On the morning of the wedding, with everyone in the world agog with anticipation about THE dress, the announcement of the couple’s new titles might have slipped in unnoticed: Prince Henry of Wales and his bride Meghan Markle were to be henceforward the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The title Duke of Sussex was first given in 1801 to a son of George III, Augustus Frederick. Although he had married (Lady Augusta Murray), the marriage had been annulled because as a prince of the Blood Royal, he had failed to ask permission of the reigning monarch to marry. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 stated that permission must be granted for a marriage to take place. This act had been drawn up following the marriage of the Duke of Cumberland (George III’s brother) who had married Lady Anne Luttrell without permission. The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland went on to become patrons of the School when it first began in 1788 and it was called the Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School in their honour. Much later the names of both Cumberland and Sussex were used as house names by the School. But back to Prince Augustus for the moment. He had two children from his marriage but neither could inherit any titles as, in the eyes of the law, they were illegitimate. In 1843 when Augustus Frederick died, his titles died with him and they lay dormant until 2018 when the Dukedom was conferred on Prince Harry.
Interestingly, the title of the Earl of Sussex was conferred (its sixth creation) on Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was also later given the titles of Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and both of these names appear as the names of School buildings. In 1911, Prince Arthur was appointed as Governor General of Canada. In 1916 he was succeeded in this post by the Duke of Devonshire – and it almost goes without saying that this name too appears on a School building.
In one of those twists that History enjoys perpetrating, exactly 100 years after the title of Duke of Sussex went into mothballs, in 1943 the title of Duke of Connaught & Strathearn also became extinct on the death of Prince Arthur’s only son Alistair – apparently of hypothermia in Canada having fallen out of a window whilst drunk.
Along with a title comes a coat of arms and whilst Prince Harry already had one, Ms Markle did not so one was designed for her, which design “The Duchess of Sussex took a great interest in” according to the Garter King of Arms.
“The arms of a married woman are shown with those of her husband and the technical term is that they are impaled, meaning placed side by side in the same shield.”
The colours reflect the Pacific Ocean which lies off the cost of California, the Duchess’ birthplace, whilst the yellow bars are sunshine. These are interspersed by quills and they and the open beak of the songbird represent the importance of communication. The bird supports the shield on the opposite side of the royal lion whilst the coronet around its neck represents the elevation to royalty. The whole coat of arms stands on ground containing Californian golden poppies and wintersweet from Kensington palace gardens.
But let us put aside the sunshine-filled wedding day and go back to the names and their connection to the School. The outline of the Garth, in which the boarding houses lie, can be seen clearly on maps of the area. The area called The Garth has eight buildings which were all originally boarding houses.
When the School opened on its present site in 1934, the eight houses were (in clockwise order): Ruspini, Zetland, Moira, Connaught, Sussex, Alexandra, Atholl and Cumberland. In fact, earlier in 1934 the names had been listed slightly differently with York, Dunkerley & Kent in place of Alexandra, Zetland and Atholl. It is not known why the names were changed apparently at the last minute as there is just one fleeting reference in a letter from the Secretary of RMIG to the Matron at the time, Florence Mason, dated January 1934. By April, the name plates were installed as per the first list above.
Zetland was for the 2nd Earl of Zetland who was Grand Master of United Grand Lodge, 1844-70 and President of the Institution (RMIG) during the same period.
Moira was after Francis Rawdon-Hastings (1754-1826), Lord Rawdon (1762-1783), 2nd Earl of Moira (1793-1816) & 1st Marquess of Hastings (1816-1826). The character of Rawdon Crawley in William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair is named after him.
Connaught was the title given to Prince Arthur. The other part of his name was later given to the Headmaster’s house, Strathearn. As he also held the title Earl of Sussex, was both Grand Master and President of the Institution, it is a moot point whether the next house in the sequence was named with him in mind too.
Sussex is traditionally given as being named for H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex. son of King George III, President of the Institution, 1815-1843 but may also have referred to Prince Arthur as he laid the foundation stone of the Shool on its present site.
Alexandra, the only House named after a woman, is for Edward VII’s Queen, the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. When Edward succeeded to the throne in 1901, Queen Alexandra became Chief Patroness of the School.
Atholl is the third Duke of Atholl, Grand Master of Scotland, 1773, and of the Antient Grand Lodge, 1771-4. The union of the Antient and Modern Freemasons in 1813 formed the United Grand Lodge that exists today. The first Grand Master of this in 1813 was the Duke of Sussex.
Cumberland was named for H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland, the first Patron of the Institution in 1788.
The clockwise order given for the houses lasted for approximately 50 years before changes were made. Not to the names mind but to their positions in the Garth. That is not to say that the physical houses picked up their skirts and went walkabout but the order of the names started to become a little more fluid. Ruspini house, as an example, went right across the Garth, settling at first where Atholl had been before later shunting down one place to ultimately become Ruspini House, a pre-school. It would be somewhat bewildering to describe all the changes. It was confusing enough to those were in the School at the time! Suffice to say that, with all the changes of position and the changes in boarding numbers, eventually it was decided to use some of the original names as School Houses (the ones you cheer for on Sports Day and at hockey matches etc.) and have some different names for boarding houses. Of course, just to make it totally perplexing, some of the names stayed the same and for the same purpose; some just changed position and some changed purpose. But now we have that clear …
The Garth today then, in the same clockwise order is: Alexandra, Zetland, Harris, Connaught, Devonshire, Ruspini House, Weybridge & Hind House.
Alexandra is currently undergoing work to convert it to a Performing Arts Centre; Zetland & Connaught (we’ll come back to Harris in a minute) are boarding houses; Devonshire (the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noted the earlier reference) is a Day Girls’ house; Ruspini as previously mentioned is a pre-school with Photography and Textiles studios and galleries on the 1st floor; Weybridge is named for the Junior School that used to be at that place in Surrey and formerly housing the younger boarders; Hind House is a 6th Form Centre, opened in 2012 and named for one of the long serving Trustees to the School, Colonel Keith Hind.
Harris is Moira-as-was in old currency. It is named for a long-serving member of the House Committee, George St Vincent Harris, 5th Baron Harris of Seringapatam and Mysore, chairman of the House Committee 1954-1970, who died in 1984.
Perhaps it is appropriate to end this abbreviated overview of some of the School names, inspired by the newly-minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with the opening lyrics from the Hot Chocolate song: