British Men Banned from Becoming ‘Queen’ or ‘Princess of Wales’ in Advance of Marriage Equality Law

British laws are being redrafted in advance of the marriage equality law coming into effect, and among the items being rewritten are statutes regarding royal titles, the Telegraph reports:

HarryThe order makes clear that a clause in the Act giving gay and heterosexual marriage the same legal effect does not apply to the rights of anyone “who marries, or who is married to, the King Regnant, to the title of Queen”.

It also makes clear that were a future Prince of Wales to marry a man his husband could not be called Princess of Wales.

More immediately, the order rules out the possibility of Dukes, Earls and other male peers who marry other men making their husbands Duchess, Countess or Lady.

The paper adds:

Legal experts said it was a necessary “tidying up” exercise, but the Coalition for Marriage, which campaigned against same-sex marriage, said it showed the change had left the law in a “complete mess” and accused the Government of trying to “sneak” the changes through while political attention was on the floods.

Colin Hart, its director, said it was a “systematic drive to airbrush” words like husband, wife and widow from the law.

A draft order to be debated next week sets out amendments to 36 Acts dating back to 1859; special exclusions from the effects of the Same-Sex Marriage Act for a further 67 other pieces of legislation dating back 729 years and changes to dozens of pension regulations which have legal force.

Marriage equality is set to come into effect in England and Wales on March 13 with the first same-sex marriages to take place on March 29.


  1. Chuck Mielke says

    On one hand, this makes perfectly good sense: propriety and respectability seem to demand more than the cartoon of, say, a male spouse bearing the title “Queen,” with or without the transvestite trappings. On the other hand, it shows the depth at which we cling to the gendered role labels of our culture, and suggests that insisting on the separations of men-things from women-things is far more important than a mere marriage ceremony.

    It also shows how deeply respect for authority runs, suggesting that a man who bears a “female” peerage title has less authority than the same man bearing a “male” title. Elizabeth I could call herself a king but, throughout history, a queen of her magnitude always bears less “majesty(?),” “gravitas(?)” than a man in the same position.

  2. MFinBH says

    Let’s say, hypothetically, baby Prince George (nee 2013) is gay. So around 2040 (assuming Charles has died) he’ll be be the Crown Prince and probably looking to marry. His spouse would probably be “Sir”, and at some point “Lord” until George ascends the throne. Once George becomes King (2070ish?), his spouse would be made Earl or Marquis or even Prince consort. Simple.

  3. Mags says

    @MFINBH, that is exactly how I understood it. Monarchy is a business that looks on long-term. And I mean by that, Centuries long. They often try to prevent misconduct, abuse of their lineage, and any chance at ridicule (banning the disturbing Andrews and pork of their families).

    That being said, if HRH Georgie would want to call his husband Duchess in their private quarters, well, that’s his business. But that would be exactly why he can’t call him that in public: The connotation of calling a man, a gay man, Duchess in public is one today heavy with discrimination. Until it stops being, there will be no male Duchess, or Princess, in the foreseeable future.

  4. matt says

    It’s a shame this had to be spelt out in writing. Why any gay man would want to be called a queen or duchess is beyond me (unless a drag name). I thought we’ve move on from gay=feminine?

  5. Jonnycakes says

    Unfortunately poor Harry only had a few good years left before he turns into his bloated, saggy uncle, Earl Spencer.

    English redheads just don’t hold up well at all.

  6. Bryan says

    I’m confused–why would a gay man want a title that historically was meant for a female? Gay men aren’t women, obviously, and if we’re using titles with a centuries old etymology this would seem an obviously necessary change. It never says that the spouse would not be accorded some kind of title, since legally that spouse would have inheritance rights and those would–based on my limited knowledge of royalty–accord title with them. There doesn’t seem to be much of substance going–just a gender conforming tradition somehow being interpreted as a problem of substantive equality.

  7. Hey Darlin' says

    It seems they are just stating the obvious that a same sex marriage won’t equate to a female royal title. Whether it entitles them to ANY royal title isn’t mentioned.

  8. disgusted american says

    by 2070 – I think people will be more worried about water to drink and food to eat…especially with Rising seas, pollution, Near Earth Asteroids … etc etc……they, like the GOP here, are looking for a problem that doesnt exist!!!! (glad I’ll be loooong gone)

  9. Henry Holland says

    Posted by: Kev C | Feb 26, 2014 12:48:09 PM

    Dream on. The monarchy isn’t going anywhere, there is majority support for it in the place that matters, the United Kingdom.

  10. anon says

    Here’s an idea: why not ban all titles? They aren’t a tradition anyone should be eager to maintain.

    As to why this law is necessary, the various titles in question are treated under British law to be something like objects which are bestowed on people like garments. So they often come in pairs (Duke and Duchess of Windsor being a recent one). They can fall to brother and sister if necessary.

  11. Jere says

    My sense is that the husband or wife of a same-sex member of the royal family will be given a different title that is an equivalent of the title they’d have received automatically in a hetero marriage. Spouses of gay Peers lower down in the pecking order may not get titles at all and may simply remain, for example, Lord Smithfield and Mr. Jones.

  12. Kev C says

    Henry Holland, the monarchy is such a tangled jumble of laws and offices, it will collapse on it’s own messiness. Combined with the unappealing aspect of a King Charles, King Andrew or King Harry and you’ll be seeing a rise of republicanism in the UK.

  13. Rrhain says

    Interesting that they only talked about male couples. Once again, the lesbians are overlooked. Now, I’m sure part of this is because of agnatic primogeniture wherein females are only allowed to hold titles in their own right under special circumstances. There have only been a handful (three, if I recall correctly) women in all of British history who have held the title of Duchess in their own right, for example. Thus, the courtesy titles given to female spouses of the male peerage is well-understood. It doesn’t really go the other way since women don’t hold the titles.

    For example, Queen Elizabeth’s husband is not King Phillip even though her mother, being married to the King, was Queen Elizabeth. When Prince Charles married Diana, she became Princess Diana. But when Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth’s sister) married Antony, he did not become Prince Antony. Queen Elizabeth decided to bestow the title of Earl to him. When Princess Anne (Queen Elizabeth’s daughter) married, the same offer was made but they refused.

  14. AL says

    “I’m confused–why would a gay man want a title that historically was meant for a female?”

    Sadly, many would. You can see for yourself on this site plenty of gay men who have internalized homophobic attitudes and refer to themselves and other gay men as women or girls.

  15. Derrick from Philly says

    @ “Sadly, many would. You can see for yourself on this site plenty of gay men who have internalized homophobic attitudes and refer to themselves and other gay men as women or girls”

    Oh, please, internalized bullsh.t. You’ve got all kinds of Gay men, and no one has to adhere to someone else’s standards of gender role behavior. Well, no one should have to conform, but there are some places on this planet where it’s life threatening to be yourself.

    Hey, AL, did you go to the same finishing school as Rick?

    @ “You may rather not be a pansy, but you still ended up one.”

    No, dear. I AINT never been called a pansy. THat term doesn’t exist where I came from. Now, the term sissy or faggot…oh, yes, I know both of those. And I kinda’ learned to be proud of being considered both, but I prefer QUEEN.

    But you can call me Dutchess–like Lady Day’s mother.

  16. John in Iowa says

    The level of ignorance evidenced by many, if not most, of these comments is astonishing. Titles, and upon whom they are bestowed–or not, is an extremely convoluted business and is rarely entirely understood by the average educated Brit, much less by the average history-challenged American. The most ill-informed of the comments reminds one of this famous quote: “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt of it.”

  17. enchantra says

    Kev C Don’t bet on it. It’s only worked for a thousand years. But seriously, all a monarchy is is a social order and there will always be a social order.

  18. Henry Holland says

    “you’ll be seeing a rise of republicanism in the UK”

    Google is your friend, the line of succession is Charles > William (very popular) > baby George > Harry (very popular).

    The UK has survived FAR worse than those three –George III anyone?– the monarchy isn’t going to collapse because any of those men ascend to the throne.

    The approval rating is in the high 60’s for the monarchy, it’s not going anywhere in our lifetimes.

  19. FFS says

    The logical thing to do would be to change the law so that titles fall to the eldest child, be they male or female, and come up with a masculine equivalent of the traditional courtesy titles for spouses.

    They already have Prince Consort for the husband of the Queen (or future King). I don’t see why the husband of a Prince couldn’t also be a Prince. It’s the lower echelons that would require a little imagination.

  20. Bill says

    @Kev C: the argument for the monarchy in the UK is that it provides a head of state for people to revere while some “sleazy politicians” do the work. I’ve heard claims that the monarchy brings in more in tourist dollars than it costs. And the prime minister doesn’t have to waste as much time on photo-ops with visiting dignitaries as the queen can handle that.

  21. brian says

    Please even Queen Elizabeths husband doesn’t have the title King. Any husband of a male royal would be Lord or Sir until the male royal ascends the throne and would then be titled Prince or Prince Consort. I believe Philip is titled Prince Consort. As for any other peer the title bestowed would most likely simply be Lord.

  22. Rrhain says

    Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, did not acquire the title of “Prince” because he married Elizabeth. He already had that title from his parents, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg (but see below). His official title is “Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.” He is not, “Prince Consort.” He attained the title of Duke of Edinburgh from George VI just before he married Elizabeth. Note, it wasn’t his marriage that earned it: Elizabeth was not the Duchess of Edinburgh with Philip gaining the title by marrying her, but rather the King bestowed it specifically upon him. Interestingly, because Philip was now the Duke of Edinburgh, Elizabeth became HRH Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh due to her being married to the Duke. That is why, even though Elizabeth is now Queen, Philip is still Duke of Edinburgh. The title is his, not hers.

    If it had been the other way around, if the King had bestowed upon his daughter-in-law the title of Duchess of Edinburgh, his son would not automatically become Duke of Edinburgh. Titles from marriage only flow from the male to the female.

    Philip wasn’t made a Prince of the United Kingdom until 1957, five years after Elizabeth ascended the throne. He had renounced his titles from the royal houses of Greece and Denmark, including his right to the throne, and Elizabeth then made him Prince.

    But he is still not “Prince Consort.” That is an official title and only one man has ever had that title in the British monarchy, Albert, husband of Queen Victoria (officially, “His Royal Highness the Prince Consort”). He is *a* prince consort, but not “the” Prince Consort.

  23. Excuse Me! says

    Jonnycake: Yes Mags, lineage is very important. Especially when you have a red-headed heir, um spare, who looks like the stable boy.

    ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^

    Wink, wink, nudge, nudge–loved the whispered inference, Jonnycake ; ) Meanwhile, there goes my dream of ever wearing any one of those royal tiaras (sigh!)

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