Why the monarch owes thanks to Camilla, Catherine, Sophie and Anne

No wonder the late Queen insisted that Camilla should herself become Queen – Queen Elizabeth II’s knew better than anyone the invaluable nature of her daughter-in-law’s contribution as seemingly the only person on earth who fully understands Charles.

A woman who takes the work seriously – but not herself, the Queen Consort’s good humour and sense of fun stands Charles’s reign in good stead.

It is certainly testament to the unfussy, unstuffy grandmother of Camilla’s innate sense of magnanimity that, despite the vicious criticism she received from the press in the 1990s and early 2000s, she remains the friendliest of all the royals towards reporters and photographers.

Would William be as popular as he has become without his wife’s firm hand on the domestic tiller? I appreciate that the public instantly warmed to Prince William as Diana’s lookalike eldest son but, before he met Kate, the heir to the throne had a reputation in some quarters for a degree of hot temperedness.

Yet marriage and fatherhood have mellowed him. Those who know the couple well speak of his imperturbable wife as someone with a Kipling-esque ability to keep her head when all around her are losing theirs.

She was trashed by her sister-in-law the Duchess of Sussex when the latter told Oprah Winfrey that it was Kate who made her cry during a bridesmaid’s dress fitting. (I wrote the original story suggesting it was the other way round; to quote the late Queen: “Recollections may vary.“)

Catherine, the Princess of Wales, and Prince William, the Prince of Wales, meet mourners. Credit:Getty

But Kate still had the good grace to act as peacemaker between the estranged royal brothers at Prince Philip’s funeral, little over a month later. Would William and Harry even have spoken during those solemn commemorations at Windsor Castle if it were not for Kate? I doubt it.

Similarly, in recent days we have witnessed the Countess of Wessex extend the hand of friendship to Meghan, who must be feeling a tad awkward even to be here. It was only last month that the former American actress was spilling every last available bean to The Cut magazine, boasting of how she has “never had to sign anything that restricts me from talking”.

Despite the implied threat, and Prince Harry’s memoirs hanging over the royal family, Sophie has still shown her support to the couple.

I interviewed the Countess and her husband Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, at their Bagshot Park home in June last year and I can tell you this unassuming pair of royal troopers do exactly what it says on the tin. There has been much talk of them “stepping up” in recent months – but they have been quietly plugging away at this, largely without fanfare, for more than 20 years.

The Princess of Wales and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, watch over the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall.

The Princess of Wales and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, watch over the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall.Credit:Getty

These are people who, when they invited me into their sumptuous home, poured the tea themselves and gave me some very salient advice on box blight. It is hardly surprising that unshowy Sophie, whose grief has been etched across her face as she has embraced mourners on walkabouts, was the late Queen’s favourite daughter-in-law.

Even Sarah Ferguson remained in the late Queen’s affections years after her divorce from Prince Andrew, in admiration for the way she brought up princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who by all accounts are lovely women despite the Yorks’ somewhat chequered history.

No appreciation of royal women would be complete without a word on that most stalwart of royal sisters, so identically cut from Queen Elizabeth’s cloth: the Princess Royal.

As a sibling to the King, Anne, 72, could not have been more supportive – agreeing to accompany their late mother’s coffin all the way from Balmoral to London while he fulfilled his constitutional duties.

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, walks behind the Queen’s coffin in a procession in London.

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, walks behind the Queen’s coffin in a procession in London.Credit:Getty

But she is also the best possible advert for an organisation whose survival depends on unwavering devotion to duty, and good old fashioned graft. In her moving tribute, Anne spoke of how we “may have been reminded how much of her [mother’s] presence and contribution to our national identity we took for granted”.

Yet for years many have actually taken for granted the contribution she has made to public life – along with that of her fellow royal females.

In her 1966 Christmas broadcast, the Queen said: “It has been women who have breathed gentleness and care into the harsh progress of mankind.”

In coping with the crises it has faced over the years, the House of Windsor owes a great debt to the determination and tenacity of its women.

Telegraph, London

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