The Queen Consort paradox

First official photo of King Charles and Queen Camilla with the Prince and Princess of Wales
Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

I had hoped that once The Queen had died, we could all go back to sticking to the rules about titles: follow the 1917 Letters Patent as intended and don’t makeup titles as you go along. And if the new King didn’t want that, he should issue new Letters Patent.

The 1917 Letters Patent state, “It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour.” This was amended in 2013 to include all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (namely The Duke of Cambridge’s children, George, Charlotte and Louis), mainly because if George had been born a girl, she would have been “Lady” rather than “Princess,” while changes to make the succession gender neutral were already underway.1

While the children of the Earl and Countess of Wessex remain known as children of an Earl, they are HRH Prince(ss) under the 1917 Letters Patent (as they were before The Queen’s death) as it was announced by The Queen at the wedding of their parents. However, no such announcement was made for the children of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are now also HRH Prince(ss) as grandchildren in the male line of the monarch. As of yet, no additional announcement has been made regarding their titles.

However, the one title that irks me the most is the use of “The Queen Consort” for Queen Camilla. As confirmed when Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married the then Duke of York, “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 Thus, when Camilla married the then Prince of Wales, she became Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall etc. She chose to use the Duchess of Cornwall title as the Princess of Wales title was still strongly connected to Charles’s first wife, Diana. This doesn’t mean that she wasn’t legally The Princess of Wales. You’ll also note that none of these titles includes the word “Consort.”

Now that Charles is King, Camilla automatically took on the female equivalent of her husband’s rank and status and thus became Queen. As she is not a Queen in her own right, her role is that of Queen consort. In the United Kingdom, a Queen consort is addressed as Her Majesty The Queen. However, for some reason, Buckingham Palace has insisted on referring to Camilla as “Her Majesty The Queen Consort.”3

So, I had a little look around.

The official website does not do the same for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother4 nor for Queen Mary.5 They are correctly referred to as “Queen.”

Then there’s the London Gazette, which is one of the official journals of record or government and refers to “The Queen Consort” just 41 times in the last 295 years, with the most recent four referring to Queen Camilla. By contrast, there are 11463 references to “The Queen” from 1901 (the death of Queen Victoria) until 1952 (the death of King George VI) alone. Queen Alexandra is briefly referred to as “The Queen Consort”6 shortly after Queen Victoria’s death, but by October 1901 and the announcement of the coronation, she is continuously referred to as “Her Majesty The Queen.”7 In a short biography in the New York Times two days after Queen Victoria’s death, she is referred to as “The Queen Consort” but only in the title as the text simply describes her as “Queen.”8 In early March and early June that same year, there’s another brief reference to “Queen Consort.”9 Following her husband’s death, she is briefly referred to as “Her Majesty The Queen Mother”10 before “Queen Alexandra” becomes more common.

Queen Mary, the wife of King George V,  was first referred to as “The Queen”11 and later also as “Queen Mary.”12 When she died in 1953, she was referred to as “Queen Mary.”13

The most recent woman before Camilla to be Queen consort was Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother. Shortly after her husband’s accession, he referred to her as “Our dearly beloved Consort the Queen.”14 Later, she is referred to as “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, your Majesty’s gracious Consort”15 and finally “Her Majesty the Queen.”16 After her husband’s death and the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, she is referred to as “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother”17 or “Her Majesty The Queen Mother.”18

It should be noted that while “Queen Consort’ appears in the Gazette, these Queens’ official title was never anything other than Her Majesty The Queen during their tenure as consort.

So what is with this “Queen Consort Camilla” business? We cannot claim that we don’t know how it’s done. Even after the death of Queen Victoria after a reign of 63 years, Queen Alexandra was only briefly referred to it. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother were not, as far as I can tell, referred to as “Her Majesty The Queen Consort”, and if they were, it must have been only briefly. We know Camilla is not a reigning Queen, as there is a King. So we cannot claim confusion with the previous Queen (regnant).

Queen Elizabeth II herself added to the confusion when she released a statement saying, “It is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.”19 Do note the “The” missing from there. This clearly indicates that she did not intend for this to be taken as Camilla’s exact title. Camilla was always going to be a Queen consort, as she is the wife of a King. Simply calling her “Her Majesty The Queen”, per the precedent, will not alter that fact. To me, it feels like yet another attempt at appeasing a certain group. Calling Camilla “The Queen Consort’ makes it seem like she is not fully a Queen, which is nonsense, of course.

One can only hope that she will soon be referred to by her rightful title and style of address. The monarchy was never a popularity contest.

  1. London Gazette
  2. The Duchess Of Windsor by Greg King p.265
  3. Official website
  4. Official website
  5. Official website
  6. The London Gazette
  7. The London Gazette
  8. The New York Times
  9. The New York Times1 & The New York Times2
  10. The London Gazette
  11. The London Gazette
  12. The London Gazette
  13. BBC
  14. The London Gazette
  15. The London Gazette
  16. The London Gazette
  17. The London Gazette
  18. The London Gazette
  19. History of Royal Women

About Moniek Bloks 2764 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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