On the morning of February 6, 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. She has served selflessly ever since. As she commemorates her 70 years on the throne, she is using the opportunity to point to the future, announcing her desire that Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, would be titled as Queen, despite previous indications that she would simply be known as Princess Consort.
Queen Elizabeth took over the crown during a rather turbulent time, just a decade ago her uncle King Edward VII abdicated the throne and the country was still recovering from the Second World War, and now, as she is coming into the twilight of her reign, she’s looking to set the stage for the future.
In a statement, the Queen shared her thoughts about what it means to serve during her exceptionally long reign.
“As I look ahead with a sense of hope and optimism to the year of my Platinum Jubilee, I am reminded of how much we can be thankful for,” Her Majesty said in a letter on Sandringham House header. “These last seven decades have seen extraordinary progress socially, technologically and culturally that have benefitted us all; and I am confident that the future will offer similar opportunities to us and especially to the younger generations in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth.
“I am fortunate to have had the steadfast and loving support of my family. I was blessed that in Prince Philip I had a partner willing to carry out the role of consort and unselfishly make the sacrifices that go with it. It is a role I saw my own mother perform during my father’s reign.”
As she goes on, the Queen highlights the great work of her son and her desire that he ascend the throne with the support of his people and his wife Camilla crowned as Queen by his side.
She continued, “The anniversary also affords me a time to reflect on the goodwill shown to me by people of all nationalities, faiths and ages in this country and around the world over these years. I would like to express my thanks to you all for your support. I remain eternally grateful for, and humbled by, the loyalty and affection that you continue to give me. And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when the time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.”
This is a departure from initial reports that Camilla would just be titled simply Princess Consort, due to the negative public perception of the former Mrs. Parker-Bowles when she first married Charles in 2005.
The contentious marriage between Charles and Princess Diana very much played out in the public eye, and Camilla had a key role in that dynamic and was maligned whenever possible by the late Princess of Wales. As Charles’ mistress, Diana famously called her rival “the Rottweiler” and was incredibly successful at turning the public against the now Duchess of Cornwall.
The public perception of Camilla was so bad that she and Charles decided not to use the title, the Princess of Wales, out of respect for Diana and her sons. Instead, it will be Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, who will once again take over that mantle when Prince William becomes the Prince of Wales.
However, as a royal Camilla has proven her worth and been a stalwart supporter of Prince Charles and the rest of the royal family. She currently ranks 11th on the YouGov poll in terms of popularity, with 34% of the public saying that they like the Duchess. She is disliked by 28% and a further 33% remain neutral. As the Jubilee gets under way, she’s likely to receive a bump in popularity as the public continues to warm to her presence.
Camilla absolutely deserves the title of Queen, and no doubt she’ll receive it as Charles ascends the throne.
But this announcement is rather bittersweet. It’s clear that the Queen knows that her time on this earth is limited, and she’s firmly aware that her family will face immense pressure as they navigate the initial days, weeks, months and years of her absence.
There may be calls for a republic, and the family will perhaps struggle a bit to find its footing. Regardless, Her Majesty is leaving an incomparable legacy that will impact the United Kingdom and her people for decades to come.