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Camilla - Duchess of Cornwall

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ABC News in the United States chose Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, as their most fascinating person of 2005.

Camilla Shand

Camilla Rosemary Shand was born in London, England, on 17 July, 1947, the daughter of Major Bruce Middleton Hope Shand and the Honourable Rosalind Maud Shand (née Cubitt), and a grand-daughter of Lord Ashcombe. She grew up in rural Sussex and was educated at the Queens Gate School in South Kensington, before attending finishing school in Switzerland and France.

Camilla is a descendant of Alice Keppel, who became King Edward VII's mistress when he was Prince of Wales, and she didn't hesitate in sharing this information with the current Prince of Wales when she met him in 1970. Prince Charles was immediately captivated by this 'breath of fresh air', as he later described her.

The earthy, sexy, outspoken, gauche young woman shared his love of dogs, horses, chasing foxes, shooting and the countryside. She spoke her mind and swore like a trooper, which must have been refreshing to a man used to servants and deferential hangers-on. They started an intense relationship: they went on fox hunts together and she went to watch him play polo. Even the fact that she smoked cigarettes didn't put him off, despite Charles being an ardent non-smoker. Prince Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971; he was in no hurry to settle down. Camilla returned to an old boyfriend, Andrew Parker Bowles, a handsome cavalry officer and godson of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Andrew had recently split up with Prince Charles's sister Princess Anne.

Camilla Parker Bowles

In 1973, Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles, and they went on to have two children, Thomas Henry (born 1974) and Laura Rose (born 1979). Prince Charles, although devastated at losing Camilla, remained friends with the couple and was a frequent guest at their home. He was chosen to be one of Tom's godfathers.

Three in the Marriage

In early 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announced their engagement, and Camilla took the shy, naive teenager under her wing. Having checked that Lady Diana didn't ride horses, Camilla was able to continue her friendship with Prince Charles during fox hunt parties. It is known that, around this time, Prince Charles spent a night aboard the Royal Train with a 'mystery blonde woman' - the press speculated that it was Diana, who was mortified. She took the unprecedented step of complaining to the Queen that her reputation was at stake, and the Palace issued a firm denial.

What the British public thought was a 'fairytale marriage' in July 1981 was in fact an arranged marriage, at least on Prince Charles's part. Lady Diana had misgivings about the match because she knew of his affection for Camilla, who was a constant figure in their lives. Camilla even attended their wedding: Diana spotted her on the way up the aisle.

After their marriage, Princess Diana noticed her husband wearing a pair of cuff-links - two entwined letters 'C' and 'C' - and knew they were a gift from Camilla. She overheard her husband on the telephone telling Camilla: 'Whatever happens, I will always love you.'

Marriage Breakdown

In a television interview with Prince Charles talking about resuming his relationship wiith Camilla after his marriage irretrievably broke down in 1984 (after the birth of Prince Harry). He stopped short of naming Mrs Parker Bowles, but Diana had already done as much by way of Andrew Morton's book Diana: Her True Story and a TV interview with Martin Bashir. After the news broke about the affair, it was reported in the media that supermarket shoppers had pelted Camilla with bread rolls.

The interview that Prince Charles gave effectively ended the marriage of Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles and they divorced amicably in 1995. A year later, Andrew Parker Bowles married Rosemary Pitman, his longtime companion, who had been a flatmate of Lady Diana Spencer before her marriage to the Prince of Wales.

Coming Out

Prince Charles hosted a 50th birthday party for Camilla at Highgrove in July 1997, raising her public profile immensely. Just a month after the party, Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris, France. It was two more years before Prince Charles and Camilla appeared in public together, on the occasion of her sister Annabel's 50th birthday party, in January, 1999. After that there was the much-photographed first public kiss. Acceptance of Camilla as Prince Charles's partner has been a long and slow public relations effort. Friends speak of her as warm and witty and suggest that she will win public support if people just give her a chance.

The Royal Engagement

Prince Charles once famously remarked that Camilla was 'non-negotiable'. On 10 February, 2005, royal officials announced that the Prince of Wales and his partner Camilla Parker Bowles had got engaged with the intention of marrying on Friday, 8 April, 2005. Over 34 years had passed since their first meeting and with two divorces and four children between them they were, according to Camilla, 'like a comfy old pair of slippers' and 'just a middle-aged couple getting wed'. Considering that after the marriage Camilla would become the second most important royal female after the Queen and would herself become Queen Consort one day, these were quite flippant remarks to make, as Charles and Camilla are anything but 'just a middle-aged couple'. The couple subsequently appeared for the world's press wearing co-ordinated outfits made from the same material, a green tartan woollen tweed. Camilla happily showed off her platinum and diamond engagement ring, which had previously belonged to the Queen Mother.

Wedding Postponed

On 2 April, 2005, Pope John Paul II died. The Vatican announced that his funeral was going to take place on Friday, 8 April. The Prince of Wales had long been 'pencilled in' to represent the Queen at the ailing Pope's funeral. Prince Charles cut short his skiing break at Klosters, Switzerland, returning to make arrangements to change the wedding date to Saturday, 9 April. The Royal Mail didn't bother to alter their special commemorative wedding stamps, saying it was 'too late'.

HRH the Duchess of Cornwall

Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor - occupation 'Prince of the United Kingdom', age 56 years, previous marriage dissolved - and Camilla Rosemary Parker Bowles - occupation left blank, age 57 years, previous marriage dissolved - were booked to marry at 12.30pm. Television cameras were stationed outside Windsor Guildhall and waited for the royal guests to arrive. Twenty thousand well-wishers (and a few dissenters) turned up to cheer (and boo) the bride - now known as HRH the Duchess of Cornwall - and groom. However, the only public disturbance was by a streaker who sprang from the crowd, but he was quickly arrested (and covered up) by police.

Robinson Valentine designed two fabulous outfits for the formal wedding ceremony in the registry office and then the blessing in St George's Chapel, which was attended by dignitaries such as the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Anne, the Duke of York and his two daughters, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, church leaders, musicians Phil Collins and Jools Holland, and actors Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Edward Fox, Kenneth Branagh, Richard E Grant, Prunella Scales and ambassador for The Prince's Trust Joanna Lumley.

Prince Charles refused requests to kiss his bride for the world's media, knowing full well that there would be comparisons between it and the famous Buckingham Palace balcony kiss 24 years earlier.

Guests at the wedding included Andrew and Rosemary Parker Bowles: unusually in such circumstances, the two couples have become good friends. At a party when Camilla was still Andrew's wife, she shared a kiss with Prince Charles while they were dancing and Andrew was overheard remarking: 'I think HRH rather likes my wife.' Given that he was made one of the best-known cuckolds of modern times, he has shown remarkable restraint and good manners.

Now that the Duchess of Cornwall - she is known as the Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland - is a member of the Royal Family, she can and does accompany the Prince of Wales on royal engagements, and on occasions when he represents the Queen. The Royal couple live at Clarence House, which was the London residence of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from 1953 until her death in 2002.

In June 2005 Prince William showed his affection for his new stepmother by kissing her on both cheeks as she presented prizes after a charity polo match at the Cirencester Park Polo Club. The Prince's team lost, but over £50,000 was raised for the Samantha Dixon Trust and the National Osteoporosis Society. Both Prince Charles's sons had kissed her after the wedding, but this was not captured by any photographers. A week later, she was invited to attend Prince William's graduation at St Andrew's University in Scotland.

The Duchess helped her husband unveil the new memorial for Battle of Britain pilots at the Victoria Embankment in London, and attended a commemorative service at Westminster Abbey, on 18 September, 2005. She is gaining in confidence and taking on solo engagements, such as switching on a shopping centre's Christmas lights.

Because the Duchess has chosen to keep the £1million home, Ray Mill in Lacock (which was part of her divorce settlement from Andrew Parker Bowles) the house is guarded by the Royal Protection Squad, at a cost to the British taxpayer of approximately £1million a year. The Duchess likes to take lunch there sometimes and entertain friends; away from the pressures of being a member of the Royal Family, she can relax in her 'bolt hole' as she calls it (a somewhat ironic title, given that a bolt hole is what a fox will dive into when being pursued by hounds and that the Duchess enjoyed foxhunting until it was outlawed).

Tom and Laura Parker Bowles

On 10 September, 2005, Tom married Sara Buys, a fashion features editor at Harpers & Queen, in an Anglican church in Oxfordshire. Tom was raised a Roman Catholic, the religion of his father and his paternal grandmother.

On 6 May, 2006, Laura married former Calvin Klein underwear model Harry Lopes. Harry is a grandson of the 2nd Baron Roborough and the 2nd Baron Astor of Hever. The wedding took place at 11th Century St Cyriac's Anglican Church, Lacock, Wiltshire, and the reception was held at Ray Mill, the Duchess of Cornwall's estate. Also attending the nuptials was Kate Middleton, girlfriend of the bride's step-brother Prince William. This was their first appearance together at a family wedding, a sure sign that Kate is on her way to becoming a member of the Royal Family. The couple received the kind of rapturous reception from the crowd normally reserved for the newlyweds.

The Duchess, looking stunning in an eau-de-nil1 fitted suit and matching feathered hat which has become her trademark, thoroughly enjoyed her role as the mother of the bride. She smiled and waved to the 2,000-plus crowd lining the streets as she arrived with her husband. The bride, an art gallery manager, wore a layered ivory silk chiffon dress designed by Robinson Valentine, and a diamond tiara borrowed from her mother.

Royal Duties

The Duchess has become a patron of several charities since her marriage, and she is President of the National Osteoporosis Society, osteoporosis being the disease which killed her mother2. Both the young princes William and Harry are happy with their father's remarriage, and the British Government are satisfied with how the Royal couple are fulfilling their duties.

After the 7 July, 2005 London bombings, the Duchess and the Prince of Wales visited victims of the attack at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, and also met and thanked hospital staff, emergency service personnel and ambulance crews. In November, 2005 the Royal couple visited the US, paid their respects at the 11 September memorial at Ground Zero and dined with President Bush at the White House. Later in the trip they toured San Francisco, where they were treated to a special version of America's longest-running musical Beach Blanket Babylon, and flood-ravaged New Orleans. Between 2005 and 2006, the Royal couple attended 147 official events in the UK, and another 49 engagements abroad, including visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia and India in March 2006. The Royal couple visited El Alamein to pay tribute at the graves of two of the Duchess's father's Second World War comrades on his behalf. Major Bruce Shand MC had been a prisoner-of-war in Germany after being shot at El Alamein. Surrounded by his family on 10 June, 2006, the Major died at his home in Dorset.

The Duchess is a keen walker, and on 20 September, 2006, she launched the 'Big Bone Walk' for the National Osteoporosis Society by walking ten miles around Loch Muick on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland. She was accompanied by people affected by osteoporosis and local school children. The aim of the 'Big Bone Walk' - an annual event - is to encourage adults and children to walk for better health, and through sponsorship, raise funds for the Society.

Between 29 October and 3 November, 2006, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess visited earthquake-damaged areas of Pakistan and the Duchess attended a Youth Business International event at the Prime Minister's residence in Islamabad. On 19 December, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess visited a FareShare depot in south London which redistributes food from supermarkets, that would otherwise be thrown away, to homeless and vulnerable people in the community. The Royal couple met the volunteers and staff who collect, check, sort and deliver around 500 tonnes of food in the London area annually. The Duchess pulled a Christmas cracker with 50-year-old volunteer chef Peter Wellfair, who cooks about 70 meals a day for homeless people. In all, the Duchess undertook 30 official engagements on her own during 2006 in the UK and four overseas. Just before Christmas, she visited the Emmaus Community in Bristol, a charity for homeless people, of which she is patron.

The Duchess has been granted her own coat-of-arms, which has a crowned lion to the left and a chained blue boar to the right, and two honorary military appointments: Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles, and Commodore-in-Chief of Naval Medical Services. She holds several titles3 as Prince Charles's wife, but does not use them, preferring HRH the Duchess of Cornwall.

Happily Married

In an interview on 15 September, 2005, his 21st birthday, Prince Harry said:

The Duchess of Cornwall is a wonderful woman and she's made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing. William and I love her to bits.

Prince Charles has finally, in late middle age, found happiness in his personal life. His wife the Duchess, who has managed to quit smoking, is an inspiration to middle-aged women everywhere, especially those who are on their second or subsequent marriages. Although she is entitled to be called Princess of Wales, this has been shelved out of respect for Diana. It is unfair to keep comparing the two women as they are and were very different personalities. Life is for the living and the deceased should be allowed to rest in peace.

1A pale green colour, also called Nile green.2Osteoporosis affects one in two women over the age of 50 and one out of five men.3Her Royal Highness the Princess Charles, Princess of Wales, Countess of Chester, Countess of Carrick, Baroness Renfrew, Princess of Scotland, Lady of the Isles.

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