Camilla Parker-Bowles Will Be Queen When Prince Charles Becomes King, Unless Someone Changes The Law

The laws that determine titles in the British royal family are ancient and apparently immutable.

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles appear together, facing one another.
Matt Rourke / Getty Images

The laws that determine titles in the British royal family are ancient and apparently immutable.

Camilla Parker-Bowles will become Queen — sort of — when her husband, Prince Charles, assumes the throne. This comes despite any fervent wishes to the contrary that may be lurking within the British government.

As RSVP magazine reports, the British public has largely warmed up to the second wife of Prince Charles — a marked change from the somewhat ugly public sentiment surrounding her persona in the days immediately following the death of his first wife, Princess Diana. However, that’s not to say that everyone within the British government, or British public, likes her enough to eventually call her their queen. And indeed, by some reports, she doesn’t even want that title.

That’s too bad, says an unnamed professor in public law at the University of Oxford. The law says that the woman who is married to the man who becomes king will take the title of queen — or more specifically, queen consort — whether she wants it or not.

The laws that govern names, titles, forms of address, and similar minutiae within the royal family — and other English nobility — are at once arcane and apparently immutable. When a woman assumes the throne, and she becomes queen, her husband does not become king or king consort. Rather, he becomes prince consort. That’s the title that Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, uses to this day.

But when a man becomes king, his wife becomes queen consort, rather than princess consort. Which means that her and Charles’ previous statement — that she will be addressed as “HRH The Princess Consort” — is basically null and void.

Laws are laws, and so she has no choice, says the unnamed professor.

“In these legal and symbolic senses, Camilla will be ‘Queen’, whether she wants it or not.”

Or maybe not, says another professor. Lord Norton of Louth, of the University of Hull, says that official titles will be handed out here and there following the ascension of Charles — but that Camilla won’t have to use any of them if she doesn’t want to.

“If she wishes to be known by another title, that’s a matter of royal prerogative, so the monarch could determine that another style will be employed.”

That would put King Charles III (or whatever regnal name he takes following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II) in the awkward position of having to tell his wife whether she can or cannot use the title she wants.

Although this quibbling over what is essentially words on paper may seem petty to the average American — titles, styles, and forms of address are an extremely big deal in the royal family. When Princess Diana divorced from Prince Charles in 1996, her lawyers and royal family lawyers went into great detail to make sure her divorce settlement included titles she wanted to keep, and none that the royal family didn’t want her to have.