title, His Royal Highness and Crown Prince.

"Come on, BBC. Greece long abolished it's monarchy, so please respect that," wrote Twitter user Damian Mac Con Uladh, @damomac, before adding, "my Greeks sons just asked 'who is that guy? Greece doesn't have kings and princes.'"

Greece and Romania are not the only countries where royals from defunct monarchies are still afforded their titles. Germany and Italy have nobles who often are referred to as prince or princess.

Siblings Prince Albert and Princess Elizabeth von Thurn and Taxis are descendants of Germany's royal family, abolished in 1919 after the Weimar Constitution removed the monarchs' legal privileges and nobility. The German nobles kept only traces of their hereditary titles in their surnames.

So, by German law, the prince's name is Albert Prinz von Thurn und Taxis — prinz is the German word for prince.

The same rule applies to Princess Caroline of Monaco's third husband, Ernst August Prinz von Hannover. She took his title after their wedding, even though it has no legal basis, and she became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Hanover.

That followed the tradition of a woman taking on her husband's name if his rank was higher than hers and the fact she would have taken that name if the Hanover monarchy still existed.

In Italy, Vittorio Emanuele is styled as the Prince of Naples from the House of Savoy and is the only son of the last King of Italy, Umberto II.

He spent the majority of his life in exile after the 1946 referendum called for the abolition of the monarchy, but was allowed to return in 2002 after signing an agreement with the Italian government to renounce all claims to the throne.

Vittorio's son, Emanuele, was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1972 and is known as the Prince of Venice, even though he did not step foot in Italy until 2002.

Until then, the Italian constitution had prevented the male heirs of the Savoy dynasty from entering the country.

The Greek royal family has a rather unique position in the world of defunct monarchies.

While they live in exile in London and are very close to the British royal family, they are also descended from the Danish throne, since Greece's King George I was the son of King Christian IX of Denmark.

Even more than a century after King George's death, Greek royal family members hold the title of Prince or Princess of Denmark because of their link to King Christian IX. They even had succession rights to the Danish throne until 1953.

Queen Elizabeth II's late husband, Prince Philip, who was born in Greece, held the title of Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, until he renounced them in 1947 to become a British subject and marry the queen.

Greece's Queen Anne-Marie is the younger sister of Denmark's Queen Margrethe II, who considers the Greek royals as extended members of her family, and they regularly attend official Danish events.