April 18, 2022
Most Americans have only a rudimentary grasp of British royal titles. Thanks to all those Disney movies, we know that a prince or princess is the son or daughter of a king, but beyond that, all the titles – duke, earl, baron, etc. -- get murky. It is unclear, at least for us commoners, how people get these royal titles, if they are able to pass them down to their children, and which titles outrank others.
Let’s take a look at the British royal title hierarchy to find the answers to these questions and to learn the nuances of royal peerage – that’s the term used for the class of people who hold royal or honorary titles in British nobility. As an added bonus, you will get a colorized view of some of the more popular or historic title holders.
King and Queen
At the top of the royal hierarchy is the king or queen. Notice how we didn’t say king AND queen. In British royalty, there is only one royal leader. Since 1952, Queen Elizabeth has served in this capacity. Queen Elizabeth was married to Prince Philip for 74 years until his passing last year. Even though he was of royal blood himself and married to a queen, Philip was not a king. He was a consort. A consort, the husband or wife of a reigning monarch, acknowledges the person’s special position without bestowing them a title they didn’t earn themselves upon the death of their parents. Philip was called Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. When Prince Charles becomes king, his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will become the queen consort.