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What is a queen consort?

An introduction to consorts past and present.

Queen Camilla wearing a crown
Queen Camilla PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo ©

Reading time: 4 minutes

A consort is the title for the wife or husband of a monarch. In the past consorts have mostly been queens consort. A royal consort has no constitutional power but supports their spouse in his or her duties as sovereign.

There are a several other titles for queens. The official term for a reigning queen, such as Queen Elizabeth II, is queen regnant. A dowager queen is a former queen consort whose husband has died. Dowager queens may also take the title of queen mother, referring to their role as mother of the monarch. Queen Elizabeth, consort of King George VI, was Queen Mother to Queen Elizabeth II.

Family photo of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, King George VI, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 2943771)©

Can there be a king consort?

The title ‘king consort’ does not exist but male consorts have held a variety of other titles in the past. The title king is reserved for the reigning monarch who has inherited the throne, like King Charles III.

Prince Albert was given the official title of Prince Consort in 1857, several years after his marriage to Queen Victoria. Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, never wished to be created Prince Consort. In 1957 he was granted instead the title of Prince of the United Kingdom. Traditionally male consorts are not crowned during the coronation ceremony.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh waving to the crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace (RCIN 2002628)©

Is a queen consort crowned?

Queens consort usually take part in the coronation, undertaking many of the same ceremonies as their husbands. The consort has traditionally worn elaborate robes and walked in the procession under a canopy. They have also been anointed with holy oil and been crowned.

The earliest surviving consort’s crown is that created in 1685 for Queen Mary of Modena. Since the early-20th century, it was traditional for a new crown to be created for the queen consort. However Her Majesty Queen Camilla did not have a new crown created for the Coronation in 2023. 

Queen Mary of Modena

Mary of Modena was the second wife of James II. She was queen consort at the time of his coronation in 1685. Two crowns were made for her to wear – a Coronation Crown and a ‘Rich Crown’ or Crown of State.

Her Crown of State was later worn by Queen Caroline, consort of George II at their coronation in 1727. Mary of Modena’s crowns were also adapted for Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV.

Portrait of Mary of Modena (RCIN 403225) and the State Crown of Mary of Modena (RCIN 31707) ©

Queen Alexandra

Queen Alexandra was the consort of King Edward VII. For her coronation she broke with tradition and decided not to wear the crowns originally made for Mary of Modena.

Instead, she had her own crown created. It was mounted with jewels from Queen Alexandra’s personal collection, by the firm of Carrington. After the coronation in 1902, her crown was broken up and the stones returned to their earlier settings.

Portrait of Queen Alexandra wearing coronation robes. Her crown rests on a cushion (RCIN 404554)©

Queen Mary

Queen Mary was the consort of King George V. They were crowned together at Westminster Abbey in 1911. The Queen also had a new crown for the coronation. This was made by the firm of royal goldsmiths, Garrard & Co. It is adorned with 2,200 diamonds set into a silver frame, lined with gold.

Her Majesty Queen Camilla wore an adapted version of Queen Mary’s crown at the Coronation in 2023.

Queen Mary in her coronation robes (RCIN 402024) and Queen Mary's Crown (RCIN 31704)©

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth was the consort of King George VI. For the coronation in 1937 she had a crown created by Garrard & Co. Most of the diamonds were reused from a circlet made for Queen Victoria and reset for the coronation.

She also wore a purple velvet Robe of Estate at the coronation. It is embroidered in silk and gold thread with the national emblems of the United Kingdom as well as interlaced Es for Elizabeth.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth (RCIN 403423) and her Coronation Robe (RCIN 75052)©

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