Historically, the realms of royals and nobles have been two distinct groups. While they may have occupied similar social spheres for great periods of history, there have been strict traditions, rules and protocols about the membership within either group. 

So, before exploring whether a noblewoman can become queen, it’s useful to highlight the differences between the two distinct realms of royalty and nobility. 

What’s The Difference Between Royalty & Nobility? 

At the top of the social hierarchy is the rank of royalty. This is the sphere of kings and queens, princes and princesses, along with their close family members. 

Second to the rank of royalty is the world of nobles and aristocrats. These have traditionally been the close aides and courtiers of the great royals of the ages. They may not have been born into the royal line or have direct blood connections to the royal family, yet they have historically been the men and women who lived and served in close proximity to royals. 

To illustrate the distinctions between royalty and nobility, one example would be a medieval king and his valiant knights on horseback. The king would be considered a royal ruler, whereas his knight would be regarded as a faithful servant and loyal noble subject. Another example would be a queen of the Renaissance, who would require an army of noble ladies to assist with her dressing, daily duties, and social entertainment. 

These ladies would usually be selected from the greatest noble families, and granted the great honour of working closely with the queen, moving in the highest social circles, and enjoying the lifestyle of a royal palace. These regal perks were held in high esteem and being chosen as the queen’s maid or a lady-in-waiting was one of the highest aims for a noblewoman. 

What’s The Difference Between A Noblewoman And A Queen? 

The difference between a noblewoman and a queen is that a noblewoman is regarded as a noble or aristocrat, i.e. a non-royal, and a queen is a particular royal title granted to the reigning monarch or the wife of a king. 

Can A Noblewoman Become Queen? 

Yes, a noblewoman can certainly rise to the position of a royal queen. This has happened on numerous occasions throughout history, when a woman of noble birth, not classed as a royal, went on to reign as a queen or empress. 

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this rise to fame and fortune is that of Catherine de’ Medici. 

The marriage of Catherine de Medici & Henry Duke of Orleans in 1533
The marriage of Catherine de’ Medici & Henry, Duke of Orléans in 1533 – Vasari, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Catherine de’ Medici was born into the legendary Medici family, which began its spectacular rise as a noble family. Yet, by the time of her death, Catherine had become Queen of France, through her marriage to King Henry II. 

She would also be the mother of no less than three French Kings, a role and status that granted her considerable power not only within the French court but also in the political realms that went beyond the kingdom of France. 

It also resulted in her status as a different type of queen. Through her marriage to the king, she would be known officially as a Queen Consort, which is the traditional title for a queen who has not inherited the crown by birth or royal line, but rather through her marriage. 

After the death of her husband, Catherine assumed her new royal role as a Queen Regent, which is a royal title used to describe the mother of the monarch, usually when they are too young to reign, and it’s a role that has historically brought with it a great deal of power and influence. 

Catherine De’ Medici’s ascent from that of a noble family origin to such a powerful and influential role as a famous French Queen took the route of many noblewomen who have also attained such lofty royal status – that of an auspicious marriage. 

This has customarily been the most common way for a noblewoman to become a queen. Either, they would marry a king, or they would marry a man who would later become a king, thus granting them the rank of queen by default, according to the rules governing royal spouses. 

Can An Ordinary Woman Become Queen? 

The rise of noblewomen to the rank and royal title of queen is something that has happened many times during the centuries of royal rule around the world. 

However, the instance of a non-noble woman rising to the ranks of a queen is a much rare occurrence, yet it can and does happen. 

One modern example may appear to be the rise of Camilla Parker Bowles (née Shand) to the position of Queen Consort of the United Kingdom. Queen Camilla is a modern-day fairy story of an ordinary woman marrying her prince and becoming queen. Yet, Camilla does have a history of nobility in her family – her mother’s father was Roland Cubitt, who was the 3rd Baron Ashcombe. 

Since a Baron is considered to be an esteemed rank within the formal system of nobility, it could be argued that Camilla was a noblewoman, or at least came from a noble family line. 

A more recent example of a non-noble woman attaining the rank, or at least the path, to queenhood is that of Queen Camilla’s daughter-in-law, Catherine, Princess of Wales. 

Born as Catherine Middleton, to an affluent upper-class family, this future queen was not regarded as a noblewoman. Yet when her path crossed with Prince William while they were both studying at St Andrew’s University in Scotland, the trajectory for her royal rank and status was set.

Upon her marriage to Prince William, Catherine became a royal duchess. With the arrival of the couple’s children, she became the mother of princes, a princess and a future heir to the British crown. After the death of Queen Elizabeth, Catherine’s title was elevated to Princess of Wales, and when her husband becomes king, she will no doubt be granted the title of Queen Consort – an impressive ascent for a woman not born into the traditional aristocratic circles. 

While it’s interesting and certainly possible for a noblewoman to rise to the ranks of a queen, it’s perhaps even more inspiring when a woman not born into the nobility goes on to attain such an esteemed royal rank. 

Regardless of noble birth or more humble origins, the rise of women to the rank of queen always makes for a captivating tale – literally the stuff of fairy tales and legend.