Here’s a royal theme to give us an excuse to play with some words. I am sure the pedants out there can explain whether “queen” is both singular and plural. I haven’t bothered to dig too deep on that one, but I have a suspicion that the plural of queen can be both ‘queen’ and ‘queens’. Anyone have the good oil on that one?
My focus is with the types of queen and the verbiage which relates to them. There are two main types of queen. A queen regent and a queen consort. When the ruling monarch is a queen then she has regal power. She is the ruling authority, as is currently the case in England with Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth carries royalty in her blood and so she is queen regent.
When I was young I couldn’t understand why the Queen’s husband, Prince Phillip, was not the king. The reason is that he is not of the royal lineage and has no right to the throne. His wife is his monarch.
Where a king is on the throne his wife is designated as a queen. She is a queen consort, since she is his consort. Consort comes from an Old French word meaning to ‘share with’. Any group or person who cooperates with another could be designated a ‘consort’.
Consort, therefore, includes any spouse. It also includes such collections as a musical ensemble and it refers to one who tags along, including a ship which accompanies another. In common usage it is often used in a negative connotation, such as saying that someone consorts with unsavoury friends.
Now, having put ‘regent’ and ‘consort’ onto the table let’s have a look at the vocabulary that springs from them.
Regent is linked to regal. Regal gowns are known as regalia, although that term is often used in a light-hearted fashion when describing the elaborate costume of an ordinary person. “Decked in his official regalia the yacht club captain struck a handsome pose.”
Consort gives us more room to explore. We can have a consortium, being a collection of things which go together. A consortium may be a group of companies which collaborate together in a project or enterprise.
Legally the term consortium refers to the emotional bond shared between parent and child or husband and wife. It also refers to the conjugal blessings which a married couple can share.
Consorting is given almost criminal implications when the police notice a person mixing with the wrong company.
A Dowager Queen is one who has received a dowry, including her status as queen. It seems logical that only a queen consort could become a dowager queen, since a queen regent would not receive an endowment from their spouse.
A Queen Mother refers to a queen consort whose husband, the king, has died and the monarchy has passed to one of her children. She is thus the mother of the monarch, and yet a queen, not losing that title when the king dies.
Now, I have no idea why these words took my fancy, but I have successfully distracted you with them. If you are a lover of words you won’t mind the distraction. If you are a pedant you are probably distracted by holes in my definitions and you may wish to correct and expand my observations. Please feel free to do so. The joy of words is to use them, explore them and apply them where they can enrich our understanding and experience.