What makes a Queen, and what kind of Queens are there exactly?
A Queen regnant is a Queen who rules in her own right (for example, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark). The husband of a Queen regnant is usually a Prince, as the title of King is usually considered to be higher than that of a Queen. In the United Kingdom, the Duke of Edinburgh was eventually made a British Prince (and he was a Greek Prince by birth, but he gave up that title).1 He was never a Prince Consort, which was a title that Queen Victoria created for her husband Prince Albert.2 There are some cases of King consorts, for example, in Portugal where a husband of a Queen regnant would become King consort upon the birth of an heir. Mary, Queen of Scots, made her husband Lord Darnley a King consort. In the case of King William III and Queen Mary II, they ruled jointly, and William later continued to rule on his own after his wife’s death as previously agreed.
A Queen consort is the wife of a ruling King. In the United Kingdom, a wife takes the status of her husband upon marriage unless hers is higher. This was confirmed by King George V shortly before the marriage of Prince Albert, the Duke of York, to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. An official announcement stated that “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.”3 The ‘consort’ part is not used in daily life, and a Queen consort would be addressed as “Her Majesty The Queen.” There are some countries where the wife of a King is not a Queen consort. In Morocco, King Mohammed VI of Morocco recognised his wife Salma as a Princess consort. However, in this case, she was the first wife to even be officially recognised at all and given a title. The wife of the King of Saudia Arabia, Fahda bint Falah Al Hithlain, is also not a Queen.
Queen dowager and Queen mother
A Queen dowager is the widow of a King. As there is usually a new Queen consort, the Queen dowager will no longer be referred to as The Queen. Like with consort, the dowager part is usually not used in daily life. In the United Kingdom, King George V’s widow Mary began to use Her Majesty Queen Mary to differentiate her from the new Queen consort, Elizabeth. Subsequently, when Elizabeth was widowed, she began using the title Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother to avoid confusion with her daughter Queen Elizabeth II, who became Her Majesty The Queen. A Queen mother is thus usually also a Queen dowager as the mother of the new King or Queen but not necessarily. In Romania, Princess Helen was created Queen Mother of Romania when her young son became King, despite being divorced from her husband while he was still the Crown Prince, and she was thus never a Queen consort. In Thailand, Queen Sirikit was officially conferred the title of Queen Mother in 2019, three years after her son succeeded as King.4 In Bhutan, the King’s mother is known as Gyalyum Kude (Queen Mother) and his paternal grandmother as the Queen grandmother (or The Royal Grandmother). In addition, his father’s three other wives are also known as Queen mothers, despite not being the mother of the current King.
A Queen regent can be a Queen dowager who is now acting as regent for the new underage monarch or the wife or mother of an absent monarch (in the case of the wife, she wouldn’t be a Queen dowager as well!). One of the most recent examples is Queen Emma, who was regent for her daughter Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. She was usually referred to as the ‘Koningin-Regentes’ (Queen regent) during her daughter’s minority. However, she became known as Queen mother when her daughter no longer required a regent. In England, Catherine Parr acted as regent while King Henry VIII was in France and in Scotland, Mary of Guise acted as regent for her underage daughter.