LONDON — After seven decades, the UK has a new woman to call queen.
Charles’s wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will be known as Queen Consort – a title that came with Queen Elizabeth II’s blessing after years of contention, dating back to the days before she even married Prince Charles.
It wasn’t always a given that 75-year-old Camilla would take the title, even if it doesn’t give her any of the sovereign’s powers.
Although a king’s wife is traditionally crowned queen, the question of what title Camilla would have when Charles became king had been a tricky one for years. That was due to sensitivity about her status as his second wife – and the wave of grief that swept over Britain after the death of his former wife, Princess Diana, in a car accident in 1997.
Charles and the royal household have taken the matter cautiously, bearing in mind the lingering public perception of Camilla as the “third person” who has ruined the marriage between Charles and the beloved princess.
But in recent decades, Camilla has won over large segments of the British public with her discretion, down-to-earth personality and loyalty to her husband.
When Camilla and Charles married in a low-key civil ceremony in 2005, she was effectively the new Princess of Wales – Diana’s title – but instead referred to herself as the Duchess of Cornwall.
Palace officials said for years that Camilla “intended” to be known as “Princess Consort” — rather than the traditional “Queen Consort” — when Charles took the throne.
There is no precedent for the title princess consort, which was allegedly suggested by royal officials. The similar title of Prince Consort has only been used once – for Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901.
In a 2010 interview with NBC, Charles was asked if Camilla would “become Queen of England, if and when you become the monarch.” He hesitated when he replied, “That’s, well… We’ll see, won’t we? That could be.”
The question was settled when Elizabeth stated that she wanted Camilla to be known as Queen Consort after her son became king. It was an endorsement that formally signified the royal family’s acceptance of Camilla as a respected senior member and was widely seen as a move by Elizabeth to smooth a smooth transition to Charles’s reign.
“When my son Charles becomes king in time, I know that you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own faithful service,” Elizabeth said in February 2022, marking the 70th anniversary of her reign.
Charles said he and Camilla were “deeply aware of the honor.”
“As we have tried together to serve and support Her Majesty and the people of our communities, my dear wife has been my own steadfast support all along,” he said.
The most recent queen consort in British history was George VI’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, who was known as the Queen Mother in later years after her daughter became monarch in 1952.
According to custom, Camilla will be anointed at Charles’ coronation, although that could be omitted.
Born Camilla Rosemary Shand on July 17, 1947, she came from aristocrats who had long and close ties to the British Royal Family. Her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was a romantic partner of King Edward VII.
She met Charles at a polo match in 1970 when she was 23 and he was considered Britain’s most eligible bachelor. The two became immediately close, and by the end of 1972, Charles had been beaten. But the romance was interrupted by his eight months of naval service.
During his absence, Camilla married her longtime boyfriend, Army Officer Andrew Parker Bowles, in 1973. The couple divorced in 1995, shortly after Charles gave an explosive television interview admitting an affair with Camilla. Charles and Diana divorced the following year.
Charles and Camilla waited another nine years and were married in 2005 in a private ceremony at the Guildhall in Windsor.
Since then, Camilla has taken on dozens of royal duties. She is a patron or president of more than 90 charities and has shown particular interest in working with animals, promoting literacy and empowering women. She has also found her voice as a public speaker and earns respect by campaigning on difficult issues such as sexual violence against women and domestic violence.
In 2021, she delivered what many called her historic speech, urging “the men in our lives” to stand up for women’s rights and extending her condolences to the families of women who have been murdered.
In the same year, Buckingham Palace underlined Camilla’s role as a senior royal by making her a Royal Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the highest knighthood in Britain.