UK's Camilla: From public shaming to Queen Consort-in-waiting

Published on Feb 06, 2022 07:54 AM IST

In a message to the nation, Queen Elizabeth II praised Camilla's "loyal service", saying she hoped her daughter-in-law will be known as Queen Consort when Charles accedes to the throne.

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.(Reuters / File)
Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.(Reuters / File)
AFP |

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has received Queen Elizabeth II's blessing to become known as Queen Consort when Prince Charles becomes king, in a remarkable journey to public acceptance after being vilified for her role in the break-up of his marriage to Princess Diana.

In a message to the nation on Saturday, the Queen praised Camilla's "loyal service", saying she hoped her daughter-in-law will be known as Queen Consort when Charles accedes to the throne.

Charles has always been adamant his "darling wife" should receive the title, The Times reported, citing a source.

Yet for years, Camilla was vilified as the marriage-wrecker who shattered Britain's fairytale royal love story.

Diana famously complained in a bombshell BBC television interview in 1995 that "there were three of us in this marriage" -- her, Charles and Camilla, his long-time lover.

She even reportedly called her love rival a "rottweiler".

After Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Charles and Camilla were free to revive their decades-old romance, discreetly at first, then more publicly.

The couple married in 2005, with a royal announcement that she would become known as Princess Consort due the sensitivity of the issue, but she gradually won plaudits as the future king's loyal wife.

She has carved out a solo role, participating in the Booker literary prize ceremony and even the final of television ballroom dancing talent contest "Strictly Come Dancing".

She campaigns to raise awareness of osteoporosis -- a condition from which her mother, Rosalind, suffered -- and has an Instagram book club.

Yet despite her increased prominence, controversy has continued to swirl about whether she should be given the title of queen when Charles becomes king.

A YouGov poll in November 2021 found only 14 percent would like to see her become "Queen", while 42 percent favoured the title of "Princess Consort".

According to YouGov's latest rankings from the final quarter of 2021, she is the 11th most popular royal, with 34 percent saying they liked her and 28 percent saying they disliked her.

- Traditional upbringing -

Born Camilla Rosemary Shand in London on July 17, 1947, Camilla had a traditional upbringing among Britain's monied upper classes.

The granddaughter of the 3rd Baron Ashcombe, Roland Cubitt, she was educated in London, went to finishing schools in Switzerland and France, and spent her home life on a country estate in Sussex, in southern England.

Self-confident and attractive, she first met Prince Charles as a young woman at a polo match in the early 1970s, and they later became close.

However, believing Charles would never propose, she married British Army officer Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. Royal guests included the queen's sister, princess Margaret, and the monarch's daughter, princess Anne.

The couple had two children: Tom Parker Bowles, whose godfather is Charles, is now a food writer, while Laura Lopes is an art curator.

Mutual feelings with the prince remained, nonetheless, with Charles allegedly continuing to see Camilla even after his high-profile marriage to Diana at London's St Paul's Cathedral in 1981.

The romance was fully rekindled later that decade as the royal marriage crumbled, which was luridly chronicled in leaked recorded phone conversations to the tabloid press.

Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles divorced in 1995, a year before Charles and Diana.

After Diana's death, Charles and Parker Bowles kept their relationship discreet, but it gradually became apparent they were effectively living together as husband and wife.

Following months of careful planning, the couple made their first public appearance together in 1999 and after that became increasingly open about their relationship.

- Windsor wedding -

They were married in the royal town of Windsor on April 9, 2005, in a civil ceremony followed by a religious blessing at St George's Chapel, with Queen Elizabeth II present.

Both divorced, there was controversy over whether they could have a church wedding, especially given Charles' future role as supreme governor of the Church of England.

But the wedding -- delayed by a day to allow the prince to attend pope John Paul II's funeral -- drew a cheering crowd of 20,000 into the streets in the shadow of Windsor Castle.

As a married couple, they settled down in the years that followed into a regular life of royal duties, overseas tours and holidays at Balmoral, the royal estate in northeast Scotland.

Camilla -- known as the Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland -- remains the archetype of the tweed-wearing, horse-loving British country aristocrat.

She has two Jack Russell terriers, rescue dogs Beth and Bluebell, and is a keen flower arranger.

Over time, Camilla has also been widely accepted by the royal family, including Charles and Diana's two sons, princes William and Harry.

In 2005, Harry rejected the image of her as a "wicked stepmother", describing her as a "wonderful woman and she's made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing.

"William and I love her to bits."

In December 2021, the Queen boosted Camilla's role by making her a member of the ancient Order of the Garter, an honour none of her other children's spouses have been granted.

 

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