After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there is no longer a British queen, but a queen consort. The title was conferred on Camilla, the 17-year-old wife of King Charles III.
“I know she will bring a steadfast devotion to duty to the demands of her new role, on which I have come to rely so much,” Charles said in a public address given shortly after his wife became king.
In practice, the queen consort includes official engagements with the monarch, at which point she is addressed as “Her Imperial Highness”.
The Queen Consort also serves as state counsel with the next four royals in the line of succession: Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice. The role allows him to temporarily perform certain duties on Charles’s behalf if he is ill or traveling abroad. According to the royal family’s official website, those responsibilities may include “attending meetings of the Privy Council, signing regular documents and obtaining credentials of new ambassadors to the United Kingdom”.
The title of queen consort is usually given to the wife of an emperor. Queen Elizabeth’s mother, a beloved fixture of the royal family known as the Queen Mother, assumed the title during the reign of her husband, King George VI.
The road to becoming queen consort was neither smooth nor straight for 75-year-old Camilla.
In the early years of Charles and Camilla’s marriage, it was thought that Camilla would become the princess’s wife after the death of Queen Elizabeth. That changed in February, when Queen Elizabeth issued a statement saying it was her “most sincere wish that, in time, Camilla would be known as Queen Consort.”
The statement put an end to years of speculation and debate about Camilla’s future. Her complicated history with Charles has been portrayed with varying accuracy in pop culture, including in the popular Netflix series “The Crown.”
“There are some people who are going to consider Camilla the ‘other woman’ forever,” said Selle Otness, emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.” ,
While he was still married to Princess Diana, Charles publicly admitted to having a long affair with Camilla, who had married her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, during their extramarital affairs. The admission triggered a series of scathing articles about Charles and Camilla and prompted Diana to famously say in a television interview, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Charles and Diana eventually divorced in 1996. Charles and Camilla married in 2005, nearly eight years after Diana’s death in a car accident in Paris.
Years followed a carefully choreographed image overhaul for Camilla, who has two children from a previous marriage, Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Lopes.
“She’s done a great job of keeping her head down and doing a good job,” said David High, chairman and CEO of London-based consulting firm Brand Finance. “I think he has done his penance in the last 25 years. So the queen rewarded him for his loyalty.”
In recent years, Camilla has channeled her energies into a number of philanthropic causes, including raising awareness of osteoporosis and domestic violence. Many people have also praised him for his impeccable style.
“I hope Camilla is two steps behind Charles, keeping her head down,” High said, adding that Camilla has always been known for her no-nonsense behavior.
But some brand experts worry that Camilla may be too low-key and too distant from the masses.
“With Diana, she cried in an interview, she wore super stylish clothes, she was very real about what she was doing,” said May Karowski, CEO of the New York-based influencer marketing agency, apparently. “Diana embraced the public instead of hiding behind the palace gates.”
Ultimately, it will be up to the British people to determine how easily Camilla is accepted and accepted into her new role as queen consort.
Camilla’s opinion was divided among Britons, who lined up to see the Queen’s coffin to travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on Wednesday.
“I think Camilla is very respectable, very much in the background,” said Fiona Dodd of Dorset. “She’s really nice to Charles. They clearly adore each other.”
Some Britons wonder what might have happened.
“Sometimes you wonder what would have happened had things been different,” said Laura Musco from Hampshire. “Like the late Queen, Diana would have had the support of the people. She must have been much liked and embraced by the British public. If history was different, we would have a Queen Diana now.”
Richard Morris of Buckinghamshire said he felt indifferent to Camilla. “I’m glad Charles has someone to support him,” he said. “But that queen would be the wife – not the queen. For most of us, there is only one queen, and she is the one who has just died.”