There was a time Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t be in the same room as “that wicked woman” and even boycotted her son and heir’s 50th birthday party because she would be there.
Camilla Parker-Bowles was the person who had destroyed Prince Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana and heaped scandal and shame on the royal family.
But time, her son’s obvious happiness and Camilla’s unfussy dedication to duty has changed all that – and this was made clear when Her Majesty recently bestowed the ultimate honour on her daughter-in-law.
“When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes king, I know you will give him and his wife, Camilla, the same support you have given me,” the queen said on the eve of the 70th anniversary of her ascension to the throne.
Royal experts say the move shows the queen’s full acceptance of the woman who was once such a thorn in her side. “It is probably one of the strongest points the queen has made,” historian and author Hugo Vickers says.
Charles (73) and Camilla (74) were touched. “We are deeply conscious of the honour represented by my mother’s wish,” the future king said after the announcement. “As we have sought to serve and support Her Majesty and the people of our communities, my darling wife has been my steadfast support throughout.”
To Charles, Camilla is the rock that has stood by him through thick and thin. “It’s always marvellous to have somebody who you feel understands and wants to encourage you,” he told CNN in 2015.
“Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps.”
Experts say the 95-year-old queen, whose health has sparked concern in recent months, is making sure the future of the monarchy will be secure – and in recognising the Duchess of Cornwall, she’s giving her seal of approval to the woman who will be by her son’s side when the crown is finally placed on his head.
The queen’s decision also shows a degree of sentimentality, royal historian Robert Lacey says. “She wouldn’t have taken the decision lightly.
“As she thought about her father, King George VI, she would have also thought about her mother [the Queen Mother] and the importance she played as a partner to him.”
And she believes Camilla will be a good queen, he adds. Her loyalty to Charles and work ethic have proven to be essential cogs in the royal machine over the past two decades.
“The queen clearly believes she possesses key traits of past successful consorts, such as quiet supportiveness and a determination not to outshine the principal,” royal writer Caroline Davies says in The Guardian.
A clear sign of how far Camilla has come in the queen’s eyes was when Her Majesty recently appointed her a member of the ancient Order of the Garter, the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system.
The duchess is the only spouse of the queen’s children ever to be granted this honour. Camilla was also there for the queen when Philip died last year and took over several duties with Charles as the monarch mourned.
TOUGH COUNTRY STOCK
Camilla has the ability to get on with things, Hugo Vickers says. “When you consider how horrible people were about her before she married Charles – they hurled abuse at her, they accused her of everything – she is not vindictive or vengeful.
“She has never given a hint of being anti anyone who was nasty about her before.
“She has a laid-back quality about her which I think comes from what you might loosely call the Gloucestershire hunting set, which is a world of its own, where they rise above the jibes of the media and just get on with life.”
Camilla, who was raised among England’s horsey upper-crust set, once publicly addressed the abuse in a humorous way.
On being asked to make a toast at the annual meeting of literary group the Oscar Wilde Society, she quipped, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.
“One of the few maxims of the great 19th-century writer Oscar Wilde that I’m not sure I would entirely agree with.”
Peter Hunt, the BBC’s former royal correspondent, believes Camilla is a smart woman. “She has played a canny game,” he says. “She has kept the media close.”
She’s known to joke with photographers and is happy to talk to reporters.
Subjects close to her heart include promoting literacy and highlighting violence against women. She is also active in the area of osteoporosis, which runs in her family.
As the daughter of a major she is also well-schooled in the military, which has further endeared her to her mother-in-law.
MAKING CHARLES HAPPY
It’s no secret the queen and Charles have had a tough time in the past.
She was deeply disapproving of the affair he had with Camilla during his marriage to Diana and was reportedly furious when a transcript of an intimate phone conversation between Charles and Camilla was leaked to the media.
The scandal was dubbed Camillagate and led the queen to call Camilla “that wicked woman”.
Yet Charles was determined to keep her at his side, even when his mom boycotted his 50th birthday party at Highgrove in 1998. The following year they started appearing in public together and in 2002 the queen seemed to soften, meeting Camilla for the first time at the 60th birthday party of the king of Greece in the UK. It was reportedly her seal of approval.
“You need only look at his body language – when he was with Diana he was stooped and clearly troubled. With Camilla he is looser and lighter and laughs a lot.”
The queen also recognises that there is little ego in her daughter-in-law.
“I think all Camilla really wants is to make things easier for Charles,” Vickers says. “I don’t think she’s got any particular personal ambitions. She will not outshine him. She’s matter-of-fact and straightforward, and that’s exactly what he needs.”
WHAT WILLIAM THINKS
Prince William and Prince Harry have had issues with their stepmom in the past and Harry in particular had “some strong words about her,” a friend disclosed.
However, William is pragmatic about the queen’s decision to give Camilla the queen consort title. “He’s supportive,” a well-placed palace source says.
Another emphasised that while the prince was not part of the final decision-making process, he would have discussed the issue of the title of queen consort with his father and, effectively, given his blessing.
“None of this can have been easy for him. There were huge family rows in the early stages of Charles and Camilla’s marriage as everyone found their feet. But William sees that Camilla has made his father happy and it’s something he has come to terms with.“
He is not particularly close to Camilla, but they get on perfectly well and are quite the blended family now,” the source continues.
The Duchess of Cornwall will be crowned alongside her husband at his coronation and will be bequeathed the Queen Mother’s priceless Kohinoor Crown.
Boasting a platinum frame, it is set with 2 800 diamonds including the Kohinoor – a 105.6 carat diamond found in Southern India in the 14th century.
The crown was created in 1937 for the coronation of King George VI where it was worn by his wife, Queen Elizabeth, later called the Queen Mother.
History says the Kohinoor diamond was ceded to Queen Victoria in 1849 after decades of changing hands.
Since then, it’s remained part of the crown jewels and is currently on display at the Tower of London.
The spouse of a ruling king or queen is called a consort. The wife of a king can be known as queen consort but the husband of a queen cannot be king consort – kings will always reign, royal tradition decrees, whereas the title of queen can be symbolic.
The Duke of Edinburgh rejected the title of prince consort when the queen was crowned as it reportedly made him feel inferior and his wife, sensitive to this, agreed.
A law was passed in 1957 that enabled him to be a prince. “The queen is pleased to declare that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh shall henceforth be known as His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”
Sources: biography.com, brides.com, edition.cnn.com, theguardian.co.uk, dailymail.co.uk, people.com, express.co.uk