Pop Culture

What’s the Difference Between the Queen and the Queen Consort?

Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September 2022 set in motion her son Charles’ ascension to the throne, and with her death, Charles’ wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, became the Queen Consort. The Palace, however, began referring to Camilla as just “Queen Camilla”on its official invitation to the coronation, released publicly in April—a move that caused some controversy given Camilla’s history in the family.

The initial shift from Duchess of Cornwall to Queen Consort was acknowledged in the Palace’s brief statement on the Queen’s death in September. The Palace first used the title when it announced 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. As for her being called Queen instead of Queen Consort now…that’s a more recent development. Let’s break down what it all means.

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.

Why is Camilla being called Queen Camilla officially instead of Queen Consort?

With the release of Charles’ coronation invitation, Queen Camilla began getting used officially by the royal family.

A royal source explained the shift, telling CNN that the royal family only called her Queen Consort initially to distinguish her from Queen Elizabeth II immediately after her death. That source suggested it was always the plan to drop the “consort” title eventually—at least on the coronation invitation to start.

“It made sense to refer to Her Majesty as the Queen Consort in the early months of His Majesty’s reign, to distinguish from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” the source explained on April 5. “‘Queen Camilla’ is the appropriate title to set against ‘King Charles’ on the invitation. The coronation is an appropriate time to start using ‘Queen Camilla’ in an official capacity. All former Queen Consorts have been known as ‘Queen’ plus their first name.”

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Senior News and Strategy Editor

Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.