Why isn't Queen Elizabeth II's Husband Called King?

Cecil is right to cite Queen Victoria. The reason her husband Albert was prince consort instead of king is a little more interesting than plain old patriarchy. Prince consort was a new title; husbands of reigning English queens had never been anything other than kings before Victoria. Mary I, the eldest child of Henry VIII, had her husband Philip proclaimed king although he wielded no formal power. A century later Mary II ruled jointly with her husband William III.

The monarchy declined in the early nineteenth century. Victoria’s uncles and grandfather had depleted the royal coffers to the point where the crown was more or less a high class welfare case.

Victoria ascended the throne just a few weeks after her eighteenth birthday. So it’s not surprising that she made some early mistakes. One was a rumor involving an unmarried lady in waiting who developed a swollen abdomen. It looked like a scandalous pregnancy. Victoria’s popularity suffered when the unfortunate woman died of stomach cancer.

The young queen also allied herself with a political party that lost an election. Tradition held that the wives of the ruling party in Parliament would serve functions in the royal household. When the Tories lost power Victoria refused to dismiss her political ladies in waiting.

Victoria’s third mistake was marrying a German prince. In popular British opinion the royal family was far too German already. So the ruling Whigs, still smarting from her insult to their wives, passed a far smaller allowance than usual for a married monarch and refused to declare Albert king.

For years afterward Victoria tried to have Albert’s title changed. He died before her popularity really revived and the precedent stuck.

Not so. Queen Anne.

Mary II needn’t have made her husband co-monarch; she insisted on it as part of her conception of being a good Christian wife.

I suspect Mary I was in somewhat the same situation. Anyway, Phillip was already King of Spain.

Welcome to the SDMB. A link to the column is appreciated. It is A king’s wife is a queen, so why is Elizabeth II’s husband still only Prince Philip?

You’re right about Queen Anne.

However, Mary Tudor’s husband didn’t become king of Spain until 1556, two years after they married and a year after they separated. Mary died in 1558.

Welcome to the SDMB, and thank you for posting your comment.
Please include a link to Cecil’s column if it’s on the straight dope web site.
To include a link, it can be as simple as including the web page location in your post (make sure there is a space before and after the text of the URL).

Cecil’s column can be found on-line at the link provided by the omnipresent bibliophage.

moderator, «Comments on Cecil’s Columns»

Nice comments. Just FTR, the whole James II/William and Mary situation was pretty complex, but in a nutshell, the anti-James faction needed the support of William, Prince of Orange, to throw him out. Since this would put his elder daughter Mary on the throne, and she was William’s wife, this worked well together. However, William was next in line for the throne after Mary, Anne, and whatever kids Anne had alive at the moment (she had 18, all of whom died young); W&M never had any. So for him to be co-monarch was not a breaking of British throne-inheritance law and tradition so much as it was a bending of it to associate the heiress presumptive and her husband, who stood likely to inherit it shortly anyway, as co-monarchs. Different ball of wax entirely from anything before or since.

Under British parlance, Queens regnant are simply female monarchs, equivalent to Kings. The title of Queen is given the king’s wife, slightly confusing the issue, but Queens Consort differ in only one way from everyone else: to have adultery with them constitutes high treason. Beyond that, they are subjects of the King like everyone else.

Philip II was already king of Naples and Jerusalem at the time of his marriage to Mary I.