Vanity Fair published a very sugary long-read article about the Duchess of Cornwall: “Camilla: The Controversial Figure Who May Become Queen.” Penny Junor is quoted at length, which should tell you a lot about both Camilla and Penny Junor. To be fair, Junor is basically Camilla’s official biographer and Junor is absolutely part of Clarence House’s strategy to make Camilla more likeable and “accepted.” VF also includes other people’s thoughts on Camilla, but make no mistake, this is an overwhelmingly positive, sympathetic and generous read on Camilla. As for the idea that it’s still “up in the air” about whether she’ll be declared Queen Consort… she absolutely will. That’s all Charles cares about. Some highlights:
She’s a real person: Once reviled as the “most hated woman in Britain,” Camilla has proved herself to be much more than the “third person” in the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Confident and breezy, she loves the competitive dance show Strictly Come Dancing; her rescue Jack Russell terriers, Bluebell and Beth; and Charles, the future king of England.
When did her affair with Charles reignite? This gift for friendship seems to have been what reignited her affair with the Prince of Wales in the mid-1980s. “He was in the depth of depression when his marriage was failing, and she pulled him out of that and made him laugh again,” Junor says.
Why did Camilla stick around? With the publication of Andrew Morton’s Diana, Her True Story in 1992, Camilla’s private world was upended. She was stalked by the press, taunted with hate mail, and dismissed as ugly when compared with the beautiful Diana. So why did she stick around with Charles? The answer may be simple: Charles worshipped her and needed her. As she once told a friend, per Junor, “It’s wonderful to be loved.”
Camilla makes Charles less petulant: According to palace staff, Camilla also makes working for Charles, whose petulance and tantrums are legendary, easier. “She would be sitting at the table listening to him behave badly and all she would have to do is look at him and the whole atmosphere would change,” one staffer told Junor in The Duchess. “I think Camilla has transformed Charles,” Junor says. “He is happier with her than he has ever been. She gives him confidence and the support he has so desperately needed throughout his life and never truly found elsewhere.”
Camilla’s faults: Not that the duchess is without faults; she is said to be very stubborn, and tough on people she doesn’t like. Sometimes Camilla’s irreverent humor can also get her into trouble. In 2017, she and Charles were panned as culturally insensitive after they couldn’t stop giggling during a performance of Inuit throat singers in Canada. She is a terrible gossip, notes Junor in her book, making the rumor that she told anyone who would listen that President Joe Biden had passed gas during a reception at the 2021 climate change summit entirely believable.
Camilla had to win over members of the royal family. “The queen didn’t want Camilla around in the early days because their relationship was so damaging to the monarchy, but on a personal level, she has always liked Camilla,” Junor says. “They have a lot in common, particularly their love of dogs and horses. And I think she is friendly enough with other members of the family and gets on well with William and Kate. It was initially difficult for both William and Harry, but Camilla let them take their time.”
Queen Camilla: Charles also desperately wants her to be given the title “Queen” upon his accession, which, according to rumor, William and Harry oppose. “Privately, I discovered both brothers are absolutely sick to the back teeth of Charles trying to negotiate full Queen status for Camilla,” royal biographer Robert Lacey told Newsweek in November.
It’s a strange little thought exercise to think about the “what if” of Camilla. What if Camilla had broken it off with Charles early in their affair? What if Camilla had dumped Charles when Diana outed her as the other woman? But the truth is, Camilla has always enjoyed having Charles wrapped around her finger. That’s her nature, and that’s even referenced in this piece: “It’s wonderful to be loved.” Charles always came back to her. Charles needed HER. She is Charles’s sole priority. In some sense, it is an unconventional love story, especially for royalty. But yeah… it will be interesting to see how the British public really feels about her when she’s declared Queen Consort alongside Charles two seconds after QEII dies.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.