I am not a history guy. But, from what I have collected from movies, TV shows and people, I see that old British society was male-dominant and there were female rights issues too. But, I also see some powerful queens in the history and the "for Queen and the Country" thing. Where's the catch? These two things don't look compatible.

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    When there is a queen regnant, such as Queens Elizabeth I & II, Queen Victoria, there is no King. So the queen didn't really "get power over King"
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 18:08
  • @LouisRhys Well, I guess this is the answer then.. Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 18:14
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    The answers provided thus far have given examples of inheritance of the English crown and the titles of their spouses. But the underlying question (why the English monarchy was different from continental monarchies) has not been addressed. Remember, William IV, King of England, was also King of Hannover, but Victoria,his successor in England, was disqualified from the latter title.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:02

4 Answers 4


Until now, British law has given priority to male over female heirs of kings. But where there were no male heirs, a girl got the nod.

For instance, King Henry VIII had three (surviving, legitimate) children; Edward (the youngest), Mary, and Elizabeth. Edward, the boy, was crowned king ahead of his two older sisters. He died in adolescence (without children), so his older sister Mary was crowned Queen Regnant (a female king), and when she died childless in middle age, the middle child was crowned as Queen Elizabeth I.

Centuries later, King George VI had "only" two daughters, Elizabeth, and Margaret, so the former was crowned Elizabeth II. But if Margaret had been a boy named Mark, then "Mark" would have been crowned king over Elizabeth.

Going forward, Kate Middleton's first child was a boy, but even if it had been a girl, under the newest laws, the girl would (assuming she lived long enough) have been crowned Queen (Regnant), even ahead of any younger brothers she might have had.

  • Thanks. Perfect answer.. No confusion... :) Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 16:49

Britain's order of succession is determined by male-preference cognatic primogeniture (in the future it will be equal primogeniture). This allows a female to ascend the throne as queen regnant (queen in her own right, as opposed to being a consort to a king). Queens Elizabeth I & II and Queen Victoria are example of such queens. In their cases, there is no king - spouses of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II are titled "prince consort", and they are merely consorts to their queens.

On the other hand, queen consorts, such as the spouses of Kings George V & VI, did not have the same position as Queen Victoria's.


Under English law and tradition, just as the spouse of a King is a Queen consort rather than a Queen Regnant, the spouse of a Queen Regnant is a King Consort and not a King Regnant or Monarch.

Other dynastic and national traditions may vary, as for example for Catherine the Great in Russia as well as her grand-mother-in-law Tsarina Catherine I.

In regards the English tradition of referring to the spouse of a Queen Monarch as a *Prince Consort:

Queen Victoria (reigned 1837–1901) wanted to make her husband Albert king consort, but the British government refused to introduce a bill allowing it, as Albert was a foreigner. She instead gave him the title of Prince Consort in 1857.

Note from this that there was apparently no opposition to the title King Consort being used, only to it being held by a foreigner.

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    In the UK, there is no King Consort, the spouse of a queen regnant is a prince consort. I guess the reason is to prevent the consort from appearing to outrank the queen.
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 18:10
  • @LouisRhys: see my update. Prince Consort is the more usual title in the UK, but King Consort is an equivalent and alternative titular designation for the same role. Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 23:24
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    Philip of Spain (Mary Tudor's husband) and William of Orange (Mary Stuart's husband) were each King of England etc. where their wives were the heirs, while George of Denmark, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Philip of Greece were not, so it is difficult to say that there has been a consistent rule.
    – Henry
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 13:30
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    @Henry Philip of Spain's position of power over England as a foreigner was feared by locals. William gained power through the Glorious Revolution. It could be argued that the rest were titled Prince Consort precisely to avoid the fear of foreign dominance exhibited in the other two cases. Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 16:24

There was actually one time when England had a King and a Queen both regnant. When William of Orange was urged to come and overthrow the Catholic Stuart kings, he became King and his wife Mary, who had the blood ties to the kingship, became Queen and they ruled jointly. This situation continued until Mary died and her he became sole King.

On his death, Mary's sister Anne became Queen. Her husband was not named King, but was a Prince Consort.

  • William also had 'blood ties to the kingship', being the son of Charles II and James II's sister Princess Mary. Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 10:56

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