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
I understand why they did it at the time, with all those looney grannies taking sides in a personal love issue, but, now, it is not correct and should not stand. She has done her penance, she is a good wife and dutiful member of the royal family. It is clear that the Queen and government have accepted her and she does well on royal visits at home and abroad. She has not that I am aware put a foot wrong in her consort role at all. So, she should now be called the Princess of Wales and later the Queen. She is and will be those things and to deny her alone them is ridiculous and, if you consider the people in history who have had them, very unfair. The way some sections of the public are behaving you would think we are the most moral and virtuous age there has been, but, well, we know the truth of that.
The author seems to forget a remarkable fact, Camilla is undoubtedly married to the next British King, that is Crown Prince Charles, but she is NOT the mother of the following King in line, that is Prince William. We must not forget that the primary mission of the Queen Consort is not only to accompany the King as his wife, but also (and I dare say most important engagement) to produce a heir to the Throne. In Spain, we have a precedent of this. King Alfonso XII’s first wife, María de las Mercedes, would become Queen Consort on her marriage, but as she died only a few months later without having the opportunity of giving birth, she was not buried at the Royal Pantheon of El Escorial, thus being somehow “deprived” of her status of Queen as she was unable to produce a heir for the Spanish Crown.
The six wives of Henry VIII were all queens, even though only three of them produced an heir.
Interestingly though, only his first 2 were crowned – Katherine and Anne
Camilla sould become our queen bless her.x
Hail! Our Queen of adultery and deceipt!
Di was doing the same.
I do not think the final answer will be given until Charles acends the throne. It sounds like it is his decision.
I don’t know typical British custom, but as Diana was the lawful wedded wife of Charles and produced an heir, I should think she would have been Queen. As Camilla, however wonderful she is viewed, did not produce William (the next in line) she should not be Queen (Consort or whatever) but Princess Consort. This is why arranged marriages should have been outlawed long ago. Charles should only have married for love not duty. Not blaming him for anything, he did what was required of him.
As to this author stating that if Camilla was denied the title of Queen Consort that somehow Katherine would as well, is illogical. Katherine has produced the next heir to the throne – George; and therefore would enjoy the right to the title Queen upon William’s ascension to the throne. Not to mention when Charles ascends to be King, she would be the next Princess of Wales.
Being queen is not linked to the production of an heir. It is linked simply to being the wife of the king. Your theory is incorrect Dameon.
I am an American; so, take my thoughts with a grain of salt. May Queen Elizabeth II continue to live a long and healthy life. I do not wish to offend the Royal Family nor the people of the Commonwealth by my speculation. I can see why Camilla should not be The Princess of Wales…and why they did what they did regarding her title. Diana was The Princess of Wales and Camilla was wise and prudent not to assume that title. Diana and Charles divorced, nor is Diana living among us in this world. Diana never had the title of Queen Consort. Camilla would not be “upstaging” that title from Diana or vice versa. When the moment comes and Charles is king, Camilla rightfully should be called queen consort.
Whether or not Camilla uses the title Princess of Wales, legally she is now the rightful holder of that title. When Charles becomes King, Camilla will automatically become Queen.
It would require an act of Parliament to downgrade her status after Charles’ accession. Even if something of that nature made it’s way through Parliament, it would still require Royal Assent (the monarch’s signature).
I’d hate to be the courtier to present the papers to King Charles III, saying “Your Majesty, please sign this document to deprive Her Majesty the Queen of her title.”
One can imagine his reaction.
There is no written constitution for Great Britain as noted in the original article. It is therefore by decree of the reigning monarch what titles will be borne by the royals. There is no need for an Act of Parliament. The Duchess of Cornwall, as previously determined, will be styled Princess Consort on the accession of Charles as King.
When using the term “constitutionally,” as it relates to the UK, it refers to tradition and precedent.
There is a book, “The English Constitution,” by Walter Bagehot which discusses the concept that Britain has an unwritten constitution based on these things. This is what I had in mind when I mentioned this.
I would like for prince william ‘s wife to be named Queen. The title for Camilla should not be Queen as in repect for his first wife Diane. My thoughts.
Awful scenario: the future King Charles dies many many years from now leaving Camilla as “Queen Mother” after William and Katherine ascend the throne. !!!! She should not be styled that way since she is not William’s mother. Princess Consort is as good a status as Prince Consort, the one faithful Prince Phillip holds.
Camilla can become “Queen Dowager” i.e. “Queen Widow” but never “Queen Mother” as that is only the position of a widowed Queen whose child is the current monarch. The last time that has happened was with the death of King William IV – his wife Queen Adelaide was Queen Dowager but his niece Victoria was Queen. (Also, Queen Victoria’s mother remained simply “The Duchess of Kent” and not “Queen Mother” as she herself had never been Queen.) From February 1952 to March 1953 there were three Queens in the UK: HM Queen Elizabeth II; HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother; and HM Queen Mary – who was Queen Dowager. Mary HAD been “Queen Mother” during the reigns of her sons Edward VIII and George VI, but was not during that of her granddaughter.
I don’t think Queen Mary was ever called the Queen Mother. I think she was always referred to as the Dowager Queen Mary.
HM Queen Mary was referred to as “Queen Mother” after the accession of her two sons to the throne. Once HM The Queen acceded to the Throne, she became the Queen Dowager so that HM’s mother, HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Consort, could then be called HM, The Queen Mother.
Queen Mary died shortly before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II so she wasn’t known as anything but the late Dowager Queen.
Sorry Jarrod, I misread your post. I understand what you mean.
Queen Alexandra would have been entitled to be known as Queen Mother after King Edward VII died in 1910, which put her son, King George V on the throne. I don’t know if she ever used that title, though.
Any male consort holds the title of Prince Consort, i.e. Prince Albert and Prince Philip. Any female consort is titled Queen Consort. It has nothing to do with one being better than the other, just the way it’s always been.
This is largely to put them in their place, ie HM The Queen is The Monarch, the man is just somebody she married, NOT The King. This of course differs from earlier times when the husband of The Queen automatically became King, and often ruled jointly, as ‘women’ weren’t seen as fit to rule – hence Elizabeth I refusing to marry – William of Orange was invited to rule jointly with his wife Mary – the legitimate Protestant Heir, and indeed continued to rule as Monarch in his own right after her death. Prince Albert was seen as a provincial Princeling, as was Prince Philip, neither of which The Establishment wished to be King
Great points, Glasgow1975
Not true. It is up to the King to decide what to style his wife. There is no requirement for her to be Queen consort. This has been said in the news many times.
‘Queen Mother’ was a largely invented courtesy title to avoid confusion between Dowager Queen Elizabeth, and HM Queen Elizabeth II – had HM decided to become Queen Alexandra, or even Queen Mary III it wouldn’t even have been needed. – ‘Queen Mother’ isn’t an Official Royal Title – Queen Elizabeth also felt she was a little young for ‘Dowager’ status . . .
Agree with you totally, minty.
Well, maybe Andrew Parker Bowles will kick the bucket before the Queen, then they can remarry and presto! no problem.
That was my thought as well. Andrew Parker-Bowles is the issue. Charles was divorced from his first wife, but in the eyes of the church, he’s a widower since Diana died. Camilla’s first husband is still with us. Until he passes, as Supreme Governor of the Anglican Church, their marriage is more like a morganatic marriage. And by the way, The Duke of Windsor never had any kids with Wallis, so no chance of them trying to take the throne. If he had stayed on until his death in 1972, the current Queen was still next in line after her late father.
I understand them about this.
Isn’t there a big difference between Camilla and Catherine- Camilla being the second wife of a divorced king and Catherine being the one and only wife?
Definitely, and it is an easy difference at the moment. But If Charles holds the throne for a long time and public attitude towards Camilla continues easing- by the time William succeeds, ‘Princess Consort’ may be the accepted normal title. Between Queen Elizabeth’s and Charles’ reigns, it could potentially make almost a century since there was both a King and Queen. By that time it could be considered outdated.
Hold on a second! Edward VIII was forced to abdicate because of the argument that, once married, his wife must needs be Queen, and a twice-divorced Mrs. Simpson was unacceptable as Queen to HM Government, as well as to the heads of the Commonwealth countries. This was due both to her American-ness as well as her divorced status (with 2 living ex-husbands), which was unacceptable at the time to the Church of England, of which the monarch is the supreme governor.
It was also mooted at the time that the UK has no tradition of morganatic marriage, in which the wife bears a title inferior to her husband’s. Her Royal Highness’s current usage of the Cornwall title doesn’t count, because she is legally still the Princess of Wales.
Should Charles accede, Camilla should be Queen. Period.
Am I the only one who feels the Queen should have been at Westminster Abbey. Our people died for King and Country and I feel passionately that the Kings Granddaughter should have been there not the Duchess of Cornwall who holds no status to do such an important symbolic act. She will never be accepted as Queen only will ever be an adulteress!
In this case, Wallis Simpson also could have served as Princess Consort. There’s your precedent. Either restore the Duchy of Windsor’s estate [to his children], or give Camilla the same outcome that Wallis Simpson got–Anathema and Oblivion.
There was no chance Wallis could have served as consort, as attitudes at the time we so different towards divorce. Now attitudes have changed and Camilla is recognised by many to be hard-working, and most (in my opinion) would not object to her as Queen, nor as Princess Consort.
Our preferences do not matter. This is a matter of Law, the 1773 Marriage Act, the 1703 Settlement Act and English Common Law. You want to just wish the Law away and/or adopt Muslim Sharia Law when the Muslims overwhelm British Parliamentary procedure and impose that on us all? Or do you have enough respect for English Laws under which the Monarchy has been governed since the Hanoverians took over … so that you will permit our Laws to STAND and be applied accordingly?
I have to disagree with the author here on one point .. The Duchess of Cornwall IS also The Princess of Wales .. legally! She has chosen NOT to use this title because of Prince Charles previous marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales .. (a title Diana “earned” upon her divorce from the Prince) .. seemed to me there are issues with this article that need editing ..
I don’t understand why you would take exception to anything the author has written here. The article clearly states in the 9th paragraph that while Camilla is known as the Duchess of Cornwall, she is technically the Princess of Wales.
I didn’t see anything else that appeared to need editing, but if you’d care to elaborate about the “issues” you mentioned, I’d be interested to know what you meant.
There is some considerable debate over this. From my research, the Duchess of Cornwall is not the Princess of Wales. Rather she is merely legally entitled to the use of that title. Similarly to how Lord Severn and Lady Louise Windsor may be entitled to the title of Prince and Princess. It’s well established that the royal prerogative may be used to regulate titles (except that of the Sovereign) and, just like in the case of Lord Severn and Lady Louise, the title has been suppressed by the royal prerogative.
If Camilla is legally the Princess of Wales, find me a legal document where she is referred to as thus. Even in a list of her full titles, the title of Princess of Wales is never listed.
I’ve read comments on other articles here at Royal Central that stated the royal ladies’ titles are governed by common law. In other words, they take the female form of their husband’s title.
If that’s the case, since Camilla is the wife of the Prince of Wales, wouldn’t that alone make her the Princess of Wales?
It seems to me that this kind of thing illustrates one drawback of the UK not having a written constitution. Issues like titles can be a murky area, since tradition and precedent are the usual guides.
The use of all titles (except the Monarch’s own) are regulable through the royal prerogative. Diana’s style of HRH being taken away after her divorce (1996 letters patent) – which she was ‘legally entitled to’ – is one example of this regulation, despite common law.
The Queen’s will is just as easily applied in this case to suppress Camilla’s title of Princess of Wales. My understanding therefore is Camilla is legally entitled to the title of Princess of Wales, but does not hold it.
As the wife of the Prince of Wales, Camilla is indeed allowed to use the title of HRH The Princess of Wales. However, she is not a princess in her own right in any way, just as HRH The Duchess of Cambridge is not a duchess or princess in her own right. It is incorrect to refer to either of them as Princess Camilla or Princess Catherine. Camilla could have chosen to be called “HRH The Princess Charles” much like the wife of HRH Prince Michael of Kent is referred to as HRH Princess Michael. But in deference to the public’s love for Diana, Princess of Wales, TRH The Prince and Princess of Wales chose for Camilla to use the title HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, because that is HRH The Prince of Wales’ second most important title. When HRH The Prince of Wales accedes to the throne, it will be his choice as to whether or not Camilla is Queen consort or Princess consort. At this point it would be proper to address Camilla as HM Queen Camilla or HRH Princess Camilla, because she would be anointed at the coronation as one or the other.
Camilla could use the title “HRH Princess Charles,” but she is not entitled to the word “the” in front of her name. That is reserved only for the children of a monarch.
I think if Camilla became Queen Australia would argue again for a republic as Princess Dianna is much loved still in Australia I believe she really does love Prince Charles but Dianna is queen of England until one of her children take over from Charles I do not believe Catherine should be Queen as I am a big fan of Harrys rather than William and Kate but I guess that point is moot given the birth of George
Diana was never Queen of England and couldn’t be unless she was married to Prince Charles when he inherits the throne.
When Her Majesty’s reign ends, the next monarchs will be King Charles and Queen Camilla; when Prince William becomes King, Catherine will be Queen.
Prince George’s birth has no bearing on that, nor does your opinion of Prince Harry. Monarchs in the UK are not determined by means of a popularity contest.
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