The Love Affair of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles
Created | Updated Aug 31, 2011
HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, formerly Camilla Parker Bowles (née Shand), became famous for being the 'third person' in the marriage between Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The relationship between 'Fred' and 'Gladys' (as they affectionately nicknamed each other) is thought by some to be one of the greatest royal love stories, comparable to that of Charles's great uncle, King Edward VIII, who famously gave up the throne so that he might marry the woman he loved.
This Entry tells the story of their relationship from when they first met in 1970, until their marriage in 2005.
Miss Camilla Shand
Camilla Rosemary was born in London, England, on 17 July, 1947. She grew up in rural Sussex and was educated at the Queens Gate School in South Kensington, before finishing school in Switzerland and France. Her only claim to fame was that she was a descendant of Alice Keppel, who became King Edward VII's mistress when he was Prince of Wales. So, what better ice-breaker could you use, when introduced to the current Prince of Wales, than mention the fact that your ancestors got it on?
Prince Charles was immediately captivated by the 'breath of fresh air', as he later described her. This earthy, sexy, outspoken young woman shared his love of dogs, horses and the countryside. She spoke her mind, which must have been refreshing to a man used to servants and hangers-on. They started a relationship which lasted until the following year, 1971, when Charles joined the Royal Navy.
Charles was enjoying his bachelorhood and in no rush to get married. Meanwhile, Camilla had her eye on Andrew Parker Bowles, a handsome cavalry officer (and a godson of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), who had previously dated Princess Anne, Charles's sister.
Camilla Parker Bowles
Despite her marriage to Andrew in 1973, Camilla remained close friends with Prince Charles. She helped him choose Highgrove House as his home - conveniently close to her own. He trusted her and she was part of his close circle of friends.
Newspapers reported that the night before his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer, in July, 1981, Charles and a 'blonde woman' spent the night on the Royal Train. Diana rightly guessed it was Camilla, but she hoped Charles would eventually grow to love her and forget his old flame. Love doesn't work like that. When he wore a gift from Camilla1 on honeymoon, it was obvious where his heart lay.
After Prince William and Prince Harry were born2, the Wales' marriage was over (in private) but the myth of the 'fairytale marriage' was still being perpetuated to the general public. Meanwhile, Charles returned to his mistress 'when it was clear the marriage had broken down'. This could possibly have been as early as 1984, when visiting his wife and newborn son, he voiced his disappointment that the child was not a much-longed-for daughter, and bemoaned the fact that the child had 'the Spencer red hair' probably killed off any lingering doubt that Princess Diana had that her marriage was doomed.
Prince Charles did not mention Camilla by name in his famous interview with David Dimbleby on the BBC's Panorama programme, though he did admit committing adultery. This admission signalled the death-knell for the Parker Bowles' marriage and they divorced amicably. Their children Tom3 (born 1974) and Laura (born 1979) lived with their mother but also spent time with their father and his second wife.
It is thought that Camilla began living with Prince Charles at Highgrove after her divorce in 1995. Princess Diana had apartments at Kensington Palace and the young princes lived with her there, although they spent time with their father as well. It is well known that Charles never let Camilla and his sons meet.
Charles and Diana's separation was announced by Parliament in 1992, but they didn't divorce until 1996. Charles hosted a 50th birthday party for Camilla at Highgrove in July 1997, raising her profile immensely. Achingly slowly, she was becoming accepted as Charles's partner.
A month later, in Paris, France, a car crash killed Princess Diana, her lover Dodi al-Fayed and their chauffeur Henri Paul. The grief that gripped the nation at the loss of the beautiful princess turned into a backlash of venom and hatred towards Camilla, who was seen by many as a villainess, the adulterous woman who had wrecked the Wales' marriage as well as her own.
It was years before Charles and Camilla stepped out in public together, on the occasion of her sister Annabel's 50th birthday party, in January, 1999. After that there was the first public kiss. Acceptance of Camilla as Charles's partner has been a long and slow public relations effort. Her friends say she's warm and witty and will win public support if they just give her a chance.
Camilla Parker Bowles became a patron of the National Osteoporosis Society in 1997. She has raised funds for the Society's research work and education, and helped to raise the profile of the charity. Her mother died of the disease in 1994.
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 had got engaged with the intention of marrying on Friday, 8 April. The couple appeared for the world's press wearing outfits made from the same material. Camilla's ring had belonged to Charles's late grandmother, the Queen Mother.
34 years had passed since their first meeting; with two divorces and four children between them they were '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 she would become Queen herself one day), they were unusual remarks for Camilla to make.
The Best Laid Plans
Some said it was divine intervention, others thought more mysterious spirits were at work. Whatever, things seemed to go wrong from the moment the engagement was announced, and the wedding plans resembled the plot of a soap opera.
Charles and Camilla could not be married in church. In the eyes of the Church of England they were adulterers who must carry some blame for the breakdown of their first marriages; also, Mrs Parker Bowles's husband was still alive. The solution was for them to marry in a civil ceremony, and then have their union blessed in a religious service afterwards.
Prince Charles wanted the wedding to be at Windsor Castle but when this information was released, a problem was brought to the royals' attention. If the Castle was to be licensed for marriage, then by law the Castle had to be made available for the general public to marry in, for the next three years. As one Researcher remarked at the time:
I'd find someone to marry me, just to get married in Windsor Castle.
It is not on record what the Queen's reaction to the thought of three years' worth of strangers' nuptials taking place at one of her homes was, but the servants ran for cover.
Thus, the venue was changed to The Guildhall, Windsor's Town Hall.
Objections were made, even by churchmen, about the legality of the union. The Queen said she wouldn't attend the exchanging of the vows, as she is Defender of the Faith4. However, she agreed to attend the Church Blessing in St George's Chapel, and hosted the reception afterwards.
On 2 April, Pope John Paul II died. The Vatican announced that his funeral was going to take place on Friday, 8 April, 2005. The Prince of Wales had long been 'pencilled in' to represent the Queen at the Pope's funeral. Charles cut short his skiing break at Klosters, Switzerland, returning to make arrangements to change the wedding date to Saturday, 9 April. Even the heir to the throne couldn't be in two places at once.
Souvenirs had been printed with the date of 8 April and these were snapped up by those eager to make a killing on auction sites such as eBay. These probably outsold new runs with the correct date. The Royal Mail didn't bother to alter their special wedding stamps saying it was 'too late'.
Charles Philip Arthur George 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. 20,000 well-wishers turned up to cheer the bride and groom. A few boos could be heard but the band struck up a loud tune and drowned them out.
Ignoring tradition by travelling to the ceremony together (in the Queen's Rolls-Royce Phantom VI) Charles, resplendent in his morning suit, and his radiant bride arrived right on time. Camilla wore an elegant oyster silk coat over a matching chiffon dress created for her by Robinson Valentine. On her right collar she wore a Prince of Wales feathers brooch. Her wide-brimmed hat (designed and made by Philip Treacy), was made of natural straw, covered in French lace, and trimmed with ostrich feathers.
The legalities took place behind closed doors, but the Blessing, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams was broadcast live. Camilla had changed outfits and arrived on her husband's arm, dressed in a sensational floor-length porcelain blue silk gown under a medieval-style brocade overcoat with hand-stitched gold embroidery. Her earlier hat had been replaced by a stunning gold-leafed feather headdress, tipped with Swarovski crystal diamonds, also by designer milliner Treacy.
After the ceremony they greeted specially-invited well-wishers. Camilla seemed reluctant to get back in the Rolls; she was happy meeting her new fans. Prince Charles was seen to ask his new wife twice to 'Get in the car, dear!'
At a private reception, the guests were treated to egg-and-cress sandwiches, mini Cornish pasties and scones. The newlyweds were toasted by the Queen:
Despite Becher's Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles, my son has come through and I'm very proud and wish them well.
The Queen is well known for her love of horses (and horse racing) and her speech was a play on words, comparing the run-up to the wedding with completing the Grand National, which was being held the same day. The couple left for their honeymoon in Scotland, during which they officially opened a children's playground. The new Duchess of Rothesay5 wore a suit of Rothesay tartan for her first royal engagement.
So begins HRH the Duchess of Cornwall's royal life. As Charles's wife, she can now accompany him on royal tours and when he represents the Queen on state occasions. Should Prince Charles become King Charles III, she will be Queen Consort as this is not a morganatic6 marriage. A morganatic marriage is usually between a couple of unequal social rank. It prevents the wife (and any children born of the marriage) from inheriting the husband's titles and privileges. The Prince's advisors have stated that Camilla will be known as 'Princess Consort', not Queen, when the time comes. However, it would require an Act of Parliament for Camilla not to be crowned beside her husband.