Series 3 of Rex Factor is now underway, reviewing all the Queen and Prince Consorts of England from Ealhswith to Prince Philip. A lot of people have asked whether we would be changing the traditional factors by which we scored the monarchs in the first two series, so we’ve provided a summary of how we will be approaching the consorts in this series.
The consort is the person who is married to the monarch – in most cases a queen consort, but there are also a few prince consorts. The role of a consort is different to that of a monarch as the consort is not actually ruling (or at least not directly – some are more influential than others!) What’s more, they are not expected to be leading troops in battle or conquering France. As such, some of our traditional factors, such as Battleyness, might not seem very appropriate as we are liable to end up giving the vast majority of the consorts a very low score if judged on the same basis as the monarchs. However, rather than develop new factors we have decided to alter our approach to the existing ones, reframing them to be more appropriate for this series without requiring a radical overhaul.
Traditionally, we would expect good battleyness to involve a lot of military activity – either fighting personally in battle or commanding soldiers on the battlefield. This is very much not the expected role of a consort, which would seem problematic. However, fighting in battles was also not expected of more modern monarchs, so we gave credit for military successes that happened during their reign (regardless of their own involvement) with additional points if the monarch did have anything battley to bring to the table in their own right.
Likewise with consorts, for those who do have some involvement in military affairs (e.g. Margaret of Anjou taking leadership of the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses), there is the prospect of scoring in the more traditional way. However, we are also awarding points for consorts for fighting their own corner, showing independence and agency when they are often expected to play a more supporting role (e.g. Catherine of Aragon refusing to go quietly when Henry VIII wanted his divorce). This may not involve physical fighting or commanding soldiers, but it does require bravery and tenacity, so there will be plenty of consorts who will be able to score well in this category without marching on Paris at the head of an army.
There are various activities that present the possibility for scoring well in this category – bedroom antics, murder, corruption – and these are equally possible for the consorts as for the monarchs. However, the danger here is that powerful women who fall foul of the (male) chroniclers are often depicted as being adulterous, murdering, scheming villains in stories that can easily fall into stereotypes and tropes rather than realistic accounts of what they really did. We don’t want to perpetuate misogynistic myths and yet we also don’t want to end up with a very dry Scandal section with all the fun taken out. Both Elizabeth I (Series 1) and Mary Queen of Scots (Series 2) received very low scandal scores despite myriad rumours about their conduct.
It may be a difficult balance to tread, but we will continue to mine the history books for tales of scandal and notoriety and be awarding points for those consorts who were hitting the equivalent of the front page news in their period. We will also be realistic about whether or not we believe the rumours to be true, but we will not set the threshold too high so we end up not giving out any points at all. After all, we were happy to accept stories about William Rufus having a debauched court with mood lighting and blasphemy and did not trouble ourselves too much about the fact that these accounts all came from religious figures who hated him because he was taking church money! That said, stories that are clearly absurd (think Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s witch scene – “She turned me into a newt…I got better”) we will dismiss as such.
Would you want to be a subject to this person? In other words, did life improve under the reign? Was there peace, stability and justice or a flourishing in the arts? This section applies perfectly well to consorts – indeed, it has often been the case that the consort is expected to provide the court and nation with patronage of the arts and the encouraging of good deeds. Some of the medieval kings in the first series may even have been credited with activities that were actually undertaken by their queens. The consorts may not responsible for bestowing justice but they often had a vital role in the patronage of art and literature as well as playing a crucial role in diplomacy (both domestically and internationally).
Previously, this has been a calculation on the basis of how many years the monarch ruled – we then converted this into a score out of 20 (keeping it in line with the other factors) as described here. It might seem that there is no reason why we cannot do the same for the consorts as for the monarchs – calculate how long they were consort and work out their scores by comparing to the others in the series.
However, the death of the monarch does not necessarily mean that the role of the consort is over. If they are the parent of a monarch (particularly under a regency) they may have a vital role to play as Queen Mother (there has not yet been a prince consort to survive the queen regnant). It seems unfair for this vital aspect of their life to be ignored (50 years for Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – the most recent Queen Mother) but equally, is it fair to give equal credit to this period compared to when they were actually consort?
What we have decided to do is to give credit both for the time as consort and the time as queen mother but not at the same level. So, the number of years spent as consort will be credited in full, whereas the time spent as queen mother will be given half the credit. In the extremely rare event of a queen grandmother, this would then go down to a quarter of the credit.
- Queen Consort for 20 years = credited in full as 20 years
- Queen Mother for 20 years = half-credit, so 10 years
- Queen Grandmother for 20 years = quarter-credit, so 5 years
- Total equates to 20 + 10 + 5 = 35 years
This has previously been defined as how many legitimate, surviving children the monarch had – in other words, when the monarch died, how many children (born via lawful wedlock) did they leave behind? As with Longevity, we then turn this into a score out of 20.
Unlike Longevity, the total number of relevant children is not going to increase once the monarch is dead as these will not be children of the monarch (the sole exception being Emma of Normandy, who remarried another king after her first husband died), so a queen mother who remarries is not going to receive additional points for children by the non-royal husband.
However, there is still a complication to consider. If the consort dies before the monarch, are we going to deny her credit for legitimate children who survive her but predecease the king? Likewise, if there are children who survive the king (who maybe even become the monarch) but predecease the queen, does the queen not get credit for this? In both cases, the queen was not in a position to produce more children by the monarch, so it hardly seems fair to be penalised.
Our approach will be to give credit for the number of legitimate surviving children at the point when the first of the spouses die. So, if the queen consort dies leaving 5 children but by the time the king dies there are only 3, the queen consort is credited with 5 children. Likewise, if the king dies leaving 5 children but by the time the queen consort dies there are only 3, the queen consort is still credited with 5 children. If there were 5 children but 2 of them died before both the king and the queen, then the score would go down to 3.
Do they have that certain something, that lasting legacy, that great achievement, that star quality that we call…
This remains the same in all series. A high score helps but it is not essential. The role of the consort will change significant over the series (just as it did for the monarchs) and we will have some very different characters receiving the Rex Factor, but we are still looking for that certain indefinable quality that makes them stand out from the others.
At the end of the series, we will once again pit all our Rex Factor-winning consorts against each other in the play-offs to determine who will be crowned the series champion.