Will Camilla be “Princess Consort”?

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Clarence House have both stated that when Prince Charles becomes King, she will not be styled Queen, instead going by “Princess Consort”.  This title is unprecedented; Queen Victoria’s husband was the Prince Consort, as is the present spouse of the reigning Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. But the wives of Kings have always been Queens.

Nevertheless, Camilla apparently won’t be styled Queen. This is for the same reason that she uses the title Duchess of Cornwall: the ghost of Lady Diana Spencer refuses to pass on, and public is still angry over Camilla’s supposed role in the break-down of the Wales’ marriage.

Will Prince Charles try to make her Queen?

However, in some interviews Prince Charles and Camilla have been coy about the topic. In a 2005 interview, Charles was asked about it, and he replied with “We’ll see won’t we? That could be.” When asked in 2011 whether she would be styled Queen, Camilla too replied with “We’ll see, won’t we?”

Let’s make it clear here: when Charles becomes King, his wife will legally become Queen. The debate is over whether Camilla will be styled Queen or not. In the same way, she is technically the Princess of Wales, but instead is styled the Duchess of Cornwall. Since this decision is entirely down to the royal prerogative, Charles may attempt to get away with it once he ascends the throne.

Public approval of Camilla has grown over the past decade, but is still split over the question of whether she should be Queen; different polls say different things. That being said, the majority of the public were against them marryingin the first place, yet they accepted it when it actually happened.

What are the historical precedents?

Popularity aside, I would question the wisdom of denying the title to Camilla. The Royal Family are not politicians, and the rules and conventions that have been solidified over the years are not, and should not be, beholden to public opinion. That is simply not the point of the Monarchy. Politicians rightly dance to the tune of the public, but Royals dance to the tune of tradition.

Ælfthryth of Wessex was the first crowned Queen of England in 973; Matilda of Flanders ascended the throne alongside her husband William the Conqueror in 1066. The precedent of “King and Queen” goes back more than a thousand years. If we deny this to Camilla, where will it end? What’s to stop all unpopular Royals being denied their titles? Would we descend into an elective Monarchy? Would the Monarchy be abolished altogether?

Even the infamous Anne Boleyn was Queen, at a time when Henry VIII even had another wife stubbornly and inconveniently refusing to die. Anne was given a lavish coronation in Westminster Abbey and was not denied the title out of ‘sensitivity’ for the public’s support of the popular Catherine of Aragon, who was recognised by most of Europe as the King’s legal spouse.

Henrietta Maria of France, the despised Catholic consort of Charles I, was Queen of a staunchly Protestant England and Scotland. George IV and his wife Caroline of Brunswick detested each other – he even tried to have Parliament pass a bill to legally un-Queen her. This failed, and although she was never crowned, she was still Queen until her death.

Is Charles and Camilla’s marriage legal?

However there is the possibility of Camilla not being Queen, but not because of Diana’s spectre. There is the question of whether she’s legally married to Charles.

As Camilla is divorced, the pair had to undertake a civil marriage. However, the Marriage Act of 1836, which introduced civil marriages, specifically stated that the act “shall not extend to the marriage of any of the Royal Family”. This clause was a major factor in Edward VIII having to abdicate the throne for desiring to marry Wallace Simpson, and Princess Margaret being forced to give up her lover Captain Townsend. All agreed that in order to enter into a lawful union with a divorcee, Edward and Margaret would have to renounce their claims to the throne. Edward did so; Margaret did not.

Since their civil marriage took place, the Lord Chancellor has said that Camilla and Charles’ marriage is lawful, and the fact that they were granted a marriage certificate in the first place could indicate this too. But the Archbishop of Canterbury once pronounced Anne Boleyn’s union with Henry VIII to be lawful, but then later changed his mind. This shows that these things are, as ever, dictated by political necessity and not always by what the actual law is.

Will Camilla be Queen – who knows? Either way, she and the Prince of Wales have been with each other through thick and thin for almost fifty years. I doubt very much whether her being crowned or not would alter this one bit.

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Last Update: April 28, 2018