From homewrecker to Her Majesty: Queen Camilla’s journey into the royal spotlight

From homewrecker to Her Majesty: Queen Camilla’s journey into the royal spotlight

When the invitations to the coronation of Britain’s King Charles III went out in early April, a burning question for royal family watchers was finally answered: after the coronation, Charles’ wife Camilla will be officially known as ‘Queen Camilla’ instead of ‘Queen Consort’.

It was an expected transition, but rumours suggested it would happen later in the reign, with some royal experts claiming the title ‘Queen Consort’ would help to distinguish Camilla from the late Queen Elizabeth, who died last September.

The invitations put speculation to rest, just over a year after Queen Elizabeth gave her public endorsement for Camilla to be known as Queen Consort, as opposed to Princess Consort.

The invitation for the coronation – which will take place at London’s Westminster Abbey, the same location as the late Queen’s funeral – is full of nature references, representing the environmental campaigning of the new King.

Blue is the colour

Buckingham Palace says the design is a symbol of rebirth and spring and a perfect celebration for the start of a new royal reign for King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

A new official coronation portrait of the couple was also released by the Palace in April. In the photograph, both Charles and Camilla wore Royal Blue, a colour closely associated with the royal family as it often denotes authority, stability and confidence. Blue was also Queen Elizabeth’s favourite colour.

King Charles was previously married to the late Princess Diana, who died in 1997 at the age of 36, and his relationship with Camilla has been mired in controversy from its early stages, but this year marks 18 years of marriage for the couple.

Camilla’s designation as Queen is the final step in a remarkable comeback for Charles’ former mistress, who over decades has shed the image of homewrecker and been embraced by the British public.

As the big day approaches Euronews Culture takes a closer look at Camilla’s journey into the royal spotlight and provides this guide to everything you could possibly want to know about Britain’s future Queen.

She’s firmly upper class, but that didn’t stop her from working a job.

Camilla Rosemary Shand was born in London, on 17 July 1947 and grew up between the English capital city and the southern county of East Sussex.

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Her parents were British Army officer-turned-businessman Major Bruce Shand and The Honourable Rosalind Cubitt, who was the daughter of Roland Cubitt, 3rd Baron Ashcombe.

Camilla has a younger sister, Annabel Elliot, and had a younger brother, Mark Shand, a travel writer who died in 2014.

The family are firmly in the British upper classes and have had close royal connections for centuries. Alice Keppel, one of Camilla’s maternal great-grandmothers, was a long-time mistress of King Edward VII from the 1800s.

Unlike some exceptionally high class people, Camilla had several jobs before her first marriage, including working as an assistant at an interior design firm, Colefax and Fowler. Imogen Taylor, a former colleague, previously told The Sunday Times, “she worked for us for a moment but got the sack”.

She was married before, and King Charles is her son’s Godfather.

Camilla met her first husband Andrew Parker Bowles, then a Guards officer, in the late 1960s and their engagement was announced in The Times newspaper in 1973. They married on 4 July that year in a Roman Catholic ceremony in London and the event was considered to be the society wedding of the year, with 800 guests from the upper echelons of society in attendance. They included royals, including Charles’ sister Anne and Queen Elizabeth’s mother and sister Margaret.

Camilla, who took the surname Parker Bowles, and her husband Andrew had two children – Tom (born in 1974) and Laura (born in 1978). King Charles is, in actual fact, Tom’s Godfather as well as his now stepfather.

Charles and Camilla reportedly met for the first time in 1970 at a polo match and dated briefly before parting ways as the then-Prince Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971. There have been numerous accounts of the pair never falling out of love and continuing a friendship even after Camilla married Parker Bowles.

At the time, they wouldn’t have been allowed to marry if Camilla did divorce Andrew, as it was against royal rules. Queen Elizabeth’s uncle Edward VIII actually abdicated the throne in 1936 after proposing to American socialite and divorcee Wallis Simpson, choosing love over his role as King.

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Bearing this in mind, King Charles III married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, when she had just turned 20 and he was 32. Camilla attended the wedding, which remains one of the most watched events in television history.

After a controversial public debut, her popularity has been growing.

Camilla divorced Andrew Parker Bowles in 1995 and, after this separation and Charles’ parting from Diana, the two occasionally attended events together, in an unofficial capacity.

From 1999, Charles and Camilla began to make public appearances on a more regular basis and the relationship was made ‘royal official’ when Camilla attended a birthday party for the former King Constantine II of Greece in 2000, with Queen Elizabeth giving an apparent seal of approval to the relationship. The late monarch invited Camilla to her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002 and, in 2005, she married Charles in Windsor.

Prince William and Camilla’s son Tom acted as witnesses at the civil ceremony as neither of the couple’s parents were in attendance.

While the relationship has been fairly controversial, with die-hard Diana fans in particular opposing it, Camilla has managed to rehabilitate her image over the years and UK polls have frequently shown overall support for the marriage. This year, The Independent named Camilla as the most influential woman of 2023 in its “Influence List”.

She loves dogs, gardening and claims she’s down-to-earth.

Despite being born into an upper-class family, Camilla insists that her friends insist she keeps her feet on the ground. In a rare interview in the Daily Mail’s You magazine, she explained, “I have so many friends who, if I ever even vaguely look like getting uppity, which touch wood I never have, they would just say, ‘Look, come on, pull yourself together! Don’t be so bloody grand!’” She’s also said to be rather untidy, with a former flatmate telling Vanity Fair that she kept her bedroom in a state of chaos.

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The royals are well known for their love of canine companions and while Queen Elizabeth’s dog of choice was a corgi, Camilla is a Jack Russell fan. She currently owns two rescues called Beth and Bluebell, the newest additions to the Buckingham Palace pets.

Camilla is also a patron of the charity Medical Detection Dogs and made an official visit in 2019 to open a new facility for the clever pups and their trainers. Last week, following the death of Paul O’Grady, she paid tribute to the British comedian, after she’d been a guest on his television show For the Love of Dogs, saying they’d bonded over their love of the creature.

Camilla, like most royals, is a big fan of outdoor pursuits like riding and hunting and cites gardening as one of her top passions. She frequently attends Chelsea Flower Show in London and once told reporters at an event for the British charity Floral Angels, “I’d be out in my garden all day, every day if I were allowed. I love to get my hands dirty”.

The new Queen also has a great love for jewellery, with her engagement ring featuring a five-carat emerald cut diamond and three diamond baguettes. The ring once belonged to the Queen Mother, Charles’ grandmother, and isn’t the only historically significant piece of jewellery owned by Camilla. Her signature tiara is the Greville Tiara, which was also passed down from the Queen Mother.

At the coronation, Camilla is choosing to break with the tradition of recent queen consorts by not choosing to have a new crown made especially for the occasion, with Buckingham Palace citing efficiency and sustainability as the reasons. She will wear the crown of Queen Mary, which was removed from display at the Tower of London, home of the Crown Jewels, to be reset with diamonds from Queen Elizabeth’s personal collection. The palace says the crown will reflect Camilla’s ‘individual style’. When Saturday comes we’ll see exactly what that looks like…