Why Camilla Will Be Queen Consort, and What That Means

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Following King Charles III’s ascension to the throne after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, his wife Camilla, formerly the Duchess of Cornwall, will now be known as Queen Consort.

Previous royal tradition dictated that the title would be given to the king’s wife, but Charles’ divorce from Princess Diana in 1996 complicated the matter. At the time of their separation, the Church of England strongly opposed divorce. Public admiration for Diana was (and remains) strong, causing many to feel that Camilla should not have taken the title out of respect for Diana.

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But, the Queen put questions about Camilla’s title to rest in February, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of her reign. In a statement, the Queen Elizabeth II announced that it was her “most sincere wish that, when the time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.” It was the first time the Queen had acknowledged Camilla’s role in the monarchy in this way.

“We are deeply conscious of the honor represented by my mother’s wish,” Charles said, in response to his mother’s statement in February. “As we have sought together to serve and support Her Majesty and the people of our communities, my darling wife has been my own steadfast support throughout.”

Camilla will take the title of Queen Consort, which indicates that she is the spouse of a king, instead of title of queen because members who marry into the royal family can’t inherit the throne. The last Queen consort was Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, who became known as the Queen Mother after King George VI died and her daughter ascended to the throne.

Royal experts agree that this decision was coordinated to ease Charles’ transition to the throne, especially amid a complicated reputation in the public. “It seems increasingly clear to me that as much as he can claim to be working in the tradition of his mother, carrying out her vision, the better for him,” Arianne Chernock, a Boston University professor, previously told the New York Times.

Camilla and Charles faced criticism for years after their affair was confirmed in the press. Diana, who died in 1997, was globally loved and she blamed Camilla for her failed marriage. Some believed this would prevent Camilla from ever marrying Charles—let alone being called Queen. Following their 2005 marriage, Camilla did not take Diana’s title of Princess of Wales, instead opting for Duchess of Cornwall.

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And despite a much improved public opinion of Camilla in the 25 years since Diana’s death, there is still much debate as to whether she deserves to take the title. A May 2022 poll found that just 20% of the British public believed that Camilla should take on the title of queen consort, with nearly 40% believing that she should be called the Princess Consort.

Charles also has big shoes to fill now that he is king. YouGov poll results list Charles as the seventh most popular royal family member, with nearly a quarter of Brits saying they disapprove of him. By contrast, Queen Elizabeth II’s approval rating on the day of her passing was at a high of 75%.

Camilla’s new title expands her role at his coronation, which will likely not come for several months, as per standard royal tradition.

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