British Royal Titles Explained … in Color

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. 

A colorized pic of the new King of England after the coronation ceremony. He succeeded to his brother Edward VIII. There are also his wife Queen Consort Elizabeth and their two daughters Elizabeth and Margaret. They are all greeting the crowd from the bal

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 

The late Prince Philip remained a prince even after his wife became 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.