When Camilla Parker Bowles married Prince Charles in 2005, she acquired the title, “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall” (as well as “HRH The Duchess of Rothesay” when in Scotland ). Technically, she is also “HRH The Princess of Wales” and “HRH Princess Charles,” but she isn’t styled as such (which essentially means that she doesn’t go by those titles). When Charles becomes King, Prince William, being Charles’s eldest son, will acquire the title, “Duke of Cornwall” and may also be created The Prince of Wales as well, meaning that William’s wife, Kate Middleton, will become the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as the Princess of Wales.
So where does that leave Camilla?
English common law provides for a traditional title
The traditional title for the wife of the King is “Queen consort.” This title reflects that the woman who holds it was not born into the monarchy but rather married into it. Nevertheless, the Queen consort, like a hereditary Queen, receives her crown in a formal coronation ceremony (albeit one that is separate from the King’s). She’s also typically addressed and referred to as “Queen” during her husband’s life.
So, unless some other provision is made (and whether that will happen is something we’ll discuss below), Camilla will become Queen consort when Charles ascends the throne, and she will be referred to as Queen Camilla during Charles’s lifetime. Because her actual title will be Queen consort, it’s not considered misleading to refer to or address her as Queen Camilla. Here’s why Prince Philip is not known as the “King” or “King consort.”
What is the Queen consort’s title after the King dies?
Reflecting that the Queen consort has no hereditary claim to the throne, traditionally on the death of the King, the Queen is referred to as the “dowager queen.” This is true whether or not the next reigning monarch has a wife or happens to be a woman.
The mother of King George VI was Queen Mary (born Mary of Teck in 1867), the Queen consort of King George V. When George V died, and King Edward VIII ascended the throne, Queen Mary became “Queen Mary, the dowager queen”—despite that King Edward VIII was unmarried at the time (and there was, therefore, no “Queen” or “Queen consort).
The mother of Queen Elizabeth II was Queen Elizabeth (born Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon), the Queen consort of King George VI. When George VI died, and Queen Elizabeth II became the monarch, Queen Elizabeth became “Queen Elizabeth, the dowager queen.” However, she soon took on the style of “Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother” so as to distinguish herself from her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II and thus avoid confusion.
Fun fact about both examples:
Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were not the first to be called Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, and yet neither received a “II” after her name. That’s because neither had inherited the throne (a “Queen regnant”), having married into it instead. The numerical designation is reserved for hereditary monarchs.
So if Camilla outlives Charles after Charles becomes King, Camilla will be referred to as “Queen Camilla, the dowager queen.” Learn more about the British royal line of succession.
But wait, what’s this about Prince Charles planning on making Camilla the “Princess consort”?
A while back, the official website of the Prince of Wales mentioned in its FAQ section that upon Prince Charles’s accession to the throne, Camilla would be known as “Princess consort.” This was unprecedented—however, in recent years, the statement has since come down from the website.
Prince Charles claims he took it down because it was no longer an important question that the public was asking regularly. However, many people speculate that the statement was removed because Charles wishes for Camilla to be Queen consort when he ascends the throne and because Prince Charles doesn’t have the legislative power to declare Camilla anything but Queen consort. Next, find out what will happen immediately after Queen Elizabeth’s death.