After seeing the recent comments on my Facebook page, I decided to explain once and for all what makes a Princess in the United Kingdom and that oh so burning question, will Camilla be Queen?
The cause for all the comments was my article, “The Duchess of Cornwall – The vilified Princess“. The word Princess threw off a lot of people and immediately people said she wasn’t a Princess but a Duchess. Here’s the deal: Camilla became royal by marriage when she married The Prince of Wales. Her rank is that of a Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She is legally entitled to be called The Princess of Wales1 but has decided to use the lesser title of Duchess of Cornwall. Because she is not born royal, she is not entitled to be “Princess Camilla”. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, was commonly called “Princess Diana” but she was not entitled to this either. The same goes for The Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Sussex and the Countess of Wessex. The 1917 Letters Patent limits the title of Prince or Princess to the children of the sovereign, the grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. In 2012, this was expanded to include all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales ensuring that both Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were born Prince and Princess.
Does this make any of these women any less of a Princess? No. This was confirmed by Buckingham Palace when Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married the Duke of York (future King George VI). They released this statement: “In accordance with the settled general rule that a wife takes the status of her husband Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on her marriage has become Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York with the status of a Princess.”2 When Marie Christine von Reibnitz married Prince Michael of Kent in 1978, she became Princess Michael of Kent – sharing her husband status and taking on the feminine form.
This leads us to the next question, will the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen? You should remember that there are several types of Queens, most notably Queens Regnant (who rule in their own right, like the current Queen Elizabeth II) and Queens Consort (the wife of a ruling King). Prince Charles is the heir to the throne, and when Queen Elizabeth II dies, he will become King. Camilla – who shares her husband’s status – will take on the feminine form and become Queen. As she does not rule in her own right, she will become Queen Consort. Both consort and regnant Queens are “Her Majesty The Queen.” When Charles dies after becoming King, Camilla will become dowager Queen and be known as “Her Majesty Queen Camilla” to differentiate from the new Queen consort.
There are apparently no legal amendments needed for her to be called Princess Consort and “legislation would only be required if it was deemed necessary to confirm formally that she should not have the title and status of queen.3 Therefore, even if she was called Princess Consort, she would still have the status of a Queen consort.
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- “As was made clear at the time of the announcement of the marriage, she will be Princess of Wales but will not use the title.”
- The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor by Michael Bloch Ch. 3
- Read more: Royal Marriages – Constitutional Issues p.10