Carlos I of Spain, Emperor Charles V, jure uxoris, King Consort, King Philip II of Spain, King Regnant, Queen Consort, Queen Mary I of England, Queen Mary’s Marriage Act, Queen Regnant, The Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary to Philip of Spain
I was recently in a discussion about the title of “King Consort” and how rare of a position it is. Generally, I have considered King Felipe II of Spain as the only King Consort of England and Ireland but upon further reflection I have begun to rethink his position as King of England.
If Felipe II wasn’t a King Consort then what type of King was he? What was his position?
First let’s define what a King Consort is. We know a Queen Consort is the wife of a reigning King, a King Regnant if you will. Regnant is an adjective meaning to reign or to rule. A Consort is the spouse of a reigning monarch.
Therefore, a King Consort, is a rarely used title to describe the husband of a Queen Regnant.
Whether a Queen Consort or a King Consort the role implies that the holder of such position is not the sovereign, the reigning monarch, and therefore holds no political power.
That’s why it is difficult to label King Felipe II simply as a King Consort because he did have some limited political power.
William III of England is the only other example of a monarch to rule with his wife in English history. Scotland is another topic all together.
After King James II-VII of England, Scotland and Ireland was considered to have abdicated after his flight to France Prince William of Orange summoned a Convention Parliament in England, which met on January 22, 1689, to discuss the appropriate course of action to fill the vacant English throne. William felt insecure about his position; though his wife preceded him in the line of succession to the throne, he wished to reign as king in his own right, rather than as a mere consort.
The Crown was not offered to James’s infant son, who would have been the heir apparent under normal circumstances, but to William and Mary as joint sovereigns. It was, however, provided that “the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in and executed by the said Prince of Orange in the names of the said Prince and Princess during their joint lives”.
King Felipe II of Spain was not a joint sovereign as King William III would be. However, he wasn’t a politically powerless King Consort either.
It also must be stated that while King William III ruled in his own right, King Felipe II did not. King Felipe II’s right to the throne came through the concept of Jure uxoris (a Latin phrase meaning “by right of (his) wife”) which describes a title of nobility used by a man because his wife holds the office or title suo jure (“in her own right”).
King Felipe II’s role in his wife’s reign was defined by an Act of Parliament.
The Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary to Philip of Spain (1 Mar. Sess. 3 c. 2), or Queen Mary’s Marriage Act, was an Act of the Parliament of England, which was passed in April 1554, to regulate the future marriage and joint reign of Queen Mary I and Felipe of Spain, son and heir apparent of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Carlos I of Spain).
In reality, the Act seems to have served as a business contract between England and Spain; it specifies what Spain could expect from the union, while at the same time assuring the English that England would not become a satellite of Spain.
Under the terms of the marriage treaty, Felipe was to enjoy his wife’s titles and honours as King of England and Ireland for as long as their marriage should last. All official documents, including Acts of Parliament, were to be dated with both their names (with Felipe’s preceding Mary’s as deemed proper for husband and wife), and the Parliament of England was to be called under the joint authority of the couple.
The Act stated that King Felipe would take part in governing Mary’s realms while reserving most authority for Mary herself. Formally, King Felipe was to co-reign with his wife according to the Act, which nevertheless ensured that the new king would not become too powerful; the Act prohibited him from appointing foreigners to any offices, from taking his wife or any child that might be born to them outside her realm, or from claiming the crown for himself should he outlive his wife.
The Act presumed that Mary would have children with Felipe and allowed full personal union between England and Ireland and all the realms Felipe was to inherit from his father or from his grandmother, Queen Joanna, should Infante Carlos, Felipe’s son by a prior marriage, die childless.
When Queen Mary I died in 1558 and was succeeded by her half sister as Queen Elizabeth I, Felipe ceased to be King of England and Ireland.
This was one of the motivations for Felipe seeking the hand of Elizabeth so he could retain the title and authority of a King of England and Ireland.
When reading in a book, almanac or a list of the Kings and Queens of England, King William III is listed as a reigning monarch, while King Felipe is not generally counted as one of the Kings of England.
I think there is an important distinction between William III as a Joint Sovereign and King Felipe II as a Co-sovereign. I don’t think it’s just an argument of semantics.
William was a sovereign in his own right for life with the ability to exercise his power and authority as sovereign. Felipe II, on the other hand, came by his sovereignty by the right of his wife (Jure uxoris) and his sovereignty was restricted and was only to last the duration of his wife’s reign.
So in that essence King Felipe II, as King of England and Ireland, was not a King in his own right but he was also more than just a Consort without political power and authority.
Another interesting question is that since Parliament did grant him co-sovereignty some historians think it is plausible that if there were to be a future King Philip of the United Kingdom he could be called King Philip II.
Oh, and a bit of interesting trivia is that the Queen Mary’s Marriage Act was finally repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1863.