In contrast the husband of a reigning queen is usually not called "king consort," although this was more common in the past; rather, he is popularly called "prince consort". In the British system, a male consort does not automatically receive the title of "prince" until he is so created by the sovereign.
In general the consorts of monarchs have no constitutional status or power; they have merely the title, though many do have influence over their husband or wife, whether their power is official or not.
There are a few cases in which a married couple ruled a kingdom jointly: Ferdinand II of Aragon and his wife Isabella, in her own right Isabella I of Castile, ruled their kingdoms as one dominion. Ferdinand was also called Ferdinand V of Castile. However, the two kingdoms would not be de jure united until the monarchs' grandson Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, acceded to both thrones as Charles I of Spain.
The daughter of James II of England, Mary Stuart (Mary II of England), married her first cousin, William of Orange (William III of England). Although James II had a son (James Francis Edward Stuart) from his second wife, Mary of Modena, the prospect of a prolonged pro-Catholic monarchy was distasteful to many Protestants. A group of Whig and Tory conspirators "invited" William to invade England in order to dethrone James II. After James fled the country, Parliament was forced to offer the crown to William and Mary jointly, as neither would accept Mary ascending alone. Mary and William were made co-monarchs by Parliament. William ruled alone after Mary's death when the future Queen Anne deferred her claims.
There have also been a number of cases when the queen consort of a deceased king (the Queen Dowager or Queen Mother) had served as regent while her child, the heir to the throne, was still a minor—for example, Catherine de Medici and Marie de Medici in France, or, more recently, Queen Maria Christina of Spain.
Besides these examples, there have been many cases of queens consort being shrewd stateswomen and, albeit unofficially, being among the king's major advisors. In some cases, the queen consort has been the chief power behind the throne; example Henrietta Maria.
A notable exception to this rule is that of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. It was announced that, in the event of Charles's ascent to the British throne, Camilla would assume the title of Princess Consort, not Queen Consort (although the legality of this under existing statutes has been called into question).
Similarly, the wife of an emperor is an empress consort. Apart from being higher in rank than a queen consort (since an emperor precedes a king), it is much the same position - an empress consort is still an empress by virtue of marriage alone, does not hold any concrete constitutional power, and becomes an empress dowager or empress mother should her husband die before her, just as a queen consort would become queen dowager or queen mother. The wife of a King-Emperor is a queen-empress consort - again, apart from status, her role does not differ from that of an empress consort or queen consort.
Examples of queens consort
Past Queens Consort:
- Queen Mary, consort of King George V of the United Kingdom
- Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom
- Queen Maria José, consort of King Umberto II of Italy
- Tsaritsa Ioanna, consort of Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria
- Queen Fawzia, consort of Mohammad Reza Shah of Persia
Present Queens Consort:
- Queen Paola, consort of King Albert II of the Belgians
- Queen Rania, consort of king Abdullah II of Jordan
- Queen Silvia, consort of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
- Queen Sofia, consort of King Juan Carlos I of Spain
- Queen Sonja, consort of King Harald V of Norway
- Queen Sirikit, consort of King Bhumibol of Thailand
Because queens consort lack an ordinal with which to distinguish between them, many historical texts and encyclopedias refer to deceased consorts by their pre-marital or maiden name or title, not by their marital royal title.