For years the Duchess of Cornwall was known throughout the world for her infamous relationship with King Charles, formerly the Prince of Wales. But there’s more to Camilla than meets the eye…
The Duchess of Cornwall was born Camilla Rosemary Shand, and despite her reputation as a controversial royal-adjacent figure, she’s always been far more relaxed and less uptight than many would guess.
She even told the Daily Mail's You Magazine that she has always lived humbly, saying "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!'"
Camilla Meets Charles
Camilla is best known as the second wife of now-King Charles, his first being the beloved princess Diana. But what many don’t know is that Camilla and Charles met long before he and Diana ever did. Their first encounter occurred back in the early '70s, during his Royal Navy tour of duty.
The young prince felt an immediate attraction to Camilla when he met her back in 1973 - but alas, she was already engaged to officer Andrew Parker Bowles. “Everything in life is timing, and so often time deals you the wrong hand,” said Camilla’s friend Jane Churchill, while explaining that first encounter to Vanity Fair.
The Royal Divorce
Knowing that marriage to Camilla was impossible, Charles was urged by his father Prince Philip to propose to the young Diana Spencer. But his feelings for the other woman never changed, and when asked during an interview if he and Diana were in love, Charles answered with: "Whatever 'in love' means."
As their marriage grew more strained, rumours about Charles and Camilla began to swirl. But the prince maintained his fidelity to his wife - during another interview, when asked if he had remained faithful he replied “Yes, until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
Rejecting The Title
After more than two decades, they finally got the timing right. Camilla and Andrew divorced in 1995, and Charles and Diana followed suit just one year later. Upon Diana’s passing in 1997, the new couple finally announced their relationship. And predictably, the public was furious.
Despite facing a wave of public backlash that would persist for years to come, Charles was steadfast and declared that their relationship was entirely "non-negotiable." To appease the public critics Camilla refused the title of Princess of Wales, opting to go by the Duchess of Cornwall instead.
Charles The Godfather
Despite their separate marriages and increasingly divergent lives, Prince Charles and Camilla had maintained a friendship long before their marriage. In fact, when she and her first husband Andrew welcomed their first son Tom into the world, they named Charles his godfather.
When it came time for Prince Charles to marry his first wife, Diana, some suggested that Tom attend his godfather's wedding day. Though Diana refused, Camilla and her son attended anyway. "Walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla,” Diana later said. “Pale gray, veiled pillbox hat, saw it all, her son Tom standing on a chair."
The Perfect Ring
But let’s jump forward a decade, to Prince Charles's second marriage to Camilla. To commemorate their engagement, he purchased an extraordinary ring for his new wife. It included a five-carat emerald cut diamond, flanked by three diamond baguettes set into the solid gold band.
And it wasn’t just dazzling to look at - the ring was also historically important, as it was owned by Prince Charles’ grandmother. This engagement ring, as well as the Greville Tiara, were two such pieces passed down by the Queen Mother to Camilla.
Though Camilla had rejected the title ‘Princess of Whales’ for the more modest Duchess of Cornwall, it was not the only title she had to adjust to. Immediately upon marrying Prince Charles, Camilla was also granted use of the title Her Royal Highness.
It was a big change for Camilla, but it was nothing compared to the title she would have to take on almost two decades later. Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Charles stepped up to the title of King Charles III. And naturally, Camilla is right beside him as Her Majesty The Queen Consort.
Forever An Animal Lover
But what about our Queen Consorts' hobbies? Well, Camilla is well-known as a great lover of animals. She has been an accomplished horseback rider for years and has adopted several rescue dogs over the years. Her first rescue was a Jack Russel Terrier puppy named Beth, followed by another rescue dog named Bluebell.
All in all, her love for dogs is something that takes up a lot of her time both inside and outside of her home. For years she has been a sponsor for the charity Medical Detection Dogs and even helped the organization to open up a new training facility back in 2019.
But Medical Detection Dogs isn’t the only charity Camilla has taken an active involvement in. Since officially joining the Royal family in 2005, the former Duchess of Cornwall has committed to sponsoring almost 90 charity organizations, even becoming the president of some of them!
These charities cover a wide range of social issues, including support for rape and sexual abuse victims to charities that promote literacy, animals, heritage, the arts, and much more. She has since taken over Barnardo's, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, and The Royal School of Needlework from the late Queen Elizabeth II.
An Education Fit For Royalty
She may have a humble personality, but Camilla’s education was the creme de la creme. Growing up in Plumpton, Sussex, she began her schooling at the co-educational Dumbrells school, before moving to the upper-class Queen’s Gate School in South Kensington at 10 years old.
6 years later, teenage Camilla moved to Switzerland to study at the Mon Fertile school, before finishing up at the Institut Britannique in Paris, France. Upon her graduation she returned to the UK, settling in London where she spent her time as a society debutante and took on work as a part-time secretary.
Since the shock of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, the new Queen Consort will have to shoulder more responsibilities. But Camilla insists she’ll still continue one of her favorite pastimes - gardening. “I love to get my hands dirty,” she told the charity Floral Angels. “I’d be out in my garden all day, every day if I were allowed.”
She has a place she can go to when she needs a break from her duties - the country retreat of Raymond. “Sometimes you get up in the morning and think you can’t do it, and you just have to,” the Daily Mail reported her telling a friend. “The minute you stop, it’s like a balloon, you run out of puff - you sort of collapse in a heap.”
A Lady’s Charm
When Camilla and Prince Charles's relationship was first announced, people were in an uproar. Fortunately, Camilla had more than enough charm and charisma to ingratiate herself with the royal-adjacent high society. In fact, the new Queen Consort is famous for having the gift of the gab, something she inherited from her parents.
"There was a dinner party at home with some of the most boring neighbors in the world," she recalled. "[Mum] would sit us down, and the minute there was silence, she used to say, 'Talk! I don't care what you talk about, talk about your budgie or your pony but keep the conversation going.' And so I've never been able not to talk."
She Loves To Laugh
Along with her charming personality, she also has a great sense of humor - though this can her in trouble when attending a constant stream of royal events. "There are situations where it's very difficult not to lose it completely, you know,” she told the Daily Mail.
“Especially if something goes terribly wrong and everybody sits there for a split-second [not sure how to react]," Camilla continued. “You do have to swallow and pinch yourself very hard to not laugh. [But] You've got to laugh through most things, and sometimes I do laugh a bit too much."
Not A Fan Of Travel
Considering that the new Queen Consort once spent her teenage years flying across Europe for school, Camilla is decidedly not a fan of international and cross-continental travel. Despite having a position that requires her to fly from place to place, Camilla is terrified of flying!
Her fear of airplanes is so considerable that it has stopped her from attending various events, including a visit to Australia and the South Pacific with Charles, though she did once go to Australia for the Commonwealth Games. According to the Express, she uses EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to manage her anxiety.
Camilla Rosemary Shand was born on July 17th, the same day as former German Chancellor Angela Merkel! These two influential women enjoy their birthday celebrations on the same day, though they were technically born seven years apart. And just recently she celebrated her 75th birthday!
Unfortunately, Camila wasn’t exactly thrilled about her special day. She explained her thoughts in an interview with Vogue, saying "Who wants to be 75, really? But there's nothing we can do about it, that's life. You've done what you can. I think you just accept that you are who you are."
Waste Not Want Not
With the kind of resources Queen Camilla has at her disposal, we assumed the stylish royal would be stepping out in a new fit every other day. But according to her, she wears her favorite pair of shoes almost every day - the same pair she’s been rocking since 2005!
And looking at the shoes in question, it’s hard to blame her. This little pair of classic Chanel pumps, with their nude body and black toes, are both simple and elegant, making them the perfect accompaniment for virtually any outfit. And they even have CC embroidered on the front! (Charles & Camilla, anyone?)
But Camilla isn’t the only interesting figure in her distant family. Genealogical studies have shown that our new Queen Consort is linked by blood to several Hollywood stars including Angelina Jolie, Madonna, and Celine Dion! The four women were all found to be descended from a single French Canadian couple from the 17th century.
But some genealogical research has unearthed some more interesting info…Camilla is also distantly related to her own husband! According to Ancestry.com, she and Charles are 9th cousins once removed due to their shared relative Henry Cavendish, the second Duke of Newcastle.
Born Like The Rest Of Us
Camilla also has a great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, who was the mistress of King Edward VII! But despite these intriguing royal connections, Camilla is not a natural-born royal herself. She was born in 1947 to two commoners, Bruce and Rosalind Shand, though they were an upper-class family.
Even if she hadn’t been married to Andrew Parker Bowles back in 1973, it’s possible that Prince Charles would still not have married Camilla due to her background as a commoner. At the time, there was immense pressure on Charles to marry an aristocratic woman, and the Shands did not make the cut.
Despite the many blessings Camilla has enjoyed in her life, she has also had her share of tragedy. Back in 2014, her younger brother Mark Shand died in a tragic accident at just 64 years old. The writer and conservationist passed away in New York after falling and hitting his head.
Of course, the news of her brother's unexpected passing hit Camilla hard, and she and Charles swiftly issued a public statement on the matter, explaining that they were “utterly devastated.” Since both of her parents had already passed, Camilla and her sister Annabel Elliot were the last remaining members of the Shand family.
The Big Day
But let’s return to a more positive time - the Royal wedding of Camilla and Charles back in 2005. Originally the couple had planned to hold the ceremony at Windsor Castle, but things didn’t quite go to plan. If they held their wedding at the famous castle, it would need to become a publicly licensed venue.
This would open Windsor up for use by any paying member of the public, so the couple chose to patronize Windsor Guildhall, opting to use Saint Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle for the blessing. Camilla looked gorgeous in an Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine dress, which had a "crisp, clean look with subtle detailing."
Wedding In Jeopardy
But things didn’t go as smoothly as the couple had hoped. When the big day came around on April 9, 2005, Camilla was struck with a case of sinusitis. According to Vanity Fair, it was bad enough that the bride-to-be could barely move and her sister had to threaten to don the wedding gown herself just to rouse the sickly Camilla.
But that wasn’t all. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attended the reception but not the ceremony, with the Queen saying, "They have overcome Becher's Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles. They have come through, and I'm very proud and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves."
The Missing Queen
It was a beautiful message to send to her son and daughter-in-law, but the fact was that Queen Elizabeth II had initially disapproved of her son's relationship. It was only when she realized that Charles was never going to give up on his love that she changed her mind. But disapproval wasn’t the reason she didn’t attend.
Because Charles and Camilla had both been previously divorced, something that the Church of England frowned upon, the late Queen could not officially endorse their marriage. As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II was obligated to hold up the values of the church. Thankfully, she and Philip did turn up for the wedding reception.
Returning To Their Royal Home
But finally, their special day had come to an end, and after years of anticipation, Duchess Camilla was an official member of the Royal family. Now that all the celebrations were over, she and Prince Charles returned to the Royal residence of Clarence House in London. The property sat between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace.
And though the house is perfectly fit for a Prince and Duchess, will it be suitable for a King and Queen? Now that Queen Elizabeth II has passed on, many people are wondering whether King Charles III and Queen Camilla will take the Royal seat of Buckingham Palace.
Camilla and Charles have been together for so long that it’s hard to remember those rocky years that they first met back in the early 70s. Apparently, Charles had been tempted to draw Camilla away from her engagement in the hopes of marrying her first, but his family had fiercely disapproved of any union between them.
Some even believe that Charles's overseas missions back in the '70s were a clever royal tactic to put distance between him and Camilla. So it must have been a shock when Charles went straight back to her after his royal divorce. Thankfully, the Queen and Co. accepted Camilla more quickly than expected, despite initial disapproval.
To Queen Or Not To Queen?
As we now know, Camilla took the title of Duchess of Cornwall, leaving the title of Princess to the late Diana. But it wasn’t the only royal title that she tried to dodge. In a post-wedding public statement, she and Charles ensured that they would "use the title HRH the Princess Consort when the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne."
According to royal expert Marlene Koenig in an interview with Town & Country, this public statement was issued because "Camilla was not popular or well-liked" by the public. But the tides must have turned since as we know now Camilla has taken the title Queen Consort according to Queen Elizabeth II’s wishes.
Though Camilla initially wanted to appease the public and honor the late Princess Diana, it seems she had some pressure to take the royal title. Constitutional Affairs Minister Christopher Leslie once said, "This is absolutely unequivocal that she automatically becomes queen when [Prince Charles] becomes king."
And the public doesn’t seem to mind, with many people praising Camila. In Penny Junor’s biographical book, The Duchess, the author wrote, "She has given Charles belief in himself that he's never had before, and that has made him much more likable and therefore much more popular."
'British Vogue' Reveals Everything
And it does seem to be the case that Camilla has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last few years. For example, just recently she was featured in British Vogue where she gave readers a glimpse into the life of a Royal. No surprise then that the piece quickly went viral.
Interviewer Giles Hattersley also focused on her impeccable fashion sense and dislike for any kind of fussiness. "I did have some [press-on] nails, but I lost them all gardening yesterday," she told him, laughing. It even covered her working relationship with stylist Jacqui Meakin, who also styled for the Queen Mother.
Honored By the Late Queen
But the interview itself covered all sorts of fascinating moments in Camilla’s recent life, including a celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year as reigning monarch. At this particular event, the Queen presented Camilla, then-Duchess of Cornwall, with an enormous gesture of support.
"It is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort," the queen said. Camilla and Charles soon announced that "The Queen's devotion to the welfare of all her people inspires still greater admiration with each passing year. We are deeply conscious of the honor represented by my mother's wish."
And that wasn’t all. She welcomed the Vogue interviewer into her London home and described her day-to-day life. "I do Wordle every day with my granddaughter. She'll text me to say, 'I've done it in three,' and I say, 'Sorry, I've done it in two today.' It's very satisfactory when it tells you how brilliant you are," she laughed.
Despite the major amount of royal responsibilities Camilla has had to take on since joining her husband daily, she still makes time for her family. After all, she has five grandchildren with her ex-husband and five step-grandchildren through Charles's previous marriage.
Turning Public Perceptionsv
Given all that we’ve shared about Camilla’s life, it’s hard to believe she was once referred to as the "most hated woman in Britain." At one point she was so scorned by UK citizens that we can’t help but be impressed with how she has managed to change her reputation, proving that there is more to her than many believed.
"I think the way Camilla has turned public perception is honestly by appearing a very normal person, which she is,” royal correspondent Roya Nikkah has said. And considering that she and Charles married for love rather than status, unlike most royals, we’re inclined to agree.