On April 5, King Charles unveiled his official coronation invitation on social media, complete with a colorful border and royal crests. However, we noticed something peculiar about the invite. Instead of using Camilla Parker Bowles’s official title, His Majesty referred to his wife as “Queen Camilla.” Yet, in the caption, the royal family’s social media account called her “Queen Consort.” This led us to wonder about using queen consort vs queen—and which one actually applies to Parker Bowles.
Queen Consort vs Queen: What's the Difference Between These Two Royal Titles?
Now, if you recall, Queen Elizabeth revealed in her Accession Day message that she wanted Parker Bowles to be called “Queen Consort” when her son became king. In February 2022, she said, “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.”
Sure enough, the palace honored Her Majesty’s request and the former Duchess of Cornwall got a major title upgrade in September, following the queen’s passing. Buckingham Palace released a statement at the time that used the new title: “The King and the Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
So, why the sudden switch to Queen Camilla (sans “Consort”) on the coronation invitation? What’s the difference between queen consort and queen? Do they have different responsibilities? Keep reading for details.
What Does the 'Queen' Title Entail?
The queen is the official Head of State, as well as the head of the royal family, atop a long line of succession. In fact, the late Queen Elizabeth fell into this category during her 70-year reign.
Although she holds no political or executive role, the monarch carries out a number of constitutional and representational duties. Also, according to the royal website, the queen holds a less formal role as the Head of Nation, where she “acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognizes success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.”
What Does the 'Queen Consort' Title Entail?
“Queen consort” is the term used by the wife of a reigning monarch, and it usually denotes that the wife maintains the same social status as her husband. However, in the case of the British monarchy, the queen consort is not in the line of succession and is only given the title through marriage.
The New York Times reports that within the British monarchy, the queen consort does not hold any sort of formal position in government, either. However, according to the official royal website, she supports her husband by helping him carry out his work and duties. The royal also attends several public engagements on behalf of the charities that she supports. (For more details on the royal title, you can check out our explainer on queen consorts.)
Queen Consort vs Queen: What's the Difference?
Basically, a queen is the ruler of a monarchy (AKA the head honcho) who has inherited the role from a family member, and with it, she’s become the head of state, with major political influence. She is the face of the monarchy.
On the other hand, a queen consort is simply the spouse of the reigning monarch and she does not hold any of the same political influence that a queen does. If it helps to clarify things, Merriam-Webster defines the word “consort” as an “associate” or a “spouse.” Queens consort, historically, have been in charge of running the royal household, and in the case of Parker Bowles, she is the patron of many organizations, which she will likely continue to work with throughout her time as queen consort.
Why Is Parker Bowles Now Queen Camilla Instead of Queen Consort?
Well, it’s worth clarifying that the title “Queen Camila” is not an official change, which means she is not a ruling monarch. According to expert Rachel Bowie, PureWow’s Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals, Parker Bowles’s official role as “queen consort” will not change, even though some people will refer to her as “queen.”
Bowie told us, "When the Queen passed and we saw the first reference to Camilla as Queen Consort, it was always understood that, colloquially, the 'Consort' would eventually be dropped. But in the early days of the transition, it helped reduce confusion when referencing Queen Elizabeth II. Now that the adjustment has been made by the public, the royal family will start using Camilla’s title—minus the Consort—more regularly. We saw that clearly with the coronation invitation."
Wait, So Why Was Prince Philip Never Crowned King Consort?
When Prince Philip tied the knot with Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, he became the prince consort, rather than king consort. And during their 73-year marriage, the royal was never given the title of king. This is because male consorts aren’t typically given this title, according to tradition, and it’s mainly to avoid the appearance of king consorts outranking the British queen.
Additionally, Prince Philip was not in the British line of succession. He was born a prince of Greece and Denmark, so he actually couldn’t be crowned as king of the U.K., much like Prince Albert when he married Queen Victoria in 1840. In his book about Prince Philip, called I Know I Am Rude, Nigel Cawthorne wrote, “Victoria was a Queen who still ruled Britain and Prince Albert was effectively her prime minister in all but name. Even though he had an important role in the palace, he was not made 'King Consort' because he was a foreigner.”
He continued, "Elizabeth as Queen would no longer wield Victoria's power. [Philip’s] wife's office was confined to the institution of the monarchy as it existed in Britain. As a spouse, he had to fit in since he had no standing in the line of succession or in the institution."