What is the difference between a queen and queen consort?

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who was once disliked for her affair with Prince Charles, will probably be given the title when he becomes the King of England

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In Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee message she said it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, be known as Queen Consort when Prince Charles becomes king.

Currently, Camilla is married to Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne.

But who is a queen consort? In a nutshell, queen consort is a royal by marriage, the king's wife. It is a symbolic role, meaning she is queen while the king is on the throne, but would not inherit the throne after he dies.

Queen Elizabeth however did inherit the throne from her father, making her the ruling monarch, the queen. Her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, was also a queen consort. She was not Queen Elizabeth I, that title belongs to the Tudor royal and daughter of King Henry VIII, who was born into the role and reigned from 1558 until 1603.

When Prince William becomes king, after the death of Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cambridge will probably become Catherine, Queen Consort.

Why wasn't Camilla automatically a queen consort?

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, on their wedding day, April 9, 2005. PA

Prince Charles's marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall is, famously, not his first. He was married to Diana, Princess of Wales from 1981 until 1996.

He married Camilla in 2005, however the title of Princess of Wales was not passed on in the marriage because it was still strongly associated with Diana. Instead she became a duchess; Duchess of Cornwall is the female version of another of Prince Charles's titles.

Until Queen Elizabeth's recent announcement, the official position of Clarence House, the couple’s office, was that Camilla would be known as Princess Consort when Prince Charles becomes king, as per a statement released in 2005 at the time of their wedding.

"Camilla was not popular or well liked, [though] this has changed a lot since the marriage as Camilla has taken on a lot of patronages," historian and royal family expert Marlene Koenig explains in her blog. "Still, [there was] a lot of tension and anger among a certain element of the population, so it was decided that Camilla would be styled as the Duchess of Cornwall, even though, of course, she is the Princess of Wales."

However, it has been suggested that behind palace doors it was decided Camilla would be known as Queen Consort years ago.

In 2010, Prince Charles was interviewed by NBC and asked if Camilla would “become Queen of England”, to which he sheepishly replied; "That’s well … we’ll see won’t we? That could be."

In the 17 years since their wedding, public opinion of the duchess has changed and the statement disappeared from the Clarence House website in 2018. At the time, British politician Andrew Mackinlay said, "This is absolutely unequivocal that she automatically becomes queen when he becomes king."

What will Prince Charles be known as?

It is not a given that Prince Charles will be known as King Charles III when he takes the throne. PA

It is not a given that Prince Charles will be known as King Charles III when he becomes monarch. Royals are given the option to change their name when they take the throne.

Although Queen Elizabeth kept her given name, her father was born Albert Frederick Arthur George, but chose to honour his father King George V and went by King George VI after his coronation in 1936.

The queen's great-grandfather, King Edward VII, was born Albert Edward and even Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother, chose a different name as queen as she was christened Alexandrina Victoria.

While he may go for King Charles III, the name is most commonly associated with the breed of spaniel dogs. Plus, the previous two King Charles in British history have chequered reputations. King Charles I (reign from 1625 – 1649) was executed for treason, ruled through the majority of the English Civil War and England became a temporary republic after his death. While King Charles II (1660 – 1685) is a popular figure in history who was on the throne when the monarchy was restored in 1660, he is known as The Merry Monarch on account of his hedonistic ways.

Prince Charles's full name is Charles Philip Arthur George, so he could choose any of those as his royal title. It has been most heavily speculated that he will be known as King George VII.

Why wasn't Prince Philip a king consort?

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, before her coronation, in London on June 2, 1953. AFP

Queen Elizabeth's late husband Prince Philip was never named king Philip, per the tradition that a man who marries a queen is named Prince Consort.

The only figures in the British royal family to have the title of king, in any form, are born into the role.

Prince Philip was born a prince, but dropped his titles as Prince of Greece and Denmark when he married Princess Elizabeth, who became the Queen of England.


Look back at Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall's fashion evolution here:

Updated: February 10, 2022, 2:58 PM