What is a Queen Consort?

King Charles and Queen Camilla

King Charles and Queen Camilla – who is the new queen consort of the United Kingdom (Image: Chris Jackson-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The UK now has one Queen Camilla, after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In her platinum Jubilee message earlier this year, the monarch expressed her “sincere wish” for the former Duchess of Cornwall to become Queen Consort after Charles’ accession.

The late Queen wrote: “I would like to thank you all for your support. I remain eternally grateful and humbled by the faith and affection you continue to give me.

“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 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 faithful service.”

It had previously been suggested that Camilla would not take the title of Queen, but what exactly does Queen Consort mean?

What is a Queen Consort?

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Camilla is now Queen Consort (Image: PA)

Her title “wife” simply refers to the wife of a ruling monarch.

Monarch consorts in the United Kingdom have no governmental power, with their main duty being to provide support and companionship to the reigning monarch, as well as playing an important role in public engagements.

The queen’s previous consorts included the Queen Mother during the reign of Elizabeth’s father, George VI, as well as her grandmother, George V’s wife, Queen Mary.

However, the longest-serving royal consort in history is Prince Philip, who was given the title when Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952, and held it until his death on April 9, 2021.

The title of longest-serving queen consort goes to Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was George III’s wife from 1761 when they married, until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, react as they bid farewell to Irish President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina (not pictured) at Windsor Castle in Windsor, southern England, on April 11, 2014, in due to their official visit.  - Higgins is the first Irish president to pay a state visit to Britain since independence.  (Photo by Leon NEAL/AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Prince Philip was a partner for nearly 70 decades until his death in 2021 (Image: Getty Images)

After that, she remained Queen of the United Kingdom until her death in 1818, two years before her husband.

While the title of Queen Consort is given to the wives of reigning kings, the wives of kings in this country are largely known as ‘Prince Consort’ rather than ‘king’.

This is because the title of Queen is generally considered lower in rank than ‘King’, which can only refer to a reigning monarch – while ‘Queen’ can refer to either a female monarch or the king’s wife.

Therefore, Prince Philip was known as the Prince Consort during his marriage to Queen Elizabeth, so as not to overshadow her position as reigning monarch.

If the new wife is Queen, they are crowned alongside the new King in a smaller ceremony – but a male spouse is not formally crowned at the Queen’s coronation.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is the longest-serving queen consort in history (Image: Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II’s message was the first confirmation that Camilla – who has been married to Prince Charles since 2005 – would be given the title of ‘Queen’.

What was Camilla’s planned title?

Previously, Buckingham Palace announced in 2005 that she would instead take the alternative title of Princess.

The Palace said in an online statement: “As explained at the time of their marriage in April 2005, the Duchess will be known as HRH The Princess Consort when the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne.”

However, this was later deleted from the Royal Family website – sparking speculation that Camilla may be given a more royal title when the time comes.

Prince Charles further fueled the rumors when he was asked in 2010 if Camilla could become Queen – only to reply: “We’ll see, won’t we?”

The Queen marked her Platinum Jubilee with the announcement (Image: Getty Images)
Charles and Camilla married in 2005 (Image: PA)

After the Queen’s announcement, Charles and Camilla said in a statement that they were “touched and honored by Her Majesty’s words”.

Prince Charles paid tribute to Camilla, saying: “As we have strived together to serve and support Her Majesty and the people of our communities, my beloved wife has been my constant support throughout.

“The year of this unprecedented Platinum Jubilee brings an opportunity for us all to come together to celebrate the Queen’s service, by whose example we will continue to be led in the years ahead.”

Her Majesty The Queen died aged 96 at Balmoral, Scotland on 8 September 2022.

On her death, Camilla’s official title changed from Her Royal Highness Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall to Her Majesty The Queen Consort.

Has the Queen Consort ever been divorced?

Way back in history there is a case of a pre-married person who took a title of husband, although it is not exactly the same.

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Eleanor of Aquitaine – a wealthy medieval Duchess who owned parts of France – became Queen Consort of France in 1137 as the wife of King Louis VII.

Their marriage was later annulled in 1152 after the union produced no male heir.

She remarried in 1154 to King Henry II and became Queen of England as a result.

She did have five sons and three daughters – and spent many years imprisoned by her husband for supporting a son’s rebellion against him – but eventually outlived the king, becoming the Queen Dowager.

MORE: Camilla to be crowned alongside King Charles III at his coronation

MORE: King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla leave Balmoral for flight back to London

MORE: Subtle everyday things in our lives that will change now the Queen is dead

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