Why wasn't Prince Philip a king? After all, he married a queen

17 April 2021 - 10:07 By Toni Jaye Singer
Prince Philip married Queen Elizabeth five years before she inherited the British crown. This year the couple would have celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary.
Prince Philip married Queen Elizabeth five years before she inherited the British crown. This year the couple would have celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary.
Image: Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, had no shortage of posh titles. While the most widely known of these is the Duke of Edinburgh, he was also the Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

However, it's the title he didn't have — that of king — that often provokes curiosity. After all, isn't that what the spouse of a queen is supposed to be called?

Philip was born Prince of Greece and Denmark, but he renounced these titles when he wed Elizabeth in 1947.

At that point he was granted the dukedom, earldom and barony mentioned previously.

It was a decade later that the queen issued a Letters Patent granting her husband “the style and titular dignity of a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. This meant that henceforth he would be addressed as His Royal Highness Prince Philip.

But again, why did she dub him a prince rather than a king?

Time Magazine states that according to British custom “a ruling queen’s husband is called a prince consort because the title of king is only given to a monarch who inherits the throne and can reign”. 

In other words, you have to be born into the Firm in order to qualify.

The same does not apply to the spouse of the reigning king of England; she is given the title queen consort. That's why the current monarch's late mother and namesake, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who married into the royal family, was styled as Queen Elizabeth.

“As with many royal traditions, you can chalk this one up to a very old and powerful patriarchy,” explains Town & Country Magazine. “Kings always reign, whereas queen can be a symbolic title.”