Witty, warm and down-to-earth Camilla

·4-min read
Camilla (Ian Rutherford/PA) (PA Wire)
Camilla (Ian Rutherford/PA) (PA Wire)

Camilla is the ex-royal mistress who went on to become a duchess, and now a Queen.

The former Camilla Parker Bowles has always been heralded by those who know her for her witty, warm, down-to-earth attitude.

Her love of her family and her devotion to Charles has seen her through tough times, when she was branded the “other woman” to Diana, Princess of Wales.

An affectionate grandmother, she has five grandchildren, thanks to her children, Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Lopes, and is known by the nickname GaGa.

Camilla lost both her mother, Rosalind, and her grandmother, Sonia, to the crippling bone disease osteoporosis and her experience prompted her to become patron of the National Osteoporosis Society in 1997 and its president in 2001.

In 2002, in her first public speech, she recounted the agonising ordeal suffered by her mother, who died in 1994.

She finally married Charles in 2005 after a relationship that spanned more than 30 years.

Blamed for the breakdown of his marriage to Diana, she was called a marriage-wrecker in the 1990s.

But a quarter of a century later, Camilla, who joined the Windsor family when she was nearing pensionable age, developed an important role for herself.

Camilla has long campaigned on the issue of domestic abuse and sexual violence, visiting referral centres and meeting survivors.

She has warned that domestic abuse remains a hidden problem in our society.

“It is characterised by silence – silence from those who suffer, silence from those around them and silence from those who perpetrate abuse,” she has said.

“This silence is corrosive: it leaves women, children, and men, carrying the burden of shame; it prevents them from speaking out about their abuse, and it prevents them from getting help. And at its worst, it can be fatal.”

She devised a practical “wash bag” scheme to help rape victims which she described as offering a “small crumb of comfort”.

Camilla has taken on numerous charitable causes, from becoming president of Barnardo’s and the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival to patron of the Friends of Erlestoke Prison, the Poppy Factory and Children’s Hospice South West, among others.

And she has championed literacy, becoming patron of a number of related organisations such as BookTrust, and been a passionate supporter of the BBC children’s writing competition 500 Words.

In 2021 she launched her own online book club on Instagram as a hub for literature fans to turn to during the coronavirus pandemic.

An avid reader, she also loves food, TV, films and listening to the radio.

She enjoys gardening and walking with Charles, as well as apparently bee-keeping and cross-country skiing.

Both she and the prince paint and draw, and share the same sense of humour.

Horse-racing is also a passion, as are animals.

She has two terriers, Jack Russells, adopted from Battersea Dogs Home, called Beth and Bluebell.

Her love of the countryside is well known and she used to hunt.

Pre-royal days, she was once photographed sitting on a horse puffing a cigarette, but no longer smokes.

She endured scathing criticism for being Charles’s long-term love.

But friends said she laughed off unflattering photographs, using her humour as a buffer.

Now she is adept at going glam for high-profile royal occasions, wearing glittering tiaras and kicking off her much-loved wellies for high heels.

A favourite with the royal press pack, Camilla always acknowledges the media on engagements with a smile, a few words and a cheery wave despite the rocky treatment she has received over the years.

Here are some facts about Camilla:

– Camilla Rosemary Shand was born on July 17 1947, the oldest child of Major Bruce Shand, a former vice lord lieutenant of East Sussex and master of the Southdown Hunt, and the Hon Rosalind Cubitt, daughter of Lord Ashcombe.

– She grew up in rural Sussex with sister Annabel and brother Mark. She was devastated when her brother died after a fall in 2014.

– Charles is her son Tom’s godfather, as well as his stepfather.

– Camilla dated Charles in the 1970s after they reportedly met on a polo field, but at the age of 26 she married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles in July 1973.

– Charles was heartbroken and spilled out his feelings in a letter to his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, declaring: “I suppose the feeling of emptiness will pass eventually.”

– After Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, separated, the princess went on Panorama in 1995 and proclaimed “there were three of us in this marriage”.

– Charles and Camilla finally wed in April 2005 at the Guildhall in Windsor, with Camilla becoming the Duchess of Cornwall, HRH and a member of the royal family.

– The Queen, as head of the Church of England, did not attend their civil ceremony but went to the blessing afterwards in St George’s Chapel.