The Difference Between Queen and Queen Consort in British Monarchy

Queen Elizabeth II’s death today sets in motion her son Charles’ ascension to the throne, and with her death, Charles’ wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is now the Queen Consort.

The royal family acknowledged the shift in its brief statement on the Queen’s death, saying that “the King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

But because socially conservative British social mores were brought to bear on Charles and Camilla’s relationship, her becoming Queen Consort was for years the source of significant speculation. The couple had an affair while both were married—Charles to Princess Diana, who famously said, “There were three of us in this marriage,” and Camilla to her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles—along with the fact that Camilla then being a divorced woman still carried a social stigma. The couple married in 2005.

But in February 2022, the Queen put an end to any lingering uncertainly during celebrations around her 70th year of rule, saying it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla become Queen Consort as Charles becomes King. It’s all a bit confusing—but let’s break it down.

What’s the difference between the Queen and the Queen Consort?

The reigning monarch’s wife is traditionally known as the Queen Consort, while the Queen (technically the “Queen Regnant”) refers to a woman who has ascended the throne through the pre-established familial line of succession and has sovereign power. Because Queen Elizabeth II ascended when her father, King George VI died in 1952, she is a Queen, whereas Camilla is becoming Queen Consort by marriage.

What is Camilla’s new title?

She has now been established as the Queen Consort, but colloquially, Camilla will likely be referred to as just Queen Camilla. After King George’s death, his wife, Elizabeth, became known as The Queen Mother, mostly to avoid the confusion of dueling Queen Elizabeths.

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