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Is there a reason for a Queen's husband not to be referred to as King?

Is there a reason for a Queen's husband not to be referred to as King?

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While watching the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II events going on recently, I noticed that the Queen's husband is referred to as 'Prince'-- not 'King'. Upon researching further, I found that Queen Victoria and Mary III's husbands were both referred to as Prince, and not King. Is there a reason that a male marrying a Queen would not receive the title 'King', while a woman marrying a King would be elevated to the title of 'Queen'?

While Queen may refer to both Queen regnant (sovereign) or Queen consort, the King has always been the sovereign. There are historical reasons for this hierarchy --in a long line of English monarchs you will find more Kings than you would find Queens. In fact, if you do not recognize Matilda's and Lady Jane's claim to the throne of England then Queen Mary I of England becomes the first female sovereign of England -- and that happened in 1553, when the institution was already about 800 years old (recognizing kings before 1066).

This [long absence of a female sovereign] obviously led to the general belief that the King was the highest authority in England (hence a Kingdom and not a Queendom). And since historically Kings had declared their wives as Queens, the Queen had come to signify a lower rank in the hierarchy. Thus, Queens never bestowed the generous title of King on their husbands.

There are two exceptions of which I am aware:

  1. Queen Mary I's husband was King Philip II of Spain, who was also referred to in the court as the King of England (Jure Uxoris). In theory he was the joint sovereign with Mary.
  2. Queen Mary II and her husband (and cousin) King William III reigned jointly. But in this case, both had a claim to the throne (an act of Parliament following the Glorious Revolution).

There are two types of queens. A Queen Consort is the wife of a King. A Queen Regnant is a ruler in her own right, a "female king" of you will.

The husband of a Queen Consort is just the King, per the above. But the husband of a Queen Regnant is a Prince Consort. "Prince" is one level below King, and the Consort's title is held at a level below the Queen's.

Queen Elizabeth II is a Queen Regnant, having inherited the title from her father King George VI, and that's why her husband Philip is a Prince Consort.

There are instances when the King of country A marries the Queen Regnant of country B. (E.g King Philip of Spain and Queen Mary of England.) Then the husband is generally referred to as "King," because that's what he is in his own country (A). But he's really a "Prince Consort" in country B.

There is also something called the Crown Matrimonial, whereby a Queen Regnant will give "equal" (kingly) powers to her husband through her marriage (matrimony). Sweden's Queen Ulrike Eleonora did this in the 18th century. But that's rare, and is a form of de facto "abdication."

One reason, certainly in the UK, is that a woman has historically, and still, taken her title/status from her husband not the other way round. So, if Miss Jane Smith marries the Duke of Basingstoke, she becomes the Duchess of Basingstoke. But when Countess Mountbatten succeeded her father in default of male heirs, her husband did not become an Earl.

Medieval practice was different, and if men married the last female heir to a title, he assumed her father's title sui uxoris. I am not sure when this practice died out. Whilst not related to the UK, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden's husband is merely "Prince" not Crown Prince.

I suspect as more females inherit under gender blind primogeniture, this may well change.

There is a very good reason not to refer to the Queen's spouse as "King" - because they aren't the King. King is a job title in the government (like President or Prime Minister, or Mayor, or Senator), not a role in a marriage.

The monarch/sovreign of a country acquires the title "King" based on their role in the governance relationship.

The spouse of the sovreign does not share the role of monarch any more than the First Lady aquires the title President, or the wife of a policeman gets a badge.

Interesting, if less than completely relevant note; if the Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a female child, that would be the first woman in history who would have full and unchallenged right to the title of Queen of England. (Prior to this, a female child would be supplanted by a subsequent male heir). In that case, her husband would also be "Prince".

In the United Kingdom and the earlier kingdoms within it, the title of king consort was sometimes granted to the husband of a queen regnant but not in the last few centuries when the title of a queen regnant's husband has varied.

Obviously a man has to gain the title and/or position of king in some way in order to be a king and be called a king. If he never goes through the process of becoming a king he never is a king and is never called a king.

There are two types of queens.

The most common type of queen is a queen consort. A queen consort is a queen because she is the wife of a king. Being the king's wife gives her the right to be queen. Her husband is king in his own right. Her husband gets to be king by inheritance, election, intrigue, successful treason, right of conquest, etc. or by some combination of two or more of the above.

The other type of queen is a queen regnant. A queen regnant is a queen who reigns and/or rules in her own right. Thus a queen regnant is sort of a kingess, a female with all the powers and duties of a male king. A queen regnant gets to be queen regnant by inheritance, election, intrigue, successful treason, right of conquest, etc. or by some combination of two or more of the above, just like a King does.

There have been European kingdoms where the King was the only member of the royal family with a special title. The King's children and other relatives and his wife didn't have special titles because after all the king was the only one in the family with the job of ruling over the kingdom. But over time it became normal for the wife of a king to have a special title and for the children and other relatives of the king to have a special title.

In the 9th and 10th centuries the kings of Wessex united the Anglo-Saxons to form the kingdom of the English or of England, which is officially listed as founded in 927. In 964 King Edgar the Peaceful married as his third wife Aelfthryth and had her crowned and consecrated as queen - previous spouses of kings had been described simply as "king's wife" or "King's consort" - the first queen consort of England.

Children of English kings were called lords and ladies until and unless granted a specific nobility title. In 1714 the new King George I started the practice of making children and male line grandchildren of a British monarch princes and princesses.

And other European kingdoms have changed the titles of King's wives and children over time.

When Mary Stuart (1542-1587) became Queen regnant of Scotland in 1542 and when Jane Gray (c.1537-1554) and then Mary I (1516-1558) became Queen regnant of England in 1553 there was little British precedent for queens regnant - the most recent was Margaret the Maid of Norway (1283-1290) who became Queen regnant of Scotland in 1286 but died on the voyage to Scotland. And there were precedents from foreign kingdoms where queens regnant married.

Mary Stuart, queen regnant of Scotland, moved to France and married the Dauphin Francis in 1558 who became king consort of Scotland, and when Francis became king of France in 1559 Mary became Queen consort of France. The widowed Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in 1565 and made him King consort of Scotland. He wanted the crown matrimonial, which would have made him co-monarch of Scotland equal in power to Mary, but was murdered in 1567. Mary married the Earl of Bothwell in 1567 and made him Duke of Orkney and Marquis of Fife.

Frances and Marie be the Grace of God King and Queen of Scottis Daulphin and Daulphines of Viennoys

Franciscus et Maria Dei gratia rex et regina Francorum ac Scotorum &c.

Henrie and Marie, be the grace of God King and Quene of Scotis


When Lady Jane Grey (c.1537-1554) was made Queen regnant of England in 1553 making her husband Guildford Dudley (c. 1535-1554) king consort was considered, but there wasn't time in her short reign. Queen Mary I (1516-1558) married Philip II (1527-1598), son of Emperor Charles V in 1554. The Emperor gave Philip a couple of his spare kingdoms and Philip became king consort of England.

The title of Philip and Mary in England was:

King of England, Spain, France, both Sicilies, Jerusalem, Ireland; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Milan, Burgundy, Brabant; Count of Habsburg, Flanders, Tyrol;

Philippus et Maria, Dei Gratia Rex et Regina Anglie Hispaniarum Francie utriusque Sicilie Jerusalem et Hibernie fidei defensores Archiduces Austrie Duces Burgundie Mediolani Brabancie Comites Haspurgi Flandrie et Tirolis


Mary's sister Elizabeth I never married.

In 1688 William III (1650-1702), Stadtholder of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange, invaded England and overthrew his uncle King James II. William and his wife Mary II (1662-1694), elder daughter of King James, became joint monarchs of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Gulielmus et Maria, Dei gratia, Angliae, Scotiae, Franciae et Hiberniae Rex et Regina, Fidei Defensores, etc.


Mary's younger sister Anne (1665-1714) became queen regnant in 1702. Anne married Prince George of Denmark (1653-1708) in 1683. George was created Duke of Cumberland, Earl of Kendal, and Baron of Okingham in 1689. When Anne was queen she wanted to ask parliament to make George king consort, but the Duke of Marlborough persuaded her not to.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of the United Kingdom married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819-1861) in 1840. Victoria wanted to make Albert King consort but because of opposition she made him Prince consort of the United Kingdom in 1857.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (born 1924) married Prince Philip (born 1921) of Greece and Denmark in 1947. Philip abandoned his foreign titles and was created Baron Greenwich, Earl of Merioneth, and Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 and was made a prince of the United Kingdom in 1957.

So in the United Kingdom and the former kingdoms within it husbands of queens regnant were sometimes made kings consort in the 16th, but not in the 18th, 19th, or 20th centuries.

The simplest answer is that in a male dominated world, monarchs were usually male and it was understood that the man was in charge. When you had a king and queen people understood that the king was the ruler. Where you have a woman who is queen because she is the ruler, not because she is the wife of a king, there may be confusion as to who is in charge. By giving her consort husband a clearly lower rank, i.e. Prince or Duke, there is no confusion.


Queen Ankhesenamun was the chief wife of King Tutankhamun. Because of the mystery that surrounds much of her life, she is known as ‘Egypt’s Lost Princess’. She was born during Egypt’s most unsettled times in the 18th dynasty and her life reflected the turbulence of her country.

Born Ankhesenpaaten, she was named after her father, the heretic pharaoh, King Akhenaten. The “aten” at the end of her name meant that “she lives through Aten.” This honored the one god King Akhenaton believed to be the only true god. After King Akhenaton’s 17 year reign, he was forced to give up his position and Ankhesenpaaten’s name was changed to Ankhensenamun to reflect the will of the Priests of Amun.

Prince Philip Married Queen Elizabeth. So Why Wasn't He Called a King?

P rince Philip’s life changed completely when Queen Elizabeth ascended to the British throne after her father’s death in 1952.

Overnight, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday, went from being a Naval officer and young husband to a man expected to perform royal duties and defer to his wife in the public eye&mdashall under the title of Prince Consort rather than King of England.

Upon marrying the Queen, Prince Philip dropped his title as Prince of Greece and Denmark to become the Duke of Edinburgh. But when Queen Elizabeth took the throne, Philip did not become the King of England, thanks to a longstanding rule in the royal family which decrees that a man who marries a reigning queen will only be referred to as a Prince Consort.

A ruling queen’s husband is called a Prince Consort because the title of King is only given to a monarch who inherits the throne and can reign. Therefore, the title of King will go to Prince Charles, who will succeed Queen Elizabeth.

In 1957, Philip, then known only as the Duke of Edinburgh, officially became a Prince after Queen Elizabeth bestowed the title upon him. The decision was famously depicted in the Netflix hit series The Crown&mdashcoming after a dispute about Philip’s importance and standing within his own home.

Women who marry into the royal family have to follow slightly different rules. The wife of a ruling King would take the title of Queen Consort, a symbolic role that would bar her from ruling as a monarch but refer to her as queen. For example, Kate Middleton is likely to become Queen Catherine when Prince William takes over the throne, though she would not actually rule as Queen.

Elizabeth's parents did not approve of the match

In the beginning, King George VI didn't exactly approve of his daughter's choice of groom. As TIME reported, the king was concerned about British opinion when it came to his daughter marrying a Greek prince.

And it wasn't just Philip's family heritage that affected the King's opinion. The article also described what "irritated" the king. Philip's "loud, boisterous laugh and his blunt, seagoing manners" had an effect as well.

But, spoiler alert, Elizabeth was able to marry the man she wanted. She and Philip were married with she was 21 years old.

Charles wasn&apost ready for marriage. Camilla was

Though Charles quickly developed strong feelings for Camilla while they were together and was ostensibly wife-hunting (he was first in line to the throne, with a duty to produce an heir) — at the time he wasn&apost ready to marry. In addition to counseling Charles about how experienced his wife should be, Mountbatten had also told him a man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down. Given the number of women Charles dated over the years, he seemed to have taken this advice to heart.

While Charles wasn&apost ready for matrimony, Camilla was. Like most other girls with her background, she&aposd been raised to expect that her life path would be to get married, then set up a home with her husband and children. She hadn&apost gone to university, and instead of pursuing a career, she&aposd taken temporary jobs. For her, life wouldn&apost truly begin until she made it to the altar.

Parker Bowles had been away with his regiment in 1972, but he rekindled his relationship with Camilla while Charles was off with the Royal Navy. Camilla was soon engaged to her old boyfriend they married in 1973, devastating Charles. Yet Parker Bowles wasn&apost just a consolation prize for Camilla when she couldn&apost marry the prince she had always had strong feelings for him. In fact, the depth of her devotion to Parker Bowles didn&apost make her any more suitable for Charles.

Here’s Why Camilla Won’t Be Called ‘Queen’ When Prince Charles Is King

Despite what you may have heard, Queen Elizabeth II will not reign forever. Her son, Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales), will eventually become king, which means his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will have to be called something else. But it turns out, her new title won’t be Queen Camilla.

The duchess has had a lot of names and titles. She was born Camilla Shand and married Andrew Parker Bowles, becoming Camilla Parker Bowles. Then, when she married Prince Charles in 2005, she took on the title the Duchess of Cornwall. The reason she was not known as the Princess of Wales was out of respect for the late Princess Diana.

So when Charles becomes king, what are we supposed to call Camilla?

Apparently there’s been some confusion about her future title throughout the years. According to the Daily Star (per the Sunday Times), it’s rumored that Prince Charles would like his wife to be called the queen consort, which is the title usually bestowed upon the wife of the reigning king. Alas, he will be disappointed.

“The intention is for the duchess to be known as princess consort when the prince accedes to the throne,” a spokesperson for the royal couple recently told The Times. “This was announced at the time of the marriage and there has been absolutely no change at all.”

That’s true. Before the couple wed in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, Clarence House announced the creation of this new title. “It is intended that Mrs. Parker Bowles should use the title HRH The Princess Consort when The Prince of Wales accedes to The Throne,” the statement said. At the time, Slate described “princess consort” as a title created to avoid a P.R. crisis.

“It’s a new title created just for Camilla, because crowning her as queen would create P.R. problems for the royals,” columnist Daniel Engber wrote in February 2005. “A marriage between divorcees like Charles and Camilla remains taboo for some members of the Church of England, and Camilla is already unpopular for breaking up the prince’s marriage to Diana.”

Honestly, all this title-hopping is getting confusing. It’s reported that Princess Beatrice will also become a countess when she marries Italian “property tycoon” Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. That’s not even a part of the same royal succession. At this point, can’t we just call them all by their first names? It works for Harry.

This Is What Kate Middleton's Title Will Be When Prince William Becomes King

Plus, the circumstances under which she might become known as the Queen Mother.

Prince William likely won't become King for years. He's second in the order of succession, behind his father Prince Charles, and even at 92-years-old, Queen Elizabeth shows no signs of giving up the throne anytime soon.

But that hasn't stopped William from preparing for his future duties.

"There has always been a special closeness between William and the Queen, and she has taken a particular interest in him," Robert Lacey, royal expert and historical consultant for The Crown, told People.

"When William became a teenager, she would have him at Windsor Castle and would open the state boxes and guide him through the papers. It was William&rsquos constitutional education," he said.

William himself has described his Granny's teaching as "more of a soft influencing, modest kind of guidance."

"I don&rsquot think she believes too heavily in instruction," he told the BBC.

William has ostensibly been training to become King for his entire life, but what will Duchess Kate's role be once William ascends to the throne?

As the wife of a reigning monarch, she will become what's known as the Queen consort. To most of the world, Kate will hold the title of Queen Catherine, according to expert and author of the blog Royal Musings Marlene Koenig. Generally speaking, as Queen consort, Catherine will support her husband in his duties as King, attending engagements and making foreign visits, and she will also serve as patron of and campaign for causes and charitable organizations that she feels passionately about. As always, her role within the royal family will remain non-political.

The official coronation page on the royal family's website explains how Duchess Kate will likely be crowned: "Unless decided otherwise, a Queen consort is crowned with the King, in a similar but simpler ceremony."

But the site also shares a key difference between the wives of Kings and the husbands of Queens: "If the new Sovereign is a Queen, her consort is not crowned or anointed at the coronation ceremony."

Similarly, while the wives of Kings can be Queens, the husbands of Queens cannot be Kings. Chalk it up to the patriarchy (like so many royal traditions), but Kings always reign, whereas Queen can be a symbolic title, as it will be in the case of Queen Catherine. Hence why Queen Elizabeth's husband, the Duke of Edinburgh is a Prince consort, not a King consort.

The most recent British Queen consort was Elizabeth II's mother, Queen Elizabeth. Following the death of her husband King George VI, she opted to assume the title of the Queen Mother, so that she would not be confused with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

According to Marlene Koenig, the Duchess of Cambridge's title could become the Queen Mother later in life, should she outlive her husband.

"When [Prince] George is King (if Catherine is still alive), she can choose to be styled as HM Queen Catherine, the Queen Mother," Koenig says.

The last time England had a Queen Catherine was under the reign of Charles II. A Portuguese princess before she married Charles, Catherine of Braganza was Queen consort from 1662 to 1685.

How Prince Philip Became Queen Elizabeth's Unlikely Husband

Prince Philip, who died Friday at the age of 99, fulfilled his royal duties alongside his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, over the course of seven decades. During that time he redefined the strange role to which he had not been born but for which, it sometimes seemed, he was just the right fit.

He was not the first Queen’s Consort in British history&mdashQueen Victoria’s Prince Albert will likely remain the most famous for centuries to come, thanks for example to the museum that jointly bears their names. But, in a century in which the British monarchy faced a modernity that did not always accord easily with its traditions, he helped his Queen and wife become the monarch who defined a new era for her nation.

Much of the credit for that role, TIME posited in a 1957 cover story about the First Gentleman of the Realm (one of his several titles), could go to Philip’s unusual background for someone in his position. Though not Greek by lineage or upbringing, he was the only son of the brother of the King of Greece, a descendant of the Danish royal house and, more distantly, of Queen Victoria. Brought up in Paris and at English schools, he was “a relatively impoverished princeling,” as TIME put it, “[and] was reared like a commoner, has washed dishes, fired boilers, even played on a skittles team organized by the owner of a local pub.” (His outside-the-palace-walls youth would perhaps be reflected in later years, in what TIME once noted was a common occurrence he referred to as ” dontopedalogy&mdashopening his mouth and putting his foot in it.”)

But it was only after he entered the Royal Naval College that his destiny became clear.

TIME reported what happened next, in that 1957 cover story:

Tough instructors at Dartmouth went out of their way to prove the validity of Captain Bligh’s legendary dictum that “a midshipman is the lowest form of life in the British Navy.” But Phil the Greek (as he was sometimes called) weathered every storm. In two terms he received only one day’s punishment, and might well have avoided a second rude admonition had it not been for a young lady who came to call.

The young lady, a gawky girl of 13, was a distant cousin whose father had recently become King Emperor. A devastatingly handsome young man of 17, Philip could not be expected to show any great interest in her as a woman, but he could scarcely duck entertaining her. As an officer and a gentleman, he did his best to please by leaping lithely over a tennis net (“How good he is, Crawfie. How high he can jump!” cried Lilibet to her governess), and spicing the conversation on the royal yacht with salty &mdashthough not too salty&mdashanecdotes. Elizabeth was entranced, but if Philip remembered anything special about the visit, it concerned the following morning when, back on duty and too’ sleepy to hop to at first call, he hit the deck with a resounding whack as a touchy petty officer slashed the cords on his hammock.

Soon Elizabeth was peppering her handsome cousin with letters. On the rare occasions when he would deign to reply, she would race to the nearest lavatory in search of the only guaranteed privacy available, bolt the door, and read her letter in ecstatic solitude. Philip went on to graduate (in 1939) from the Naval College at the top of his class and to win a coveted prize as the best all-round midshipman. Thirteen months later he handled a searchlight battery so alertly in a point-blank naval engagement between British and Italians that he earned a mention in dispatches.

Good-looking young naval officers are seldom left long to twiddle their thumbs in loneliness ashore, and it is certain that Philip was no exception. “He was adorable,” says one of the dozens of young Australian girls Philip met when he was executive officer of the destroyer Whelp on duty in the South Pacific. “We were all absolutely crazy about him.” But it is equally certain that, during the same period, Philip’s manly face, adorned with a full foliage of whiskers, was framed in silver in a prominent spot on Elizabeth’s dressing table back home. Back in England at war’s end, like many another Navy regular, Philip was put on shore duty. His small black M.G. with its green seats was soon setting new records for the 98-mile trip from Corsham, Wilts., to London, and between a bachelor’s gay rounds of West End’s nightspots, its destination was often Buckingham Palace.

…Despite Philip’s British background and his fine war record, George VI was deeply worried about how British opinion, particularly its left wing, would take to a Greek Prince as the husband of the heiress presumptive. There was also something about his daughter’s brash young man with his loud, boisterous laugh and his blunt, seagoing manners that irritated the gentle King. Besides, the fellow couldn’t shoot.There was many a tense moment for George as Elizabeth moped about in tearful martyrdom while her mother and grandmother, the doughty old Queen Mary, fought her battle for her. At last George decided that the young couple (she was 20, he 25) should wait six months to make sure of each other. Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis (now Earl) Mountbatten, who had hoped for the marriage all along, got busy at the King’s request, sounding out public opinion and smoothing the political path to romance. A public-opinion poll of the Sunday Pictorial soon showed 64% of its readers in favor of the marriage.

In July 1947, newly naturalized as plain British Lieut. Philip Mountbatten, the ex-Prince of Greece, a relatively poverty-stricken sailor with only one suit of civvies to his name, moved into Kensington Palace to await the ordeal of becoming a bridegroom. “That poor young navy officer,” moaned a royal valet, “he don’t even have no hairbrushes.”

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault:The Queen’s Husband

4. Royals Do Not Drive Themselves

Members of the royal family live their lives surrounded by rules, regimes and protocol which restrict what they can do.

On public excursions they are escorted by Metropolitan Police protection officers and are sometimes driven in convoy with police cars (sirens on) during official events.

However, they are free to drive themselves and frequently do.

Meghan Markle told Oprah Winfrey: "When I joined that family, that was the last time I saw my passport, my driving licence, my keys&mdashall of that gets turned over."

The following day, on March 8, Kate Middleton was photographed driving herself with the pictures published on the Daily Mail website.

The queen, famously, is not one to wear a seatbelt.

Marie Antoinette liked flowers and chocolates, Queen-style

While Louis was busy making locks and spinning wheels, Marie was indulging her taste for luxury. Raised by her family in a homespun manner, often helping out with chores and playing with 𠇌ommon” children, Marie nonetheless took to the role of queen with gusto. She became notorious for her pricey fashions and expensively sculpted hair. A party girl, she planned and attended innumerable dances, once famously playing a trick on her homebody husband to get out the door sooner. Louis usually went to bed at 11 p.m., so the mischievous Marie set the clocks back so that he went to bed earlier without realizing it.

Two of Marie’s favorite things were, ironically enough, things we associate with romance: flowers and chocolate. Flowers were almost an obsession with the queen, who papered her walls with flowered wallpaper, decorated all of her commissioned furniture with flower motifs (perhaps Louis should have put a daisy or two on that spinning wheel), and tended the real thing in her own personal flower garden on her mini-estate at Versailles, Petit Trianon. She even commissioned a unique perfume, whose floral sent was a mixture of orange blossom, jasmine, iris, and rose. (Some historians have contended that this unique scent aided in the capture of the king and queen when they tried to flee to Austria during the height of the revolution.)

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