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A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Most of the time, however, queen consorts have no real power.

Most queens in history were queens consort; the other kind, queens regnant (queens in their own right), who inherit the throne on the death of the previous monarch, being far fewer in numbers.


The wife of a reigning king is called a queen consort. The husband of a reigning queen is usually not called "king consort," although it was more common in Europe's past for husbands of queens regnant to become reigning kings (e.g. Philip II of Spain in England, Antoine of Bourbon-Vendôme in Navarre, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in Portugal, etc). He is normally called a prince or prince consort, as with the husbands of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

Where some title other than that of king is held by the sovereign, his wife is referred to by the feminine equivalent, such as princess consort or empress consort. Japan's Empress Iwa-no hime was the empress consort of Emperor Nintokumarker in the late fourth century.

In monarchies where polygamy has or is being practiced (such as Moroccomarker, Thailandmarker) or is still practiced (such as the Zulu nation) the number of wives of the king varies. In Morocco, the present king Mohammed VI has broken with tradition and given his wife Lalla Salma the title of princess. Prior to the reign of King Mohammed VI, the Moroccan monarchy had no such title. In Thailand (like virtually every other monarchy) the queen and king must be of royal blood. The king's other consorts are accorded royal titles that confer status. Other cultures maintain different traditions on queenly status. A Zulu chief designated one of his wives, "Great Wife", who would be the equivalent to queen consort.

Role of the queen consort

In general, the consorts of monarchs have no power per se, even when their position is constitutionally or statutorily recognized. However, often the queen consort of a deceased king (the queen dowager or queen mother) has served as regent while her child, the successor to the throne, was still a minor—for example: Besides these examples, there have been many cases of queens consort being shrewd or ambitious stateswomen and, albeit unofficially, being among the king's major advisors. In some cases, the queen consort has been the chief power behind her husband's throne; e.g. Maria Luisa of Parma, wife of Carlos IV of Spain, and Alexandra Fyodorovna , wife and Empress Consort of Nicholas II of Russia.

A potential exception to the rule of referring to the wife of the monarch as queen consort may in the future be Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, spouse of Charles, Prince of Wales. When their wedding was announced it was declared that, in the event of Charles's ascent to the British throne, Camilla would assume the title of Princess Consort and not that of Queen. Subsequent British ministerial comment during Parliamentary discussion confirmed, however, that she would necessarily retain the legal prerogatives reserved for, and the legal title of, a British queen consort. In the other realms such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, there is no constitutional position as queen consort. It is merely a courtesy title.

Joint rule

There are a few cases in which a married couple has ruled a kingdom jointly.

Aragon and Castile

Ferdinand II of Aragon and his wife Isabella, a queen in her own right, Isabella I of Castile, ruled their kingdoms as one dominion. Ferdinand was also called Ferdinand V of Castile. However, the two kingdoms would not be legally united until the monarchs' grandson Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, acceded to both thrones as Charles I of Spain.

England, Scotland and Ireland

The joint reign of William III and Mary II of England resulted from a unique change by the Parliament of England to the law of succession. When Mary, the Protestant daughter and heiress presumptive of James II, was displaced in the order of succession by the birth of a son to his Catholic queen consort, Protestant fears were provoked.

Mary's husband, William of Orange, Stadtholder of the Protestant Dutch Republic and also a descendant of James I, was invited by the leaders of Parliament to ascend the throne of his deposed father-in-law. After James II fled the country, Parliament offered the crown to William and Mary jointly.

The couple remained childless, and William ruled alone after Mary's death in 1694. The future Queen Anne's claims had been deferred by Parliament until his death.

Examples of royal consorts

Past queens consort:

See Royal Consorts of the United Kingdom and its predecessor realms for a more complete list of queens consort of the United Kingdom.

Present queens consort:

Because queens consort lack an ordinal with which to distinguish between them, many historical texts and encyclopedias refer to deceased consorts by their pre-marital or maiden name or title, not by their marital royal title.


See also


  1. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). "Iwa no Hime," Japan encyclopedia, p. 409.


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