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“No requirement” for the wife of a king to be Queen

Frequent followers of Royal Central will be aware of our long-running debate on the Duchess of Cornwall’s titles and, especially, what she will be known as when Prince Charles accedes to the throne as King. In August, I researched into the matter to try and get a definitive and coherent answer. My findings showed that the title of Queen Consort actually has no legal standing beyond custom and usage – unlike, for instance, that of King regnant or Queen regnant which is established in law. Today, I received confirmation of this for the first time from the Government.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoyal watchers will remember that after their marriage in 2005, Clarence House announced that the Duchess of Cornwall would be known as HRH The Princess Consort when Prince Charles accedes. Many experts and commentators denounced this at the time and continue to do so, claiming that the title of Queen Consort could only be changed by an Act of Parliament.

Clarence House maintains this position still, despite some claiming that it was only said at the time of their wedding to placate negative feeling towards Camilla. However, a spokesman confirmed that ‘Princess Consort’ remains the official position, saying “it is intended that The Duchess will be known as HRH The Princess Consort when The Prince of Wales accedes to The Throne.”

The research I did in the article in August was fairly comprehensive on the subject and my conclusions from what I found persuaded me that it was correct that the title of Queen consort would, indeed, not require an act of parliament to change – rather it can be regulated through the Royal Prerogative.

As a means of gaining some authoritative closure on the matter, I also contacted the Cabinet Office for the official word on whether this was so. They responded:

There is no requirement for the wife of the King to use the title ‘Queen Consort’. As you are aware, it is intended that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall will use the title ‘HRH The Princess Consort’ when The Prince of Wales accedes to the Throne. Titles are usually conferred by the Monarch via letters patent.

Rather fortunately , they answered my question straight off – which is a world away from my usual experience with government departments, especially on royal matters where they prefer to remain coy, possibly out of lack of clarity on certain matters.

It’s a well-established constitutional fact that the Sovereign alone dispenses and regulates titles (though incidentally may not rescind peerages, which can only be done by an act of parliament) and that as a general rule, only the Sovereign’s own title is subject to the regulation of parliament. There remain, of course, some titles which are regulated by Parliament: the Dukedom of Cornwall, currently held by the Prince of Wales, can only go to the eldest son and heir of the Sovereign for example.

Of course, it’s worth noting the position of officials that Camilla will use the title of Princess Consort is by no means binding – Prince Charles could just as well opt for the traditional title of Queen Consort for his wife upon accession, and for the sake of this historic title, I and many other hope he does.

There’s very little precedent in the UK and around the world for a King whose consort isn’t a Queen. Aside from principalities where this is of course the norm, the Kingdom of Morocco is the only extant example of a country where the wife of the King is Princess Consort. The circumstances are somewhat different though as the title happens to be the first ever given to the wife of a King in Morocco and so there’s no former precedent to compare it to the prospective situation in the UK with Camilla as Princess Consort.

The position of Clarence House and the government remains clear, though in the past Prince Charles has been equivocal over his wife’s future title, remarking in an interview once to suggestions she could yet be Queen: “We’ll see won’t we? That could be.” The Duchess of Cornwall herself is apparently relaxed about the question – with some reports suggesting she’d prefer to be known as princess consort.

Give your view on whether Camilla should become Queen or Princess Consort in the comments section below.

photo credit: Broady – social documentary via photopin cc

  • Monterey Jack

    Well, what are your thoughts on the letters patent of 1937, Wallis Simpson and the rationale for today’s explanation of Camilla’s royal status?

    • Royal Central

      Different times, different circumstances. The Church of England’s stance on divorcees has changed and the attitudes of the country have changed, it’s hard to envisage Camilla being denied [a] royal style for the same reasons as Wallis Simpson.

    • Joan

      I don’t see why not. Wrong was commited and that is not acceptable in any religion.

  • Alan Flyng

    In the case of Edward and Wallace, Edward had never married, whereas she had been married and divorced. The titles conferred upon them post-abdication were in the gift of George VI. However, in this case, both parties are divorcees and Charles will be signing the letters patent as King. It is definitely, in my opinion, to be hoped that he will confer the title of Queen Consort on Camilla

    • William Coggan

      Alan, please see my comment above. In the eyes of the State, we have a widower and a divorcee marrying. In the eyes of the Church, we have a widower and a spinster marrying.

      • SmallFish

        I think you over-estimate the Church of England’s power over the monarch’s decision on his spouse’s title. He will be the Church’s head, after all. And on a personal level, I really don’t think Charles is especially religious.

        • Ricky

          Prince Charles has said that when he becomes King, he would like to change his (future) title and role of “Defender of the Faith” to simply “Defender of Faith.”

          I like his idea of the monarch representing the rights of all religions, and not just the Church of England. Whether or not he can make such a change is doubtful, in my opinion.

  • Not a Brit here, so I really don’t have the right to an opinion. However, since The Duke of Windsor was forced to abdicate his throne for marrying a divorcee so that he could be head of the Church and Defender of the Faith, I still don’t understand why Parliament allowed HRH The Prince of Wales to marry HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. Did the Bible change? Granted, Diana, Princess of Wales was dead, so Charles was a widower, but Camilla’s ex-husband was still alive was he not? Thus, Camilla, just as Wallis Simpson, was an adulteress in the Church’s eyes. It would be my opinion as a Christian that HRH The Prince of Wales should at the time of HM The Queen’s death or abdication in turn abdicate The Throne to HRH The Duke of Cambridge. Having The Cambridges as King and Queen Consort would do so much for the future of the monarchy. Look at the example of Spain. And The Netherlands. That would handle the title question altogether.

    • A. P. Schrader

      We have moved on since 1936. Is anyone nowadays really scandalised by a divorcee?

    • William Coggan

      Jarrod, the only fly in your ointment is that Andrew Parker-Bowles obtained an annulment of his first marriage. Thus, The Duchess of Cornwall was a spinster in the eyes of the Church when she married The Prince of Wales. It was, therefore, particularly odd of the Church of England to refuse to marry a widower and a spinster. Something was muttered about pre-marital relations. If it were to uphold that rule indiscriminately, one might venture that Anglican pews would be rather more barren than they already are.

      • A. P. Schrader

        Oh wow! Awesome. I didn’t actually know that. Thanks for the info.

      • MAJ

        Mr Parker Bowles annulment rather than his divorcing his adulterous wife is a prime example of his complicity in this whole rather unsavoury affair. It would alledgedly appear that he was more than happy to tolerate being cuckolded on a grand scale. One assumes he had his own reasons for this which one can only guess at.

        • Ricky

          There’s no need to guess Andrew Parker-Bowles’ reasons for looking the other way while the Prince of Wales carried on with Camilla. He’s not the first to willingly live with this kind of situation.

          It’s not unheard of for British men to tolerate their wives’ affairs with royalty; there’s ample precedent. Some husbands like having it known that they’re sharing their wife with a king or prince. This is far from unusual for people who enjoy traveling in royal circles, and will do almost anything to remain in their orbit.

          I’m not saying that’s true of Mr. Parker-Bowles since I don’t know him, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever write a book and share his feelings. But the situation’s not as strange as it may appear.

          • MAJ

            I agree wholeheartedly with your view but nevertheless whether there is a “precedent” or not the situation was/is rather indignified when viewed from any angle. Pragmatism is all well and good but please……..

  • Mrs Stephanie Ward

    No she should not!
    Prince Philip is not a king – he is a Duke. He has worked hard which is often not recognised. He is a shining example to many.
    I want to keep a traditional Royal Family albeit the inevitable.

    • A. P. Schrader

      The husband of a Queen Regnant has never been a king (with the exception of Queen Mary I and then that’s only because her husband was King of Spain in his own right). Name me one precedent in our history for the wife of the King being denied her rightful title?

      • linds

        Well…. check out George IV & Caroline…. they slammed the door in her face when she demanded to be crowned Queen at his coronation. (Not without some justification, granted – then again they were both fairly vile people and no doubt deserved each other.) 🙂

        That said, I do agree Camilla has the right to be Queen. I was a huge fan of Diana, but she is gone, and it seems to me that Camilla has taken on the duties of a royal with grace, humor, kindness, hard work & humility. Plus…. God bless her, she has made Charles so blooming happy and likeable… and I’m a sucker for a love story with a happy ending.

    • Kita

      If Prince Philip was styled as King, he would rank above the Queen – and because she is Queen Regnant as opposed to Queen Consort, her spouse shouldn’t rank above her.

  • Amethyst

    I am British and I agree with Jarred Brown – Prince Charles should not be King, but instead the throne should pass to Prince William and Kate should be given the title of Queen Consort.

  • A. P. Schrader

    This debate never ceases to depress me. It always descends into nonsense comparisons with the situation in 1936, which was over 70 years ago, for goodness’ sake! We’ve moved on a bit since then, I would’ve hoped. But, no, we get a load of prurient gossip and mud-raking over their previous marriages and weepy platitudes about Princess Diana (who was no angel). Look at the divorce rate in this country. Let’s no hold the Royal Family to an impossible standard. The Duchess of Cornwall works hard. She does a good job. I thinks she’s been good for the Prince and she deserves her proper status. She gets on with his children (who are the only people who matter, frankly, as far as the divorce is concerned). Stop trying to re-live the 1990s. Move on.

  • Michael Steven Chavez

    The issue of 1936 IS relevant, because the Cabinet’s argument at the time was that, since morganatic marriages did not exist in British law or custom, the King’s wife must, of necessity and custom, be Queen, and that Wallis Simpson was completely unacceptable as Queen to HM Government and the Heads of the Commonwealth countries. If, in fact, the designation of the monarch’s consort is solely in his gift, then why would the Cabinet be involved at all? And why would their objection to Wallis matter? BECAUSE of 1936, the precedent has been established that the King’s wife is the Queen, and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall should be allowed that style and title upon her husband’s accession. It also been established that the monarch’s choice of spouse is of at least Cabinet concern, if not Parliamentary concern.

    • SmallFish

      The matter of the King’s spouse’s title it NOT legal (as the article above states) so any precedent is merely custom and therefore can (and should) change. In 1936, the government was speaking for the people and the image of Britain around the world. The monarchy ultimately exists because the people wish it to, even Prince Philip has admitted that fact in a fairly recent interview. If the British think the idea of Camilla as Queen is abhorrent then Charles should know better than to make her one. And the Prime Minister might have to remind him to give prudent consideration to his subjects.

      • Michael Steven Chavez

        There is still the fact that there is no morganatic marriage acknowledged in Britain. If there were, it is at least somewhat likely that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall would NOT be entitled to the style and title of Princess of Wales, yet all agree that she IS so entitled and chooses to use a subsidiary title of her husband’s in deference to the memory of the late Diana. In any event, IMO, HRH has acquitted herself well as a royal and deserves the style and title of HM Queen Camilla, should her husband accede.

  • TX1776

    I would prefer Camilla be nothing, but if a title must be given, I suggest HRH The Rottweiler Consort or Queen Rottweiller The First.

  • Blythe

    Divorce and adultery aside, there are many who would agree that Charles should not be king because his role as Defender of the Faith is sorely compromised, if not completely non-existent. Over the years, Charles has openly expressed many non-Christian ideologies, causing many in church & government to seriously question whether he could carry out one of his primary duties as king. Religious duties aside, just by sheer popularity there are MANY amongst the populus who feel the throne should bypass Charles entirely and go straight to William. Because the monarchy is always in such a precarious state of unpopular expense, it makes no sense whatsoever to put an unpopular, buddhist-inclined tampon like Charles on the throne, especially when the nation is so up in arms about what to call his crone. If we face facts, William & Kate are the only thing that will save the monarchy once our beloved queen is gone. Then again, maybe Charles & his crone are exactly what’s needed for the nation to finally shake the shackles of yet another over-priced, grandiose monarch.

  • Edel

    I am British and I think she has no write to be a Queen sorry hardly nobody likes her me to and we hope that our Queen good bless her will give the throne to her grandson prince William and his Wife . Charles got a divorce from our R.I.P Princes Diana and married is mistress hi has no write to take over to be the head of the church the bible not have change at least not that I know of this . And we just got one Princesses of Wels this is Diana the Mother of our future King and this should stay this way. .

    • Ricky

      Camilla doesn’t use the title “Princess of Wales,” but legally she is now the rightful holder of that title.

      What you say about the Bible not having changed is true. But like tradition, it’s open to interpretation by the people of any given point in time.

      • Kathleen Neuen

        Tell me, is it true. I read recently that before she got married and was given a church blessing they had to promise that she would not be called Queen. Is this because they were both divorced and adulterers?.

        • Ricky

          This the first I’ve ever heard of such a promise being made. It’s very interesting, and I’d like to know more about it. Would you care to share your source?

          • Kathleen Neuen

            As soon as I find that article I will let you have it. Unfortunately, I have just a few hours in the day so it might take a little bit of time. I take morphine and a lot of other painkillers they make me very tired but I will try my best to find this article quickly.

          • Ricky

            I would greatly appreciate that, since it sounds like interesting reading. Take your time and don’t overtax your strength, Kathleen. I also take strong painkillers and I understand how they can affect a person.

          • Kathleen Neuen

            I shall try to find the web page again and as soon as I do so I will let you know. Unfortunately, I take morphine and a lot of painkillers which make me very tired, but I will try my best to find the article asap.

  • SQUID001

    Biggest argument against Princess Consort Camilla??? Princess Consort Catherine….

    • This Is My Display Name


      William wouldn’t be forced to follow in his father’s footsteps.

  • Blythe

    Divorce and adultery aside, there are many who would agree that Charles should not be king because his role as Defender of the Faith is sorely compromised, if not completely non-existent. Over the years, Charles has openly expressed many non-Christian ideologies, causing many in church & government to seriously question whether he could carry out one of his primary duties as king. Religious duties aside, just by sheer popularity there are MANY amongst the populus who feel the throne should bypass Charles entirely and go straight to William. Because the monarchy is always in such a precarious state of unpopular expense, it makes no sense whatsoever to put an unpopular, buddhist-inclined tampon like Charles on the throne, especially when the nation is still so up in arms regarding his wife’s ever-present unpopularity. If we face facts, William & Kate are the only thing that will save the monarchy once our beloved queen is gone. Then again, maybe Charles & his crone are exactly what’s needed for the nation to finally shake the shackles of yet another over-priced, grandiose monarch.

  • Kevin Mckechnie

    I have no problem with Camilla becoming Princess consort but the title Queen she should not have because dhe was a divorced women and it would be a slap in the face to the duke of Windsor and princess Margaret who sacrificed the love of her life for the monarchy !!!

    • Ricky

      According to sources who were in a position to know, the main reason Princess Margaret decided not to marry Peter Townsend had little to do with religion. That’s the story that appeared in the press back then, but there was another, much more important reason for Margaret to break it off with Townsend.

      It was made clear to her by her sister’s courtiers that she would lose her royal status, privileges, and income if she married him. She would have to live in exile, much like her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, did when he married someone unacceptable to the Establishment of his time.

      Margaret very much enjoyed her royal status, and could not imagine life as a commoner. I can’t imagine her as just plain Mrs. Townsend; an ordinary housewife who would do her own marketing and housekeeping, living on her husband’s salary.

      To put it simply, she was basically bullied by the courtiers of the time. Looking back on the way her life turned out, I am one of many people who say “they should have let her marry Captain Townsend.”

      • Kathleen Neuen

        Yes, she really loved him. After that she just went wild. She was a remarkable lady and she should have been allowed to follow her heart. Why is there one rule for others, and one rule for Charles?.

    • Ricky

      The Duke of Windsor and the Princess Margaret are both dead, and quite immune to slaps in the face.

    • Kathleen Neuen

      It seems to be one rule for others and one rule for Charles. They do nothing but bending the rules for him. I wonder why?.

    • edoep

      margaret did not ‘sacrifice’ the love of her life.

      she was free to marry townsend, but was unwilling to give up her royal privileges. that’s all.

  • Kevin Mckechnie

    Plain and simple Camilla should be addressed as Princess Consort and not Queen because Princess Margaret had to give up the man she was in love with because he was divorced . I feel this would be a slap in the face to her seeing as her marriage was a unhappy one and she was only the spare at the time ..Times change yes but the Monarchys standards should not, If Camilla was single and not Charles married mistress at the time of his divorce then yes she should be Queen , but that was not the way it was .I think because of the way events happened it is wrong . people forgive but they don’t forget what she did to the marriage of the Wales . Camilla is a lovely woman who has brought Charles much happiness but I will always think it is wrong for her to acquire the title Queen.

  • Tess95

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. The Duchess of Cornwall is now married to Prince Charles as his wife. When he becomes the King, she will undoubtedly be entitled to all that is attached and or associated with that position, since he would have the prerogative to designate her as it pleases him when the time comes. No volume of envy or hatred would deprive her of those rights. We all had admiration for Diana, but for goodness sake, Camilla should be allowed to be and enjoy her life and position.

  • Britton

    But, of course, she should be queen. She could even outwit Henry VIII. She didn’t behead Diana to get who she wanted. She lured the future king into her lair while his young, trusting wife stood by helplessly. This woman should not only be queen, she should be entrusted with all the young women of the British Isles to teach them how to manipulate their way to the top. What a master class that would be. Yes, England. Let this lovely, unassuming, kind, generous, honest, upright woman be the face of your country. Let her portrait stand for all to behold for all time next to the gullible Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and all the other admirable women of England. Extol her moral code!

  • jovan66102

    As far as I’m concerned, the King’s wife is Queen. Regardless of officialdom’s opinion, if I outlive our Queen, I will call the Duchess of Cornwall Queen as the wife of the King of Canada!

    • This Is My Display Name

      This isn’t like the “Princess of Wales” situation where she has the title but doesn’t use it. If she’s given the title of “Princess Consort” instead of “Queen Consort”, then she’s not, despite being the King’s wife, Queen, anymore than Prince Philip, as wife of the Queen, is King.

      You’re obviously free to call her whatever the heck you want, but you’d be doing so against the express wishes of both her husband (the King) and herself–which would be the utmost sign of disrespect.

  • MAJ

    I empathise with your comments and if ones next door neighbours had the questionable entanglements we have witnessed one would not invite them to the local village fete. However, we as a nation/commonwealth are constitutionally locked into what will happen next. What irks is that there seems to be an intention from the PR machine to pull the jewelled wool over our eyes – it will not work. Acquiescence is not acceptance there is a world of difference.

  • Rules of Etiquette(s)

    From m understanding of Bible, a man can release a wife for infidelity, and he remarry, so Camille did not need to annul, to be within bibles right. As to Charles, he selected Diana as a child bearer, which is unfortunate of its limitations via hearts, but not uncommon in royalty mindset, when a man rejects a woman, for any cause his or hers, God judges it. The situation was created b Charles unfortunately that led to create Diana as infidelity later and to her book . Past is Past, titles work according to King’s order or in this case the Queen’s decision.

    • Ricky

      When the time comes, it will be King Charles III who will decide whether or not to downgrade his wife’s status. When he inherits the throne, Camilla will automatically become HM The Queen. I think it extremely unlikely that he would choose to give her any lesser title.

      • Ricky

        The quote you want us to “not forget” was a private remark—a joke, really—-not intended to be heard by anyone but Camilla.

        And so what! Have you never said anything deliberately silly to someone you loved? I don’t think any of us would want our most personal remarks to be shared with the whole world, having been published by tabloid newspapers. Try for a moment to imagine how you’d feel if your most intimate remarks were broadcast worldwide.

        But if it’s so important for you to “not forget,” then you hang onto that. You must lead an exceptionally boring life if you insist on rehashing the personal details of other people’s love lives after all these years.

  • Rules of Etiquette(s)

    Camille I see would have choice either annulled, or remain unmarried unless reconciled, or if unbeliever leaves than no brother or sister is kept to be bound in those circumstances.

  • Rules of Etiquette(s)

    Normally annulled is if not fulfill the obligations of children or loyalty to a marriage.

  • Johnny Louwrens

    Her Royal Highness the Princess Consort is appropriate. Camilla cannot remain the Duchess of Cornwall because Prince William will become the Duke Of Cornwall on the succession of Prince Charles. But there are many other titles in the monarch’s gift which can be bestowed on Camilla, if the powers that be so wish. My sense is there will be no frenzy on the part of Camilla to be called Queen.

  • Animosity4U

    Why can’t she be known as the King’s Whore it seems more appropriate!

  • Kathleen Neuen

    Charles divorced Diana a year before she died. After she died he cannot claim to be a Widower. It is one thing or the other. If Diana died before the divorce he would be a WIDOWER. Obviously this is not the case, so he is a DIVORCED MAN.

    • Ricky

      It depends on how you look at it. If you believe, as the CofE teaches, Christian marriage is for life, then Charles’s and Diana’s divorce means nothing and the marriage continued until her death. That would make Charles a widower, not a divorced man, when he married Camilla.

      • Kathleen Neuen

        Thank you. I know now that it can be taken two ways, but the Bible says when you marry no matter how many more times you marry your first wife remains so after death.
        Marriages thereafter are void and you are actually committing adultry. Does the COE believe this?.

  • Kathleen Neuen

    definitely. Thank you

  • Kathleen Neuen

    Sure. You have been most helpful. Thanks

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