The Meaning of ‘Prince’

by Kenton McDonald

So far, I have been content to read the editorials posted. I’ve enjoyed them for the most part, and (unlike some books written under LOTR pseudonyms) they have not contradicted JKR’s personal statements. Unfortunately, some have, on occasion, shown an ignorance of the historical and literal definitions of certain words, in this case, “prince.”

What a Prince Is

A prince is the ruler of a principality, like a king rules a kingdom, a duke a duchy, an earl an earldom.

A prince is of age to rule his lands, just as a king must be old enough to rule, maintain and protect his.

A prince may or may not be subject to a king. Historically, political states began first as individual cities, then counties, countries, etc. As larger groups of people claimed to be of the same “state,” race, civilization, they encompassed the smaller states and became larger states. Cities grouped themselves into counties, counties into countries, etc. If a principality is part of a kingdom, then the prince is subject to his king. If the principality is independant, then he is not.

A prince is male. Sounds obvious, but ancient titles are gender specific, unlike the politically correct titles we’ve created (i.e. chairperson instead of chairman or chairwoman).

What a Prince is Not

A prince is not female (see above).

A prince is not a boy. “Crown Prince” is the titular prince; the name given to the immature future ruler. True rule is invested in a regent until the boy is of age to begin his reign as “Prince.”

A prince is not necessarily the son of a king. Younger sons were often entered into service with the church. It was one way the throne maintained connections to the church, and vice versa. It worked similarly to an arranged marriage to increase holdings or gave martial support from the throne and “divine” support from the church. Princes who are subject to a king are made, occasionally from among the king’s children, often also from other royalty or as a reward for loyalty or valor. Other princes are the lords of their own lands, subject to no king, and they are mature rulers in their own right.

Not all princes become kings. If a prince is the son of a king, usually only the eldest becomes king upon the death or abdication of the prior ruler. Occasionally, a younger son or daughter may be made king or queen in the event of the eldest being found unfit to rule (either due to madness, vice or unbelief in the church’s teachings) or death. So, other sons remain princes, assuming they were made princes at all. Some become Dukes or Earls. Sometimes it is Dukes (or Barons, or some other ruler) who become Kings through marriage, either because his wife was heir to a kingdom or because of the joining of the two states into a kingdom.

What This Means for HBP

The “Prince” of the title may be figurative, as some have suggested, or literal. “Prince” may refer to a “Crown Prince,” so he may be younger. It may refer to an older person who is a ruler (assumed to be a Muggle), such as Prince Charles (no, I’m not suggesting that the real life Charles is a wizard, either in reality or in Potterverse).

Perhaps Rowling will introduce a presumed Muggle titular prince. Maybe “Prince” refers to a self assumed title, such as the “Lord” in Lord Voldemort’s case. The “Prince” may have assumed the title unto himself. Perhaps the “Prince” doesn’t know he is a prince and will find out during the course of the story. It may even be that Minister Fudge may go the way of Senator Palpatine in Star Wars and proclaim himself “Prince.” Anything is possible.

We don’t know Fudge’s parentage. I don’t expect it, but JKR did say that Fudge would not continue to be the Minister of Magic. Personally, I don’t think so, because Fudge did admit to what he saw in the Ministry of Magic at the end of OotP. He seems to be an instrument rather than a player in Rowling’s universe, unlike Palpatine in Star Wars.

I have not set out to answer the questions as they specifically relate to HBP, but I have wanted to make the record clear on what a prince is and is not. It will hopefully help better sleuths than me to figure out what JKR may mean. Of course, nobody will truly know until it is revealed when the book is released, but it is fun to speculate. Hope you enjoy!