If you watched the entire coronation ceremony from whoa to go, then you like me, probably follow the dramas of The Royals. They are an interesting bunch with dramas like any family, more so lately with the whole Megxit and tell-all Spare publicity. We know heaps about Charles, Diana and the Sussexes but what about Camilla the new Queen Consort? I decided to make an attempt at understanding Camilla, the new Queen Consort to King Charles III. Who is the real Camilla, the woman who unintentionally took the journey to the throne of Britain?
Camilla’s Early Years
Born Camilla Rosemary Stand in 1947, Camilla is the eldest daughter of a celebrated war hero, Major Bruce Shand and his aristocratic wife Rosalind nee Cubitt. Interestingly, one of her maternal great grandmothers was Alice Keppel, the mistress of King Edward VII.
The Shand family which included Camilla’s younger sister and brother, divided their time between a house in Kensington, London and a country estate in Sussex. Camilla has always loved the country and animals and is an avid reader like her father. She had an idyllic upper class English childhood.
A fun-loving teen
Camilla was educated in London, France and Switzerland and always moved in aristocratic circles of friends and family. When she met the Prince of Wales as a teenager she was a pretty, buxom, fun loving party girl. They had a six-month love affair in 1972, but Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles’s mentor and uncle advised Charles to ‘not go there’. Camilla, despite her aristocratic roots, was not a virgin and had a fun-loving past, not suitable for the position of Princess of Wales at the time.
Charles and Camilla, each on a journey
Other factors of influence were Mountbatten’s desire for Charles to marry his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull. However, the Queen favoured the Spencer granddaughters of her close friend Lady Fermoy. Also, Charles even though nearly thirty, was in no hurry to marry.
So, although they cared deeply for each other at the time and were very compatible re interests, it was not to be. When Charles was away with his military commitments, Camilla married the dashing Andrew Parker Bowles. He was a former boyfriend to Princess Anne and a man Camilla had been involved with in an on-and-off type of way. She was 25 and Andrew was 33 years old. It was 1973.
Charles had another journey, that of marrying a suitable young aristocratic girl. Diana was the chosen one. Much younger and seemingly uncomplicated, she seemed perfect for the role. Britain and the world came to love the new Princess of Wales before and after their 1981 marriage.
By the 1990s both marriages had hit the rocks and Camilla and Charles again found comfort in each other. It is claimed the affair went on during Charles’s marriage to Diana and dated to as early as 1980 when he was engaged to Diana. Charles had trouble relating to the much younger and surprisingly complicated Diana. Andrew Parker Bowles revealed himself as a serial adulterer.
Two divorces decide Camilla’s journey to the throne
Finally, after Charles and Diana resorted to divorce, they were free to follow their hearts. Charles chose Camilla and she found love and comfort in his arms. Charles told his mother; the Queen, that Camilla was ‘non-negotiable’. Diana took off with various men and found herself in Paris with Dodi Fayed the son of the Harrod’s magnate. It was in the French capital of love in 1997 that she tragically died after a late-night car crash in a Paris road tunnel.
Camilla versus Diana
Camilla became the most hated woman in Britain because Diana had been the most loved one. It was the Diana Effect that changed the world. Despite this, Camilla managed to hold her head high. She did this by adopting the mode of most royalty. She kept her silence and supported the man she loved, Charles. the Prince of Wales. She modelled the duty and dignity of Queen Elizabeth.
Camilla accompanied Charles on his duties and took on roles of her own. She became the patron of The Battersea Dog Home, Sexual Assault charities and children with life threatening illnesses. She worked hard and tirelessly and won some favour. She listened to the everyday people she met on her tours. Charles says, “She is the best listener”.
Camilla forever compared
The 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death in 2017 was a difficult time for her and Charles. There was a revival of Diana worship. Diana would always be young and beautiful but Camilla, attractive but never a beauty, lacked the same lustre. Plus, wasn’t she a marriage breaker? In reality, no.
Charles had pursued her when she had been vulnerable and let down by Andrew the womanising husband. If her marriage had prospered, Camilla would have not been available. But because both Charles and Camilla were unhappy at the same time, they reignited their affections.
Marriage for love at last
In hindsight, they should have married back in the 1970s and saved everyone especially Diana a lot of pain. The ‘princess of hearts’ would then most likely still be alive. But it was not to be. Royalty puts restrictions on the freedom of the heart. Charles is certainly not the first royal to take on a mistress and cause the death of his wife. Royalty and wealth do not guarantee fidelity and fairy tale marriages.
In 2005 Charles and Camilla finally married with the Queen’s blessing. What mother does not want her son to be happy? Besides, times had changed. Prince William, Charles’s son married a commoner, Catherine Middleton in 2011. The rules for royal alliances had softened, though William’s grandmother was a commoner. It is just as well as they have caused much unhappiness over the years.
Princess Margaret, the late Queen’s sister, never found love in marriage because of the restrictions of marrying a divorced person. Now Prince Harry has, like his late uncle, abdicated and married a divorced American.
Camilla’s new journey of service
No doubt, the monarchy has more tough times ahead, as anti colonialism and antimonarchy sentiments resound around the globe. But for the moment new King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla try their best to serve the people of Britain and the Commonwealth. It can’t be easy starting a job in your mid- seventies. It must be tough for Camilla as an ageing woman to be photographed and constantly compared to a forever youthful Diana.
Prince Harry has added to her pain by defaming her in his biography, Spare. He cast her in the role of the wicked mistress and stepmother plotting for the throne. Yet, it was only Diana’s untimely death that put her in that position. Camilla never wanted to be in the public limelight, she never wanted to be a queen. She just loved a man who was born to be a king. She is an ‘old dear’ now caught in the headlights of fame.
Apart from all the scandal and tragedy, the story of Charles and Camilla is a true love story that has weathered the storms of time. All the best to them.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.