Kate Middleton earned the title Duchess of Cambridge soon after she married Prince William in 2011. This title will change as Prince William takes on the role of king after the reign of his father, Prince Charles. If Prince William dies, however, Kate’s new title will depend on whether he dies before or during his reign as king.

By royal tradition, wives of dukes and earls take the female version of their husband’s titles. Since Prince William earned the title Duke of Cambridge when he married Kate, Kate automatically became his female counterpart. Today, Kate is officially known as Her Royal Highness Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, but she is not keeping this title forever.

When Prince William dies, Kate’s title will depend on the timing of Prince William’s death. Although royal titles are old-fashioned things and make little sense to the monarchy, the royal family still use them to indicate the royal status of each royal family member. Since Kate’s status will most likely change after Prince William’s death, her royal title will change just the same — but only if Prince William dies before he becomes king.

If Prince William’s death happens before his reign as king, then Kate will keep her title and remain Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge. However, this will not be the case if Prince William dies during his reign. If Prince William dies while he is king, then Kate’s title will most likely be the Dowager Queen.

Kate’s Dowager Queen title will only take effect if her and Prince William’s firstborn and next in line to the throne, Prince George, is not yet married by the time of Prince William’s death. In the event that he is married, then Kate will take on a different title to avoid confusion with the new Dowager Queen. She will be called the new Queen Mother.

The last time the title Queen Mother was used in the royal family was during Queen Elizabeth I’s time. Following the death of her husband, Queen Elizabeth I became Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Her title did not only suggest that she was a royal widow but also helped avoid confusion with her elder daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince William and Kate Middleton Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrive to attend the EE British Academy Film Awards at Royal Albert Hall on February 10, 2019, in London, England. Tim Ireland - WPA Pool/Getty Images