Who is Camilla? The ‘other woman’ who’s now Queen Consort

has been a long time coming, and so too, it seems, has wider public and even royal acceptance of his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles.

Once vilified for her role in the break-up of Prince Charles’s marriage to Princess Diana, Camilla, 75, is now Queen Consort, a title Queen Elizabeth II officially endorsed in February.

‘The other woman’

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.

A friend of Diana even claimed Diana called Camilla “the Rottweiler” because “once she has got her teeth into someone she won’t let go”.

“It’s not easy,” Camilla said of the scrutiny she received in an interview with Vogue earlier this year.
“I was scrutinised for such a long time that you just have to find a way to live with it. Nobody likes to be looked at all the time and, you know, criticised.”
“But I think in the end, I sort of rise above it and get on with it. You’ve got to get on with life.”

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.

HRH Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall Attend the Service of Prayer and Dedication

Charles and Camilla on their wedding day. Source: Getty / Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA

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

Upper-class upbringing

Born Camilla Rosemary Shand in London on 17 July 1947, Camilla had a traditional upbringing among Britain’s wealthy 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.

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles chat at a polo matchPrince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles chat at a polo match

Prince Charles chats to Camilla Parker-Bowles at a polo match, circa 1972. Credit: Hulton Deutsch/Corbis via Getty Images

But reportedly 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.

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

Parker-Bowles MarriageParker-Bowles Marriage

Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles on their wedding day in 1973. Source: Getty / Wood/Express/Hulton Archive

Mutual feelings about 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.

HRH Prince Charles & Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles Marry At Guildhall Civil CerHRH Prince Charles & Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles Marry At Guildhall Civil Cer

Camilla’s children Tom and Laura Parker Bowles with Charles’ children Prince Harry and Prince William at the marriage of their parents in 2005. Source: Getty / Georges De Keerle

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

After Diana’s death, Charles and Camilla kept their relationship discreet, but it gradually became apparent they were living together.

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

Accepted by William and Harry

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

As both were divorced, there was controversy over whether they could have a church wedding, especially given Charles’s future role as supreme governor of the Church of England. A service of prayer and dedication was the compromise.

Charles and Camilla at their blessing ceremony in 2005Charles and Camilla at their blessing ceremony in 2005

The couple at their wedding at St George’s Chapel. Credit: Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage

The wedding drew a cheering crowd of 20,000 into the streets in the shadow of Windsor Castle.

As a married couple, Charles and Camilla settled into a life of regular royal duties, overseas tours and holidays at Balmoral, the royal estate in northeast Scotland where the Queen died this week.

“It’s not easy sometimes, but we do always try to have a point in the day when we meet,” Camilla said this year of her and Charles’ busy schedules.
“Sometimes it’s like ships passing in the night, but we always sit down together and have a cup of tea and discuss the day.”
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.

Prince Charles And Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Japan - Day 4Prince Charles And Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Japan - Day 4

Camilla meets sick children given dogs to play with at a hospital in Japan in 2008. Source: Getty / Chris Jackson

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,” he said.

William, Camilla, Prince Charles and Prince HarryWilliam, Camilla, Prince Charles and Prince Harry

The royals at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Invictus Games in London. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

She has since carved out a solo role, participating in the Booker literary prize ceremony and even appearing in two pre-recorded video messages on the final of British TV ballroom dancing talent contest “Strictly Come Dancing” in 2020.

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

The Prince Of Wales & Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Australia - Day 1The Prince Of Wales & Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Australia - Day 1

Charles and Camilla at Seppeltsfield Winery in the Barossa Valley, Australia, in 2015. Source: Getty / Daniel Kalisz

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

A YouGov poll in November 2021 found only 14 per cent wanted to see her become “Queen”, while 42 per cent favoured the title of “Princess Consort”.

According to YouGov’s rankings from the final quarter of 2021, she was the 11th most popular royal, with 34 per cent saying they liked her and 28 per cent saying they disliked her.

Diamond Jubilee - Carriage Procession And Balcony AppearanceDiamond Jubilee - Carriage Procession And Balcony Appearance

The Queen and Camilla during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. Source: Getty / WPA Pool/Getty Images

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.

And in one of her last decisive acts over the succession, the Queen settled the issue about what Charles’s wife Camilla will be called, giving her blessing for “Queen Consort”.

– With Reuters

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