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What does Queen Consort mean? How is it different from Queen?

Camilla is Queen Consort of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms but that does not give her the powers of an actual Queen.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - September 09: King Charles III and The Duchess of Cornwall Camilla, Queen consort of the United Kingdom view flowers and messages outside Buckingham Palace after Queen Elizabeth died in London, United Kingdom on September 09 , 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu AgencyGetty

Queen Elizabeth II’s sad passing this week means that the British monarchy has passed to her son Charles who will be formally proclaimed King at the Accession Council at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning. The event, when Charles will be proclaimed the new sovereign, will be televised live for the first time and will be attended by members of the royal family including his wife of the last 17 years Camilla, the Queen Consort.

When Charles and Camilla married on 9 April 2005, Clarence House confirmed that Camilla would take the titles of Princess Consort as well as the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Rothesay. Obviously, all of that changed this week when the Queen passed away in Balmoral.

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Back in February this year, to mark her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II, openly expressed her hopes for the time when Charles would eventually succeed her in a royal statement: “And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service”.

So now Camilla has been bestowed the title of Queen Consort - that title indicates that she is married to a King but she herself does not have the powers of a Queen, as members who marry into the royal family can’t inherit the throne - only those in the line of succession can. So even if Camilla outlives Charles, she would not inherit the throne and continue as the monarch as the next in line is William, The Duke of Cambridge - Charles’ eldest son from his first marriage to Diana the Princess of Wales and he would become King upon Charles’ death.

What the title of Queen Consort does mean is that Camila will be called Queen.

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So Queen Consort is a title that can be bestowed, and usually is, upon the spouse of a reigning king. Where the title is not bestowed the cannot be called Queen, and would simply be the King’s consort. This was the case with Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, who was never named King Consort, and therefore, although he was Elizabeth’s consort, he was not called King.

Of the 41 British monarchs who have reigned since 1066, only six have been Queen through the direct line of succession. Mary I was the first Queen Regnant - a queen reigning in her own right rather than a Queen Consort through marriage to a King.

Mary I (1553-1558)

Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

Mary II (1689-1694)

Anne (1702-1714)

Victoria (1837-1901)

Elizabeth II (1952-2022)

Jane, the nine-day Queen

In July 1553, the Duke of Northumberland, President of the King’s Council, persuaded a gravely ill Edward VI to name Lady Jane Grey as his heir. When King Edward VI died a few days later, Jane assumed the throne and was proclaimed Queen by the Council four days later. But her reign lasted just nine days. She was deposed and sent, along with the Duke of Northumberland to the Tower of London where both were eventually executed for treason.


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