The Duchess of Cambridge attending a charity event for children.
The Duchess of Cambridge attending a charity event for children.

A Duchess either inherits her title or has been granted the title by a monarch. Among the European royal families, only the House of Windsor in the United Kingdom and the House of Bourbon in Spain continue to use the title "duchess." The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg gives the higher title of Grand Duchess to the wife of the head of its royal family. As a member of the royal family, a duchess has public duties that support the monarchy, auxiliary duties related to those obligations, as well as family duties.

Public Duties

A duchess has public duties that support the work of the monarch or, as in the case of the Duchess of Cornwall, the heir to the British throne. She attends engagements that have become annual cultural traditions, travels to other countries on behalf of the monarch and represents the royal family at nationally significant events. A duchess's involvement with charities, service as a royal patron to nonprofit organizations, and appearance at public and private sector events recognizes and encourages accomplishments that benefit others.

Auxiliary Work

Meetings, preparing remarks and correspondence may not merit media exposure such as a participation by the duchess at a fundraiser, but they represent behind-the-scenes work to which she devotes time. Prior to traveling abroad, she reviews background information about the countries on her itinerary and studies cultural traditions and protocol to avoid any missteps. The Duchess of Cambridge did her own research before selecting the charities for her patronage.

Familiar Obligations

Duchesses help their spouses fulfill their royal roles, coordinate household activities with their staff, and oversee their children's upbringing, a particularly important role when the child is in line for the throne. An inherent duty of British duchesses is that of role model, especially since the Queen is titular head of the Church of England.

Head of State

During their reign, Luxembourg's former grand duchesses Marie-Adelaide and Charlotte performed the same duties as the current Grand Duke Henri, which included: represent Luxembourg, promote trade and lead the country’s military. At the time of publication, the duke's wife, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, is an active philanthropist and humanitarian in addition to working beside her husband to support their country.