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Will Camilla actually be Princess Consort?

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a blog called ‘why Camilla must become our Queen‘. Since its publication, the article became the site’s single most discussed article, receiving over several hundred comments with varying views and numerous email responses to the site’s editors.

In the piece, I argued it would create a dangerous precedent for Camilla to be denied the rightful title of Queen and could create uncertainty about the future for the title of Queen Consort.

Since then, I have spent some time looking into the legality and practicalities of the matter to try and determine whether Camilla will ever be Queen or whether she is, as is widely touted, destined to be Princess Consort. Contacting several government departments and with the help of numerous individuals in the research process, I have pieced together the full story which I hope sheds a whole lot more light on the situation.

As most people know, at the time of their wedding in 2005, it was announced that upon the Prince of Wales’s accession to the throne, Camilla would take on the title of HRH The Princess Consort instead of the traditional title of HM The Queen.

Primarily taken to quell the hostility to the couple, it was a message that went widely unchallenged by the then ambivalent press and public, with many asserting it to be the right move.

Almost ten years on and whilst public opinion has now turned in favour of her becoming Queen, Clarence House’s position persists: Camilla will become Princess Consort.

Quite unnoticed in the press (and by me in my research until recently), the legality of the matter was quietly settled in a series of reports and statements from Parliament, as well as by Clarence House in statements that have been lost in the mists of time.

Based on this finding, I’m now able to confirm what I’ve suspected for a long time, that the title of Queen Consort is not actually established by law per se.

Instead, its usage is established through custom and precedent and, according to officials, there will therefore be no need for a change in law or introduction of a new law to give Camilla the status of Princess Consort instead of Queen; rather in the same way as she is currently known as Duchess of Cornwall whilst technically being Princess of Wales, she will be known as Princess Consort instead.

There is no single document which denotes that the wife of a King shall be a Queen or in fact that they should hold any title at all. The title for any wife in England derives from common law, with the wife conventionally taking her husband’s rank and style. Whilst this would in theory mean Camilla took the title of Queen, there are other factors which alter this.

It reality the royal style, with the exception of the Sovereign’s title, is subject of the royal prerogative rather than the regulation of Parliament. Hence why Diana, Princess of Wales’s style of HRH was able to be removed in 1996 by letters patent at the will of The Queen rather than through parliamentary intervention and also why Camilla is recognised as Duchess of Cornwall and not Princess of Wales.

Because of this, Prince Charles could determine any title he wished for Camilla upon his accession to the throne through the royal prerogative, though it has never been used to alter the title of the wife of the King before.

Additionally, there are almost no references (I couldn’t find any during a cursory search) to the title of Queen consort in law, and the legal status and privileges associated with Queen consorts are now virtually extinct.

Similarly, there is no requirement for the spouse of the Monarch to take the coronation oath like there is for the Sovereign (though done by many Queen consorts by tradition). Despite all of this however, the consort of the Monarch does occupy a curious and serious constitutional position with the possibility of having some responsibilities in law, such us in the occasion that the Monarch becomes incapacitated or (though not applicable now) the heir is a minor.

Although not answered directly, the inference from officials was also that Camilla would also not be crowned alongside the Prince of Wales. Rather, she will probably assume a similar place to that of the Duke of Edinburgh during the 1953 coronation.

Many people, myself included, continue to advocate the continued usage of the title of Queen by the wife of the King, not just because of personal admiration for the Duchess of Cornwall, but also to avoid the situation where denying the title to one consort may see the end to it altogether, and a consequence being no Queen Catherine as well as no Queen Camilla.

It does though seem pretty inescapable that Camilla will take on the title of Princess Consort, and those around her say she has no interest in taking on a higher title herself. The issue can only be kicked into the grass for so long, and whilst I don’t suspect there will be a U-turn on the matter, one day in the future I do think people will still react with surprise to find that we have a King with no Queen.

photo credit: Shaun Amey Photography via photopin cc

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