By Alexandra Whittaker
Updated Dec 26, 2018 @ 6:00 am

If you aren't a queen, king, princess, or prince under the British monarchy, the next best thing is being a duke or duchess. The highly distinguished titles are given hereditarily and outrank earls, barons, marquess, and viscounts alike.

Dukedom is very old (and very gendered), and perhaps the best example of the strange inconsistencies with it comes courtesy of Queen Elizabeth II herself. Despite being a woman, the monarch is technically the Duke of Lancaster. And the reason why is pretty weird.

Queen Elizabeth lead
Credit: Bethany Clarke

Historically speaking, despite the fact that dukes and duchesses are considered titles of the same rank, dukedom has come with more privilege — for example, if a duchess marries, her spouse can't inherit her title, but if a duke marries a woman, she will become a duchess. The reason for Elizabeth's dukedom, though, comes down to land power, as Town & Country clarifies.

In the United Kingdom, there's land called the Duchy of Lancaster, which forms a central part of the reigning monarch's income. The Duchy of Lancaster is held and controlled by (you guessed it) the Duke of Lancaster. And this means that the duke must be whomever is currently on the throne. According to the Duchy of Lancaster's official website, it's been this way since way back in 1399.

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The title itself was specified long ago as duke, not duchess, so it was never changed.

A little odd? Perhaps, but it's still not the strangest royal rule we've ever heard ...