With the news that Queen Elizabeth II has expressed her wish that Camilla Parker Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, be recognized as queen consort on the day Prince Charles ascends the throne, speculation about her faith has once again arisen.
Camilla was baptized at Firle Church in Sussex, which is Anglican. However, her first marriage (in 1973) was to Henry Parker Bowles, a deeply Catholic man. (Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter, had previously had a brief romance with him, but she was forced to break up the relationship precisely because of his religion.)
Mr. Parker Bowles and Camilla were married by a Catholic priest at the then Royal Military Chapel (now known as the Chapel of the Guard), but there is no record of Camilla ever converting to her husband’s faith.
From this marriage, which ended in divorce in 1994, two children were born — Tom and Laura Parker-Bowles. Both were raised Catholic, especially through the influence of their paternal grandmother, Ann Parker Bowles.
Respect for the pope
A curious fact is that the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker was scheduled for April 8, 2005, but they had to postpone it for one day, as it coincided with the funeral of St. John Paul II, which Prince Charles attended on behalf of the English crown.
Camilla was dressed in light shades of gold when she and Prince Charles first met Pope Francis. According to protocol, only Catholic queens can wear white in the presence of the Supreme Pontiff; all others, according to protocol, must wear black attire. The Duchess’s choice of clothing on that occasion could send an ambiguous message about her religious affiliation.
However, Camilla’s decision was reportedly based on the pope’s stance of not being strict with these dress codes. Also, she was not wearing pure white, and Prince Charles is not yet king, so this wardrobe choice doesn’t have as much significance to the question at hand.
Previously, when Camilla and Prince Charles met with Pope Benedict XVI, she wore black, including a veil.
Catholic queen in the future?
Everything indicates that Camilla Parker Bowles married a Catholic, but never converted to Catholicism. But this doesn’t mean that in the future there could not be a Catholic queen consort (or prince consort) in the United Kingdom.
In fact, the law of succession changed in 2013 (eight years after Charles and Camilla’s wedding). In addition to declaring that the heir to the throne is no longer the first male child of the monarch (which did not apply in the case of Queen Elizabeth II because King George VI only had daughters), but simply the first baby, whether male or female, it also now allows the consort to be a Catholic.
For the time being, however, the reigning monarch—as head of the Anglican Church—may not be Catholic. This is especially relevant when dealing with the matter of children, in the case of a royal marriage between an Anglican monarch and a Catholic royal consort, since under Canon Law children of Catholics in mixed marriages are to be raised Catholic.
So, in the future, there could be a Catholic queen consort or Catholic prince consort in England. Maybe it won’t be Camilla or Kate Middleton. But Prince George (Prince William’s eldest son and third in line to the throne) could marry a Catholic woman without any problem.