What does Queen Consort mean - and why is the title changing for Camilla?

Queen Elizabeth II said it was her ‘sincere wish’ for Camilla to have the title of Queen Consort

a close up of Queen Consort Camilla Parker Bowles laughing
(Image credit: Future/Getty)

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III - formerly the Prince of Wales - ascended to the throne. Whilst known as Queen Camilla, the King's wife's official title is 'Queen Consort' - and we've explained what this means.

In a message to mark the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne and the Platinum Jubilee, the late Queen Elizabeth announced in February 2022 that her 'sincere wish' was for Camilla to be Queen Consort upon King Charles III's coronation. When Camilla Parker Bowles became the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005, press from Clarence House made it crystal clear that she would be HRH The Princess Consort. It had been eight years since the death of Princess Diana and public perception of Camilla - who some held partially responsible for the breakup of the royal marriage - wasn’t as good as it is today. 

But after years of charitable work and campaigning, royal experts advised the late Queen that giving the former Duchess the title of Queen Consort as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations would finally push her into the public favour. With King Charles now on the throne and the two set to be officially crowned at the upcoming coronation, we take a look at what does Queen Consort mean? Plus, why Prince Philip was never called King.

What does Queen Consort mean?

'Queen Consort' is the title given to the wife of a reigning monarch. As is customary, the Queen Consort shares her husband’s status and holds the female equivalent of many monarchical titles. 

This title change happened after the Queen's death when King Charles ascended to the throne. Whilst officially a consort she will also be crowned and anointed as Queen Camilla alongside King Charles at his coronation. Camilla won’t share the same political or military powers as her husband - with many of these privileges under the role of the Prime Minister in modern times anyway. 

The announcement marked a U-turn from when King Charles married Camilla in 2005, as officials then revealed that she would be Princess Consort when Charles became King. This was also the case for Prince Philip, the Queen’s late-husband, who became Prince Consort when they married. However, Prince Philip did not become King when he married Queen Elizabeth II, because of a rule that men who are married to British Queens do not become King, they can only hold the title of Prince Consort.

The Queen’s personal announcement of the Duchess of Cornwall’s new future role followed another announcement in January 2022 in which she said that Camilla would also become a member of the Order of the Garter. As the highest order of chivalry, it’s a huge honour. With this new title change, royal experts say it shows how Camilla has been included in the Firm. Duchess Camilla is also replacing Meghan Markle in one of her key roles following the young couple's move across to the US. 

“[The Queen] has clearly been thinking about the importance of a partner and a consort to her. She has just lost her own consort. And I think that’s a big factor in why we’re hearing it now,” historian Robert Lacey told the BBC. “They call it the Firm - and this really brings Camilla into the Firm properly.” 

Clarence House said that Charles and Camilla were “touched and honoured” by the gesture.

The new title was confirmed by Buckingham Palace in a statement announcing the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September 2022, which said "The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow."

What’s the difference between Queen and Queen Consort?

Queen Consort is the title of a woman who is the wife of the reigning king. Meanwhile, the title of Queen is exclusively for ruling female monarchs who have ascended the throne after the death of the previous monarch.

This was the case with Queen Elizabeth II, who inherited the throne from her father. She became a Queen and not Queen Consort as she is royal by blood and not marriage.

When King Charles inherited the throne from Queen Elizabeth, Camilla became Queen Consort. Up until recently, many thought that she would have the title of 'Princess' - just as Prince Philip retained the title of Prince - because of the negative perceptions over her affair with Prince Charles.

A spokesperson for the King did not rule out a shift when asked whether Camilla would forever be known as Queen Consort, or whether she could become known simply as the Queen. They said "I think those who saw the Queen Consort yesterday movingly meeting people outside Buckingham Palace know how moved she is at the moment and that’s her focus, so that will be a question for the future."

In King Charles' first address to the nation, he paid tribute to his 'darling wife' Camilla, saying "I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla. In recognition of her own loyal public service since our marriage 17 years ago, she becomes my Queen Consort.

“I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much."

Will Camilla be Queen Mother?

It’s very unlikely that Camilla will be Queen Mother when Prince William takes the throne from Prince Charles, because she is not his biological mother. 

Queen Elizabeth, Queen Consort to King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II, last had the title before her death in 2002 because she was the biological mother of the Queen. Princess Diana, who died in a car crash a year after her divorce from Prince Charles, was the biological mother of future king Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry. 

The path to public acceptance hasn’t been a smooth one for Camilla, especially as Prince Charles publicly admitted adultery in 1994. He said the relationship began after his marriage to Diana had broken down “irretrievably”. But many blamed Camilla for its ending. It's even thought that Prince Charles has fears Prince Harry's memoir will 'publicly blame' Camilla for the event.  

Previously to Prince Charles, Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles. They had two children - Thomas and Laura - before dissolving the marriage in 1995.

Charles and Camilla finally went public in 1999 after a careful PR campaign. They then had a civil marriage in 2005, where Camilla became Princess Consort. 

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.

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