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While watching the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II events going on recently, I noticed that the Queen's husband is referred to as 'Prince'-- not 'King'. Upon researching further, I found that Queen Victoria and Mary III's husbands were both referred to as Prince, and not King. Is there a reason that a male marrying a Queen would not receive the title 'King', while a woman marrying a King would be elevated to the title of 'Queen'?

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maybe because "King" carries a higher rank than "Queen", so elevating someone to be King might outrank the actual monarch (the Queen), so it is to be avoided, but making someone a Queen would not outrank the King, so it's ok – Louis Rhys Jun 6 '12 at 6:23
@LouisRhys put that in an answer :) – o0'. Jun 6 '12 at 10:12
The queen's husband is just a sperm donor. – Anixx Jun 6 '12 at 19:10
@Anixx: Brutal, but true..:) – Felix Goldberg Dec 11 '12 at 22:57
Marrying a queen does not make you a king, unless you are Hamlet's uncle. – Tyler Durden Oct 28 '15 at 15:31
up vote 25 down vote accepted

While Queen may refer to both Queen regnant (sovereign) or Queen consort, the King has always been the sovereign. There are historical reasons for this hierarchy --in a long line of English monarchs you will find more Kings than you would find Queens. In fact, if you do not recognize Matilda's and Lady Jane's claim to the throne of England then Queen Mary I of England becomes the first female sovereign of England --and that happened in 1553, when the institution was already about 800 years old (recognzing kings before 1066).

This [long absence of a female sovereign] obviously led to the general belief that the King was the highest authority in England (hence a Kingdom and not a Queendom). And since historically Kings had declared their wives as Queens, the Queen had come to signify a lower rank in the hierarchy. Thus, Queens never bestowed the generous title of King on their husbands.

There are two exceptions of which I am aware:

  1. Queen Mary I's husband was King Philip II of Spain, who was also referred to in the court as the King of England (Jure Uxoris). In theory he was the joint sovereign with Mary.
  2. Queen Mary II and her husband (and cousin) King William III reigned jointly. But in this case, both had a claim to the throne (an act of Parliament following the Glorious Revolution).
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Let's not forget the Jure Uxoris example of Catherine the Great, Tsarina of All The Russias. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 14 '13 at 18:59
True @PieterGeerkens. But I avoided that as the question was tagged with UK. – Apoorv Khurasia Dec 15 '13 at 4:36
@PieterGeerkens It is an old question but I remember the question was for UK (see the examples that the OP mentions). But no problem expanding the scope of this question if the OP does not object. – Apoorv Khurasia Dec 15 '13 at 4:41

There are two types of queens. A Queen Consort is the wife of a King. A Queen Regnant is a ruler in her own right, a "female king" of you will.

The husband of a Queen Consort is just the King, per the above. But the husband of a Queen Regnant is a Prince Consort. "Prince" is one level below King, and the Consort's title is held at a level below the Queen's.

Queen Elizabeth II is a Queen Regnant, having inherited the title from her father King George VI, and that's why her husband Philip is a Prince Consort.

There are instances when the King of country A marries the Queen Regnant of country B. (E.g King Philip of Spain and Queen Mary of England.) Then the husband is generally referred to as "King," because that's what he is in his own country (A). But he's really a "Prince Consort" in country B.

There is also something called the Crown Matrimonial, whereby a Queen Regnant will give "equal" (kingly) powers to her husband through her marriage (matrimony). Sweden's Queen Ulrike Eleonora did this in the 18th century. But that's rare, and is a form of de facto "abdication."

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Why is it abdication rather than sharing the sovereignty? (Like Mary and William did). – Felix Goldberg Dec 12 '12 at 17:04
I thought that when Mary took the throne she performed a variation of the Crown Matrimonial; she and William were co-rulers. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 12 '12 at 17:24
"Parliament... wanted the throne to be the sole possession of Mary, with William serving as Prince Consort, but Mary refused due to her self-imposed subservience to her husband." britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon51.html – Tom Au Oct 2 '14 at 18:44
Mary had the better claim, and many of the politicians wanted to offer her the crown in her own right. William had no intention of being Prince Consort, and threatened to return to Holland. Mary also refused to accept sole rule, as a dutiful wife. So they took the crown jointly, with executive power invested in William - they both reigned, William ruled. – TheHonRose Oct 29 '15 at 0:54
@TheHonRose: "they both reigned, William ruled." That's exactly the point I was trying to make, and that's why I would refer to it "as a form of 'abdication.'" – Tom Au Oct 29 '15 at 14:06

There is a very good reason not to refer to the Queen's spouse as "King" - because they aren't the King. King is a job title in the government (like President or Prime Minister, or Mayor, or Senator), not a role in a marriage.

The monarch/sovreign of a country acquires the title "King" based on their role in the governance relationship.

The spouse of the sovreign does not share the role of monarch any more than the First Lady aquires the title President, or the wife of a policeman gets a badge.

Interesting, if less than completely relevant note; if the Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a female child, that would be the first woman in history who would have full and unchallenged right to the title of Queen of England. (Prior to this, a female child would be supplanted by a subsequent male heir). In that case, her husband would also be "Prince".

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Actually, her husband may be a prince or he may not. Turns out that in the UK the granting of a princely title to the queen's consort is not automatic but discretionary. – Felix Goldberg Dec 12 '12 at 21:06
@FelixGoldberg: But when was it last not granted? There is no constitution in Britain, so everything is merely customary. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 15 '13 at 4:46
The British would argue to the contrary; they are content with their constitution. I suspect that the last time that the Queen's consort was not granted the privilege was William and Mary who were co-rulers. I'll take a look to see if I'm right. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 15 '13 at 11:16

One reason, certainly in the UK, is that a woman has historically, and still, taken her title/status from her husband not the other way round. So, if Miss Jane Smith marries the Duke of Basingstoke, she becomes the Duchess of Basingstoke. But when Countess Mountbatten succeeded her father in default of male heirs, her husband did not become an Earl.

Medieval practice was different, and if men married the last female heir to a title, he assumed her father's title sui uxoris. I am not sure when this practice died out. Whilst not related to the UK, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden's husband is merely "Prince" not Crown Prince.

I suspect as more females inherit under gender blind primogeniture, this may well change.

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Daniel, the husband of Princess Victoria, gets a "diluted" or "consort" Prince title, and will remain a Prince when Victoria is promoted to Queen.So women who married, say, dukes, got a consort or diluted "duchess" title, but there wasn't a similar practice for men who marrie e"duchesses-in-their-own-right,", so they "stopped" getting titles. – Tom Au 2 days ago

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