Time to grab a strong cup of tea and dive into the complicated, slightly unhinged, and ALWAYS dramatic world of royal titles. Today’s edition? Will Camilla Parker Bowles, aka Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, be Queen of England once her husband, Prince Charles, becomes king? Answer: Yes! Ish! In fact, Queen Elizabeth announced the news back in February. But it’s honestly been a whole thing up until now, so let’s break it down.
The Precedent for King/Queen Titles Is…Complicated
If you recall, Queen Elizabeth’s late husband, Prince Philip, was not king. He was a prince—I mean, it’s right there in the title! Why? Because, per CBS, Philip was never in line to the English throne. In fact, the Queen had to make a whole letters patent (basically, a royal law) just to make Philip a prince of the United Kingdom, and the palace released the following statement:
“The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm bearing date 22nd February, 1957, to give and grant unto His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T., G.B.E., the style and titular dignity of a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Whitehall.”
So for a while there, the assumption was that Camilla would take a leaf out of Philip’s book and become Princess Camilla once Charles is king. However…
It Was Always Clear That Camilla Could Become Queen if She Wanted to
Consider this lady:
That’s Queen Elizabeth’s mother, aka King George VI’s wife, aka the queen consort. This is a super-common title for the spouse of a ruling king, and it becomes official during the coronation. As the royal website puts it:
“Unless decided otherwise, a queen consort is crowned with the king, in a similar but simpler ceremony. If the new sovereign is a queen, her consort is not crowned or anointed at the coronation ceremony.”
But let’s dive deeper into that “unless decided otherwise” line, shall we? ’Cause, um…
Camilla Originally Wanted to Be “Princess Consort”
Back when Charles and Camilla married in 2005, the couple issued a statement saying she planned to “use the title HRH the Princess Consort when the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne.” And then in March 2020, reps for the couple reiterated this to The Times, saying, “The intention is for the duchess to be known as princess consort when the prince accedes to the throne. This was announced at the time of the marriage and there has been absolutely no change at all.”
So why did Camilla initially want to be princess consort and not queen consort? Apparently, this decision was made partly out of respect to Princess Diana—which is also why Camilla doesn’t use the title Princess of Wales and instead goes by Duchess of Cornwall.
As royal expert Marlene Koenig told Town & Country, when she married Prince Charles, “Camilla was not popular or well liked, [although] this has changed a lot since the marriage as Camilla has taken on a lot of patronages and Charles is a lot happier. Still, [there was] a lot of tension and anger among a certain element of the population—so it was decided that Camilla would be styled as the Duchess of Cornwall, even though, of course, she is the Princess of Wales.”
Here’s the thing though. Constitutional Affairs Minister Christopher Leslie implied all the way back in 2005 that it doesn’t really matter if Charles and Camilla want Camilla to become princess consort because “this is absolutely unequivocal that she automatically becomes queen when he becomes king.”
Either way, the late Queen made it abundantly clear that she wants Camilla to go by queen consort, releasing a statement to mark her Platinum Jubilee saying, “When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes king, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that 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 loyal service.”
And Charles and Camilla released a statement of their own saying, “The Queen’s devotion to the welfare of all her people inspires still greater admiration with each passing year. We are deeply conscious of the honor represented by my mother’s wish.”
The Timing of The Queen’s Announcement Was Very Specific
Apparently Her Majesty wanted to announce Camilla’s eventual title asap, so that Prince Charles wouldn’t be dealing with “problems for months” upon his accession.
“There’s no question that the Queen, in making it certain that she would be Queen Consort and not a Princess Consort, to do that in a statement marking the Platinum Jubilee year was so significant,” Author Richard Fitzwilliam said, via The Express. “And so important because this issue was fudged for such a long time. What was absolutely necessary was to clear this otherwise, undoubtedly, when Charles did ascend the throne and was announced then, you could imagine problems in the months to come before the coronation especially.”
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