King Charles is dealing with cancer: People on both sides of the Atlantic have a lot of “what-if” thoughts after hearing that King Charles III has some kind of cancer.
In one scenario, the king chooses to step down and take care of his health, which puts the spotlight on Prince William, the king’s oldest son and first in line to the throne.
That process would go faster if Charles died, which would start the rule of King William V, unless he decides to change his name. When that happens, a new question comes up: What happens to Queen Consort Camilla?
King Charles is dealing with cancer
But the complicated truth is that even though King Charles will have been very clear about what he wants for his wife, the current ruler, in this case King William, decides how much or how little Queen Consort Camilla will be involved in her later years.
Besides that, Princess Kate, King William’s wife, would become queen when he became king. And as the mother of future king or queen Prince George, Kate has a lot of power, both in the royal family and in the public’s heart.
That doesn’t mean Camilla would be forgotten right away. Even though there were made-for-TV scandals before she married King Charles, Camilla, who was probably Charles’s first love, was praised by many Britons when she and her husband were crowned in Westminster Abbey last May.
“Queen Consort Camilla would still keep that title, much like the Queen Mother (the late Queen Elizabeth II’s mother) kept that title until she passed at age 101,” says Joe Little, managing editor of “Majesty” magazine.
In the past, monarch’s widows were called Queen Dowagers. For example, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI’s wife, was called Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to set her apart from her daughter.
If King Charles dies, will Camilla still be queen?
In the unlikely case of an abdication or, eventually, the current king’s death, “the new King William would call all the shots, it would be down to him − in accordance to his father’s and stepmother’s wishes, of course,” says Little. “But every aspect of her public and private life would be reviewed.”
She might live in any of a number of royal homes. Which one she chose might rely on what her husband wants, but the new king would make the final choice.
“It’s at his discretion, definitely, but I’m sure King Charles III would have his own wishes made clear about that,” says Carolyn Harris, historian at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies and co-editor of the book series “English Consorts: Power, Influence and Dynasty.”
King William would decide what Queen Camilla’s future duties as a royal would be. Harris says that British past can help us understand the paths that royal widows take. “Henry the VIII’s sixth wife left court life, moved to the Cotswolds, got married again, and lived a quiet life,” she says.
“But overall, Queen Consorts, when the new king or queen isn’t their son or daughter (by blood), it’s harder to tell what lives they will lead,” says Harris. “My supposition is Queen Consort Camilla would likely keep up her charitable roles related to literacy and domestic violence. She could be an honorary head of military regiments. But that would all be the result of lots of discussion with the new monarch.”
Royal historians say that it’s important to think about both Queen Elizabeth II and King Edward VIII when trying to guess what might happen after hearing the shocking news about King Charles’ health.
The first one worked until the very end, in 2022, when she was 96 years old. And the second one caused a lot of trouble when he gave the scepter to his brother George VI so that he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was separated. Princess Elizabeth became queen after her father George VI died.
This and that about the past mean that “King Charles III is likely to continue working until the end of his life,” says Harris.