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How enemy number one became a national treasure

Even if she had been made of pure gold, nothing would have been able to improve her reputation in the eyes of the majority of the British people, who had bestowed boundless, not to say blind, love on Diana, her predecessor at Charles’ side.

“It can be challenging, but we always try to find a moment during the day when we can be together. Sometimes we only meet for a moment, like ships passing each other in the night, but we always sit down, drink tea and talk about what has happened throughout the day. And the most pleasant thing is when each of us sits down with a book in our corner of the room. We don’t have to talk. It’s enough that we are together.”

With these words, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall described her life with Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne, in an interview with Vogue magazine (British edition, July 2022). A happy life, after the many turbulences experienced by both of them, but especially by her.

She was asked for the interview and photo shoot not by chance. Camilla is about to turn 75 and this is the main reason, but not the only one. The last few months have seen a noticeable strengthening of her position, not only within the royal family, but also in the eyes of the public and the media. Above all, the question of what title Camilla will hold when her husband comes to the throne has been resolved – and in no uncertain terms, by the Queen herself. Elizabeth II wants Camilla to be ‘Queen consort’, the Queen, and not ‘Princess consort’, the Duchess spouse, as had been assumed until now.

For more than a quarter of a century, Camilla was shunned. This was due not to the qualities of her character, but to her circumstances. Even if she had been made of pure gold, nothing could have enhanced her reputation in the eyes of the majority of the British people, who had bestowed boundless, not to say blind, love on Diana, her predecessor at Charles’ side. Camilla was blamed not only for the breakdown of the marriage of the heir to the throne, but also for the death of Diana, who died in a car accident in Paris in August 1997. The reasoning was simple: had it not been for her divorce from Charles, Diana would not have hooked up with another man, gone to Paris with him, attracted crowds of paparazzi, the driver would not have fled from them at breakneck speed and the car would not have smashed into the wall of the tunnel at the Pont de l’Alma.

His great-grandfather the king and her great-grandmother

Camilla’s story is all the more instructive, however, because it shows – as cliché as it may sound – how much can change, and how thoroughly. Disliked, most severely criticised and even then barely tolerated, she is today, as one commentator put it, a true ‘national treasure’. In contrast, Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles, once the nation’s favourite, has fallen dramatically in popularity. The public’s favour may be uncertain, but it is nevertheless not completely blind and must be earned. Which they both did, albeit in different directions.

So let’s go back to 17 July 1947, when Camilla Rosemary Shand is born. Penny Junor, author of Camilla’s biography, entitled: “The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown”; she has also written biographies of other members of the family, including Charles and both his sons), says she had a very happy childhood. The family is wealthy, with aristocratic roots; her father, Bruce Shand is an ex-officer with a good wartime past and now a businessman. Camilla is strongly attached to her parents and siblings, loves horses, dogs and country life on the family estate in County Sussex.

Read the whole article here.

–Translated by Tomasz Krzyżanowski


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