Camilla Parker Bowles’s New Title, Explained

Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

As you have probably heard by now, Queen Elizabeth II‘s 70-year reign ended on Thursday, September 8. Aside from a sensational day on the internether death has also set in motion a complex series of royal protocols concerning her successionwhich unfortunately involve none of her corgis. Instead, her eldest son, Charles, will take the throne, and his wife, Camilla, will become the queen consort.

Camilla’s involvement in the royal family is not without controversy. Charles’s first wife was, of course, Princess Diana, who famously said that there were “three of us” in their marriage, referring to Charles’s and Camilla’s infamous affair, which ultimately ended Charles and Diana’s (admittedly already unhappy) marriage. Camilla and Charles got married in 2005, and she’s largely won over the affections of the British public, but her promotion to queen consort still came as something of a surprise. Here’s what to know.

Charles and Camilla were longtime friends and dated on and off before he married Diana in 1981. According to several royal biographers and also The CrownCharles wanted to marry Camilla but was steered away from her by the royal family, who didn’t think she’d be a suitable wife largely thanks to the fact that she had a few ex-boyfriends and therefore was probably not a virgin. Also, Camilla may not have been interested in marrying Charles: In 1973, she had married a lieutenant named Andrew Parker Bowles, whom historians say she was genuinely in love with. But at some point, Charles and Camilla rekindled their relationship, striking up an affair that ultimately became a public scandal and led to Charles and Diana’s divorce.

Charles and Diana finalized their divorce in 1996, about a year after Camilla signed her own divorce papers. Over the following decade, he gradually worked her into his public life, even hiring a royal PR expert to sway the public in her favor. After all, Diana was the People’s Princess, and the embarrassing details of Charles and Camilla’s affair — most notably the leaked transcript of a horny phone call where Charles told Camilla he would like to be a tampon so he could hang out in her underwear — didn’t exactly make them an appealing alternative.

There was also the more official matter of legal approval. Given the monarchy’s close ties with the Church of England, divorce and remarriage are not looked upon kindly in the royal family: Elizabeth’s uncle, Edward VIII, gave up the throne to her father because the British government wouldn’t let him marry a divorced woman and remain king. When Charles and Camilla finally married in 2005, the queen didn’t attend the wedding because the Church of England had not officially changed its stance on remarrying after divorce.

Even so, Elizabeth, the British Parliament, and the Church of England had all consented to the marriage, which helped minimize the public backlash. Another thing that may have helped: Because the Princess of Wales title was so strongly associated with Diana, Camilla opted not to use it, and has instead gone by Duchess of Cornwall, which corresponds with Charles’s highest subsidiary title, Duke of Cornwall.

Since then, England seems to have warmed to Camilla. So has Elizabeth, who was reportedly not a fan of her throughout the affair and subsequent relationship but has been pictured amicably hanging out with her over the past decade.

Well, she’s a queen The spouses of British monarchs are typically deemed “consorts,” and it looks like Camilla will be no exception. In February, Elizabeth confirmed in a special announcement that Charles would inherit the throne after her death, and said it was her “sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.” This was a change from the previous one plan, which was for Camilla to become the inferior Princess Consort instead of Queen Consort, given the controversy surrounding their marriage. A few royal biographers recently claimed William and Harry both objected to the idea of ​​Camilla becoming queen consort, with one saying they were “blindsided” by the February announcement.

As the slightly more esteemed queen consort, Camilla will most likely be anointed at Charles’s coronation with a simpler, smaller ceremony, per the official customs — though again, those have been called into question given Camilla’s second-spouse status. Once she officially takes on the position, she won’t have any formal duties but is expected to make public appearances alongside Charles. For the Mirror, the consort’s main job is “to provide support and companionship” to the monarch. In the past, consorts have apparently served as a glorified assistant of sorts, hosting events and going to charity galas to represent the monarchy. Camilla is apparently a patron of over 90 charities, so she has plenty of practice there.

The line of succession follows Philip’s blood descendants, so Camilla will never become the actual queen, even if he dies before her. His successor is Prince William, which might complicate Camilla’s title if she does outlive her husband — if William were her biological son, she would probably become the Queen Mother (a role Elizabeth’s mother held for several years), but being a stepmother makes things a little more complicated. She also has two children of her own from her first marriage, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles, who won’t get any royal titles.

For the foreseeable future, though, Camilla will probably be making plenty of public appearances at King Charles’ side. To me, her best moment is this video of her winking during a 2019 visit with Donald and Melania Trump:

I look forward to seeing more of this energy at all royal engagements to come.

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