Will Camilla be queen?
Queen Elizabeth has ‘settled an argument that’s been raging for many years’
The Duchess of Cornwall’s title has been contentious since before her wedding to Prince Charles
But this weekend, Queen Elizabeth “answered a lingering, somewhat indiscreet question” that’s
been hovering over the royal family for some years, said Vanity Fair.
In a statement on the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne, the Queen made clear that
when her eldest son takes the crown, it is “her sincere wish” that his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles,
“be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service”.
The “candid message” has “unambiguously” set about “paving the way for Queen Camilla”, said
The Guardian. “Charles is understood to have long harboured a firm desire his wife should carry
the title of Queen Consort, and be thus crowned and anointed, when he becomes king.”
Hello! magazine’s royal correspondent Emily Nash said that the Queen’s statement “settles an
argument that’s been raging for many years”, the BBC reported. “For Camilla, the journey from
being the third person in a marriage to queen-in-waiting is complete,” said the former BBC royal
correspondent Peter Hunt.
The announcement this weekend was “so beautifully representative of the Queen’s selflessness
and desire for a lack of fuss”, said Dan Wootton at Mail Online. On the monarch’s
“unprecedented” 70th anniversary on the throne, she “diverted focus to the future” with “an
unexpected late-night proclamation”.
Over the past two decades, Camilla “has won over a cautious public”, said the BBC. “She has
been praised for championing her own causes and interests”, and the Queen has increasingly
relied on her, and a number of other close relatives, to take on additional duties in the past year.
Still, “it’s critical that Charles and Camilla do what they can to win over the sceptics among us”,
Wootton continued. For years, Camilla’s approval ratings have remained “stubbornly low” – she
is the 11th most popular royal, according to YouGov’s most recent polling. Charles would be
wise to “honour the memory of Diana [...] even while we’re referring to the woman formerly
known as The Rottweiler as Queen Camilla”.
Her current title
Camilla has been formally known as Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall since she
married Prince Charles in 2005.
As the wife of the Prince of Wales, she is entitled to take the name Princess of Wales, but has
never used the title because of its association with the late Diana Spencer.
The official line from Clarence House had previously been that Camilla would adopt the title of
princess consort when her husband assumes the throne, “the first in British history”, said The
The wives of male royal family members typically obtain the equivalent title to their spouse when they marry. When Charles became a Duke, Camilla received the title Duchess - so when Charles becomes king, convention had suggested she would become queen consort.
“The wife of a head of state is not a joint head of state, however. The sovereign reigns on his or her own. In that sense Camilla will be a ‘Queen’ in the limited legal sense of being the wife of the sovereign,” he told the Daily Star.
What is the precedent?
A new title would go against historical precedent as the wives of ruling kings have traditionally become queen consorts - although the husbands of sovereign queens do not have the right to a royal title.
Following in the footsteps of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Edinburgh was given the title of Prince Philip in 1957, five years after the Queen took the throne. Her mother, who was married to King George VI, was known as Queen Elizabeth and then, after his death, the Queen Mother.
Though women traditionally receive an equivalent title to the male royal they marry, men are not honoured with an equivalent title to their wives. That’s why Prince Philip, 98, didn’t receive the title of king when he married Queen Elizabeth II.
This is because there are more variations of queen than there are of king.
“A queen can be a queen consort (married to a king), a queen regnant (reigning in her own right), or a queen dowager (mother of the reigning monarch),” said the Express in 2019, before the death of Philip.
“Kings, however, only exist as kings regnant…Camilla will be a queen consort when Charles succeeds his mother. Philip, on the other hand, can’t be a king, since it’s his wife (the Queen Regnant) doing the reigning.”
So what about Kate?
Given the historical precedent, and more importantly the public standing enjoyed by William and Kate, it is unlikely that she will face public opposition when Prince William ascends to the throne.
While there will be no formal announcement until his coronation, it is widely assumed she will take the title of Queen Consort Catherine - or, informally, Queen Catherine.
And George, Charlotte and Louis?
The 1701 Act of Settlement laid out the line of succession to exclude Roman Catholics and prioritise male primogeniture, meaning royal sons took precedence over their female siblings, including first-born royal daughters.
This is why the Queen’s second eldest child, Princess Anne, is behind her younger brothers Prince Andrew and Edward in line to the throne.
Ahead of the birth of William and Kate’s first child, a public outcry over the antiquated law led to Parliament passing the Succession to the Throne Act 2013.
It states that for any royal births after 29 October 2011, the succession will be decided by birth order, regardless of sex. This means that William and Kate's second child, Princess Charlotte, will remain fourth line to the throne behind her brother, with their third child, Prince Louis, now fifth in line. line. Their uncle, Prince Harry, follows in sixth position, with his two children behind him.
Although the bill was rushed through parliament ahead of the birth of Prince George in 2013, it did not formally become law until two years later, as it had to be ratified by all countries in the Commonwealth.
As well as changes to the succession, the act also allowed for members of the royal family to marry a Roman Catholic and become king or queen, and replaced the Royal Marriages Act 1772, meaning now only the first six in line to the throne need the Queen’s consent to marry. It did not, however, change the law to allow a Roman Catholic to become monarch.
What title can Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s children take?
Even before stepping down as royals, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had decided their son
would be styled as Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor rather than taking a title, in accordance
with their wish that he grow up as a private citizen.
Once Charles is king, both Archie and sister Lilibet “will be entitled to be styled as an HRH” by attaching the titles of Prince and Princess respectively to their names, said Town and Country.