Camilla’s designation, Queen Consort: What does it mean, and how did she get it?

In its official announcement of Queen Elizabeth’s death on Thursday (September 8), the royal family referred to King Charles’ wife, Camilla, as the Queen Consort: “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

What does Queen consort, Camilla’s title, mean? How did she get it?

What is a Queen Consort?

A Queen Consort is the woman who is married to the reigning monarch, with the title of “Queen” being reserved for female rulers that become the monarch through a line of succession, and whose rank, role, and responsibilities are equal to those of a king.

Thus, unlike Queen Elizabeth, who inherited the throne from her father, Queen Consort Camilla can never take the throne, since she joined the royal family through marriage.

However, colloquially, the Queen Consort is referred to as the Queen as well.

The Queen Consort is usually “crowned with the King, in a similar but simpler ceremony”, according to the royal family’s website. Consorts do not hold any formal positions in the government, nor do they see state papers or hold official audiences. The consort’s role is “primarily to provide companionship and moral and practical support to the Monarch”.

The royal family’s website notes that since her marriage to King Charles, Queen Consort Camilla has become the president of more than 90 charities, covering issues like health, promoting literacy, the arts, animal welfare, and supporting the survivors of rape and sexual assualt.

Britain’s King Charles waves as he walks alongside Queen Camilla along the fence of Buckingham Palace, following the passing of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, in London, Britain, September 9, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The King’s previous “crowded” marriage

After Camilla Parker Bowles married Charles in 2005, there was much debate about what title she would assume. Camilla had shared a romantic relationship with Charles before and during both of their previous marriages, and was blamed by many for destroying the Prince’s marriage with Diana, the Princess of Wales.

Diana, who had once reportedly called Camilla a rottweiler, famously said in a 1995 interview, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Public sentiment continued to be against Camilla after her marriage to Charles years after his divorce from Diana and her death in 1997 — and only 7 per cent of Britons in a survey thought that Camilla should be queen.

Since the title Princess of Wales was considered to be closely associated with Diana after her marriage with Charles, the Prince of Wales, Camilla adopted her husband’s other title and became the Duchess of Cornwall. With concerns about a possible pushback from the public, Clarence House, the residence of the Prince of Wales, announced in 2005 that Camilla would use the title The Princess Consort when Charles accedes to the throne.

She was the first to assume the title of Princess Consort in the United Kingdom; however, according to a 2017 report in The Guardian, “the formulation has no historical or legal meaning” as British common law dictates that wives of kings are known as Queen Consorts.

Camilla: From Princess to Queen Consort

After being asked in an interview with NBC in 2010 if Camilla would become the Queen of England after he takes the throne, Charles stated, “That’s, well … We’ll see, won’t we? That could be.”

Queen Elizabeth cleared the air in February this year, before her platinum jubilee, when she announced that she wanted Camilla to take the title Queen Consort after her passing, and not Princess Consort as it had been originally planned.

“And 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 times comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service,” Queen Elizabeth II stated in February.

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