Royal Corner

Camilla's Earned her Queendom

After fifteen years of marriage, the royal once dubbed "the most hated woman in Britain", has proved she's anything but.

MAY 23rd, 2020

© Getty Images


or nearly ten years the unenviable title of “the most hated woman in Britain” was bestowed upon the Duchess of Cornwall. Then known as Camilla Parker Bowles, she was loathed by a public who blamed her as the woman who assisted in breaking up the ‘fairy tale’ marriage of Charles and Diana. Ridiculed as the “other woman”, Camilla never stood any chance of a fair hearing within the Court of Public Opinion. With the Press effectively fed information by Princess Diana, Ms Parker Bowles – a woman who stays clear of forming too close a relationship with the media – would never bite back. Yet almost twenty-three years after the Princess of Wales’ death and having been married to Prince Charles for fifteen years, surely the time has come to put the past to rest and finally accept the Duchess of Cornwall as Queen Camilla.

It would be fair to accept that it has taken a lengthy amount of time for public consensus to reach this point. Who can forget the forensic and bitter coverage of the biggest scandal to hit the Monarchy since the abdication of Edward VIII? The ‘War of the Wales’ was plastered over every newspaper for much of the 90s. The public’s appetite for the battle between Diana and Charles became addictive. Every brief to a journalist, every book and interview was weaponised to inflict as much damage as possible against each other. Leaks of phone conversations, letters and pictures all added to what was becoming a sordid affair, and deeply embarrassing to the Royal Family.

Camilla and Princess Diana photographed together ar Ludlow Horse Races in 1980 - © Getty Images

Though, whilst Camilla’s name had been whispered in corners, she exploded onto the scene with the release of Andrew Morton’s infamous Diana biography. Further fuel was added to the fire when the Princess took part in her iconic Panorama interview with Martin Bashir. Describing Camilla as the “third person” in her marriage, Diana effectively sealed her love rival’s fate for the foreseeable future – one where she was detested by the Diana-adoring public.

With the breakdown of the Wales’ marriage, and the media’s focus shifting onto the Princess’ blossoming relationship with Dodi Al-Fayed, Camilla could effectively return to some element of normality. Though that would quickly end against a tragedy no one saw coming.

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales was a cataclysmic event that rocked, not only the monarchy, but the entire world. The outpouring of grief and subsequent anger towards the Royals has become a defining moment in the Queen’s long reign, yet although the British public quickly U-turned on their reproach of the monarch, Charles – and by the extension of her involvement, Camilla – weren’t so fortunate.

Diana’s death destroyed what was left of Charles’ popularity. So out of favour had he fallen, the Prince was strongly advised to not accompany his two sons behind his ex-wife’s coffin due to a ‘legitimate threat’ against his life. For Camilla, the feared title of ‘most hated woman in Britain’ returned with a vengeance, as did the threats.

The Wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 at St George's Chapel in Windsor - © Getty Images

The adulation of the late-Princess is still felt today. Though as is common with history, it dilutes over time, but so has the animosity which came with it towards Charles and Camilla. For many youngsters growing into adulthood today, they were never alive in a world where Diana adorned every front page of the newspapers. To them she is but an historic figure fated to the subtle breeze of our ever-changing times.

For Charles and Camilla, they are still very much present and are pinnacle to the continuation of the institution of monarchy. When they married in April 2005, it seemed as if the public had adjusted to what the media dubbed a “fairy tale for grownups”. However, while most had accepted Camilla would be Prince Charles’ wife, they struggled with the thought of her becoming Queen. As the Press began to ask the uncomfortable question of what title Camilla Parker Bowles would take, Buckingham Palace announced that although she would officially become Princess of Wales, she would refrain from using the title out of respect to the late-Diana. The Duchess of Cornwall would be her public preference, but on the other title the Palace stayed expectantly silent.

The reality was, at that time, the public’s opinion of Charles and Camilla, though much improved, was still lacklustre. In a humiliating poll shortly after the newly married couple’s wedding, over 60% of the public did not want Charles as King, and 80% were against Camilla becoming his Queen. Instead, most Brits hoped the crown would skip the Heir Apparent and pass to his son – Prince William. Young, handsome, and reminiscent of his glamourous mother both physically and in personality, William was adored by the public. But at such a tender age of twenty-three, would it really have been fair to place such responsibilities on the young Prince?

The reality was, no matter how much the public craved for King William V, Charles III was an inevitability, though the Palace was still determining whether Queen Camilla was too. After much deliberation throughout the ensuing years and more troublesome public opinion polls, Clarence House announced that Camilla would not be referred to as Queen consort, but Princess consort. At the time it appeased public sentiment, however as the years have ticked by and the scars of the past have faded, is there really any reason for the Duchess of Cornwall not to be styled rightfully as Queen?

For all intents and purposes Camilla will be Queen, irrespective of whether she is publicly gifted the title or not. Through the marriage of a Sovereign King, the title immediately becomes hers. But regardless of the traditions of constitutional monarchy, many would argue that the Duchess of Cornwall has earned the right to be Queen consort.

The Duchess of Cornwall attends the State Opening of Parliament alongside her husband Prince Charles - © Getty Images

For fifteen years, Camilla has rarely put a foot wrong. She has been attentive, respectful, and navigated her role without so much of a whiff of a scandal. Her charitable endeavours have been successful and her sense of humour disarming. She has a warm, yet professional relationship with the Press. The “most hated woman in Britain” she is no longer. In fact, for the first time since marrying into the Royal Family, the frustrating opinion polls show that the public finally have a positive opinion of the Duchess, though it isn’t just the public.

Her Majesty the Queen is especially close to Camilla – a reality that was almost impossible fifteen years ago. They are said to thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, much to the relief of Charles.

This renewed popularity isn’t simply by accident however, but a carefully constructed campaign by the palace PR machine. Slow and steady was the formula to win the public over. By drip feeding Camilla into the Royal way of life; by allowing her to find her feet and gradually showcase her friendly and inviting personality, the British public could slowly warm to her. It is a PR plan that has borne fruit riper than expected. Described unfairly by Diana as the ‘Rottweiler’, she has proved she is anything but. The Duchess has demonstrated time and time again that she is the sheer definition of resilience.

Throughout the years she has been the subject of cruel jibes, blamed for the breakdown of a marriage that was doomed to fail long before either Charles or Diana said, “I do”. She has faced humiliating headlines, been written off as a valuable royal and painted as a villain in a soap opera. Yet against such hostility she has never played victim. Not once has she answered back or stated her side of the story. She has with immeasurable grit placed duty above all else. For Camilla, whilst fiercely independent, she understands her role, and her position whilst performing it. In the same vain as Prince Philip and the Duchess of Cambridge – when her time comes – she is a support act to the main star – the monarch.

Clarence House released a photograph celebrating the royal couple's 15th wedding anniversary - © Clarence House/Instagram

The Duchess of Cornwall has earned her right to the title of Queen consort. The trepidations and tribulations of twenty-five years ago are history and it does finally feel as though the whole sorry affair between Diana, Charles and Camilla has run out of steam. The time has now come to accept Queen Camilla, and it looks as if the Royal Family has decided to. Clarence House have finally removed the original statement declaring Camilla would be referenced as Princess consort on the inevitable event when Charles becomes King. It is as close to a declaration that sitting beside King Charles III will be Queen Camilla, and when that time comes the “most hated woman in Britain” will vanish, never to be seen again.

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