Seemingly overnight, Camilla Parker Bowles became Queen Camilla. On September 9, 2022, a day after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III named Camilla the queen consort of the United Kingdom, per People. And three days later they sat side-by-side, both of them on thrones, at Westminster Abbey while listening to “God Save the King” for the first time, per People. It was quite the departure from Camilla’s usual experiences since Diana Spencer, princess of Wales, died, and the world blamed Camilla for all that plagued the late beloved princess. But the people of Great Britain have embraced her in her new role in the crown.
Camilla has herself to thank for her steadily growing popularity. She’s toed the line and kept herself out of any major controversy, per AP. And her inner-queen has emerged the past few years and in the post-pandemic lockdown period – her speech in January 2022 on domestic violence was considered the most important of her career (via The Royal Family Channel). She’s also has become known for her easy-going and likable personality, and it helps that Charles was adamant that she remain by his side. Read on to learn several untold truths about England’s new queen consort.
Her first wedding was the high society event of the year
Camilla Parker Bowles was never a nobody. Her family rubbed elbows with aristocracy, while she grew up in a large countryside manor with nannies and croquet lawn parties, and went to the nobility-aligned Queen’s Gate School in London, according to Caroline Graham’s “Camilla and Charles: The Love Story.” Andrew Parker Bowles was an officer in the Blues and Royals, a cavalry regiment of the British army, whose father had connections at Buckingham Palace and whose manor in Berkshire would often host the queen mother.
So it should come as no surprise that their wedding was one to remember. The queen mother, Princess Anne, and Princess Margaret were in attendance, along with a litany of aristocrats and a relative of Winston Churchill (per “Camilla and Charles”). Camilla’s dress itself was designed by the queen’s dressmaker, and the reception was held at the St. James Club.
Her first marriage was miserable
Camilla Parker Bowles went into her marriage with Andrew Parker Bowles knowing that he couldn’t keep his hands off of other women. He cheated on her frequently while they were dating, which, according to “Camilla and Charles: The Love Story,” by Caroline Graham, is why she courted Prince Charles while Andrew was away on military duty. Camilla wasn’t one to remain a victim, and if Andrew could have affairs, she could, too. To many, Camilla was hardened to Andrew’s unfaithfulness during their marriage since she compensated for it with her own affair with Charles. In fact her marriage was described as less than traditional (per “Camilla and Charles”), and Camilla and Andrew were reportedly content with each other’s whims.
But even a strong spirit can endure only so much betrayal, and according to Penny Junor’s “The Duchess: The Untold Story,” only those very close to Camilla understood her broken feelings toward Andrew as she held out hope that their marriage would change (via The Daily Mail). But Camilla’s own exercises in promiscuity proved too much for Andrew, and it all fell apart. According to royal expert Wayne Francis in the documentary series “Royal Stories,” Andrew said he was disgraced by her affair with Charles, and it was then that he demanded a divorce (via Express).
King Charles III is her son’s godfather
Nothing is more illustrative of the fact that King Charles and Queen Camilla weren’t always betrothed to each other than Charles’ status as Tom Parker Bowles’ godfather. What’s more — Charles and Camilla’s husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, welcomed the relationship. Even when he and Camilla were dating, and Camilla struck up an affair to make Andrew jealous, Andrew liked the idea of being involved in a love triangle with a prince of England and felt that Camilla had made quite the achievement, according to “Camilla and Charles: The Love Story,” by Caroline Graham. So in 1974, Charles wedged himself into their marriage and agreed to be Tom’s godfather after he was born, per Tina Brown’s “The Palace Papers.”
Charles and Tom have since had a close relationship, and Tom told Nine News that Charles would make a “fantastic king” (via The Crown Chronicles). Tom appreciated how happy Charles made his mother and criticized the media for their reproach of their union. He made note of how his dad, Andrew, was the disciplinarian among his parents, and it seems as though Charles took a similar approach. During Tom’s bad boy days when he was caught doing drugs, he was scolded by godfather Charles (per BBC News), who, no doubt, had his best interests in mind.
Camilla has a deep fear of flying
Being a British royal involves a lot of international travel, and yet the queen consort has managed even with her aerophobia. The news of Camilla Parker Bowles’ fear of flying first became official when she admitted it herself during a 2018 appearance on “This Morning” with husband King Charles (per Express UK). Camilla was then given some phobia advice from the Speakmans, who, according to ITV, are a husband-wife duo who often appear on the show to dole out anxiety and phobia cures. But the queen consort’s aerophobia must have lingered on, because in November that year a spokesman for Clarence House, her and King Charles’ former residence, confirmed that she still didn’t like to fly but added that she basically intended to “embrace that fear and get on with it” (via Express UK).
Camilla couldn’t be more different on the subject of flying than Charles. Shortly after graduating university, he spent years in the Royal Air Force before moving onto the Navy, per ABC News. In 1994, he turned his plane nearly 90 degrees while trying to avoid a ditch, and the plane landed at the wrong angle — but he refused to call it crash, according to “Camilla and Charles: The Love Story,” by Caroline Graham.
She began her own book club
As theaters and stadiums closed down during pandemic lockdowns, reading became one of the few, popular things people enjoyed doing, and that included Camilla Parker Bowles. On April 11, 2020, Camilla shared some of her bookish recommendations with the commoners on Instagram and gave out a reading list. The titles ran the gamut from Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” to Antoine Laurain’s romance “The Red Notebook.” The post also acknowledged her literary credentials, having supported the National Literacy Trust and the Royal Society of Literature. She’s also always on hand at the Man Booker Prize ceremony and was present later that year, per Vanity Fair.
But that wasn’t all. Camilla then came back in August 2020 to give everyone her favorite summer reads, replete with her own descriptions of each of them (via The Duchess of Cornwall page). Perhaps loving her new status as the royal Reese Witherspoon, she finally launched her book club in January 2021 (per Vanity Fair): The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room. The club’s Instagram page boasts over 140,000 followers. In an interview with Vogue, she said she was surprised to see her club’s global reach and has gotten mail from readers in Papua New Guinea and Chile.
Her children are commoners
It may be strange, but the queen consort’s children are commoners who don’t have a place in the succession line. Camilla Parker Bowles has two children from her previous marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles, Tom and Laura. They work normal jobs, although a bit glamorous, and mostly hang outside of the royal party. Tom Parker Bowles studied at Oxford and became a food writer, per Newsweek. He was a columnist at Tatler (per The Guardian), expanded his catalog to include columns in GQ, Esquire, and The Mail on Sunday (per Nine News), and later won a Guild of Food Writers award in 2010, per the guild. But he’s also known around London for his past as a troublemaker. During a trip to the Cannes Film Festival in 1999, he allegedly did cocaine and was caught by tabloids, leading to an angry phone call from godfather King Charles III, per BBC News.
His sister, Laura Lopes, has led a more private life. Like her brother, she also wrote for Tatler, per The Guardian, and later worked for an art gallery in London, per Newsweek. She married former Calvin Klein model Harry Lopez only a year after her mother married Charles, per Vogue. Despite having the Parker Bowles names, the siblings were never part of “the firm.” According to Tom in an interview with Nine News, he and Laura never received royal coaching or manners lessons (via The Crown Chronicles). Consider that a blessing in disguise.
She’s devoted her time to domestic violence awareness
Camilla Parker Bowles is a veteran of domestic abuse awareness, which she said likely began in 2016 after hearing survivor Rachel Williams’ story. Williams was shot by her partner, and her son died by suicide shortly after due to the trauma, per Vanity Fair. Her story motivated the then-duchess to begin advocating on behalf of victims and encouraging them to seek help. Recently, she and Theresa May threw public support behind a £20 million NHS campaign to encourage silent victims to find help, per The Guardian.
It’s also a personal issue. She told The Daily Mail in 2020 that she personally knew people who were victims of violence, but they were too ashamed or embarrassed to discuss it, and Camilla herself had to grow out of her own discomfort around the topic. Since 2016, Camilla has held several events benefitting charities and awareness organizations centering on domestic and sexual abuse survivors. And during the pandemic lockdowns in Great Britain, she took the time to address the impact it had on lives at home, especially those with abusive spouses. On her Instagram page, she posted hotlines available throughout the United Kingdom and included a link to the organization SafeLives.
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.
She’s struggled with the public scrutiny
It hasn’t been an easy few decades for Camilla Parker Bowles. It was in 1993 when her name was forever attached to infamy when that fateful — and steamy — phone call with the married Prince Charles was released to the public (per Vanity Fair), launching “Camillagate” (or “tampongate”) and thereby making her the patron saint of all other women. Despite it all, the queen consort was still a person, and the experience was hard. In the aftermath of the call’s transcript’s release to tabloids, Camilla was essentially under lockdown at her Middlewick, Wiltshire, home while the media outside ate her alive. In a 2017 interview with The Daily Mail, the queen consort said that period of time was horrible and wouldn’t impose it on her worst enemies.
The experience of being hated by the British public and press has stayed with her, and in a more recent interview in 2022, Camilla said that she had to learn to adapt to the long-term negative media scrutiny. She remarked — in the present tense — “It’s not easy” (per Vogue).
She’s had an uneasy time reconciling with the Royal Family
Before Camilla Parker Bowles could find favor with the British public, she needed to find favor with the royal family. And it was a long road ahead of her. Even before her affair with King Charles III became public knowledge, Queen Elizabeth II had blacklisted her. According to “The Palace Papers,” by Tina Brown, the queen’s private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, informed her majesty in 1973 that Charles was sleeping with Camilla, while Camilla was married. The queen then requested that Camilla be left off of any future guest lists. And after the affair ended Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage, the queen laid the blame largely on Camilla, according to royal biographer Christopher Wilson (via The Daily Mail). The queen ordered courtiers to never allow them in the same room together.
And then there were Diana’s sons. On the outside was a picture of perfect familial tranquility. After Charles and Camilla married in 2005, Prince Harry said that he and his brother, William, loved Camilla and called her a “wonderful woman,” per The Daily Beast, acknowledging that she made their father very happy. But in private, “The Palace Papers” allege that the sons only just play along. Royal biographer Duncan Larcombe believes that Harry plans to boycott Camilla’s coronation as the new queen consort, reports The Daily Beast. He would consider it a betrayal of Diana, especially since the coronation would occur in the same place as his mother’s funeral. Only time will tell.
Queen Elizabeth II didn’t attend her wedding
Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla Parker Bowles had an icky relationship from the start, so when the queen officially announced that she wouldn’t attend her son’s second wedding, many chalked it up to dislike of the former mistress, per BBC News. In fact, she opted to watch the Grand National horse race, which took place during the wedding ceremony, instead, per The Daily Beast. But there’s a practical explanation for the queen’s absence — Prince Charles and Camilla were both divorcees. See, the queen was the supreme governor of the Church of England, which forbade marriages between divorcees whose ex-spouses were still alive, per The Washington Post. Camilla’s ex, Andrew Parker Bowles, was still around and kicking, so their marriage was somewhat controversial. The queen decided to uphold her duties to the Church of England by not attending their civil ceremony.
There were also reports that the queen thought her presence would take away from the quiet ceremony the couple sought, per BBC News. However, if there was any doubt that the queen ultimately approved of their union, then the reception she and Prince Philip threw at Windsor Castle afterwards should silence them, per Cosmopolitan. She was also in attendance for the wedding blessing at St. George’s chapel that occurred after the ceremony.
Camilla previously tiptoed around the ‘queen consort’ title
Queen Elizabeth II ushered in a new era for Camilla Parker Bowles in February 2022, when, during her Platinum Jubilee, she gave Camilla her blessing to become “Queen Consort” whenever Prince Charles became king, per CNN. But this wasn’t always meant to be. According to “Camilla and Charles: The Love Story,” by Caroline Graham, Camilla was initially meant to take on the “Princess Consort” title when Charles became king. This was to avoid the title once meant for Princess Diana and thereby avoiding the furor of the British public. A princess consort would have the same privileges as a queen but without the title. According to journalist Christopher Andersen, the queen’s blessing of Charles’ and Camilla’s union hinged on Charles’ promise that Camilla would never become queen (via US Weekly).
But Charles is partly to thank for the queen’s turn in opinion. Charles repeatedly tried to convince the queen that he needed an equal partner once he became king, using Prince Phillip and his support as Queen Elizabeth’s husband as an example. But Camilla, through her own efforts, convinced the queen that she herself can take on the role, and over the years, Queen Elizabeth warmed up to her, according to Vanity Fair. During the pandemic, Camilla took a lead on royal duties and did so much public outreach (per Vanity Fair) that highlighted her commitment to her royal responsibilities. But not everyone felt the same; Andersen said that the Princes Harry caught off guard by the queen’s announcement, and Harry never congratulated Camilla, per The Daily Beast.
She’s less popular in the United States than in Great Britain
Camilla, the queen consort, has finally achieved what was deemed impossible back in the ’90’s: the British public’s love. Or, at least, most of their support for her new role with the crown. A February 2022 poll, conducted by The Daily Mail and JL Partners found that 55% of Britons supported her new title as “Queen Consort.” It came shortly after the late Queen Elizabeth II blessed her with the future title. Camilla’s overall approval rating jumped by 16 points from the year before. Meanwhile, 44% of those polled said that their opinion of her improved in the last 10 years while 35% admitted it improved since Princess Diana died. Elsewhere, a YouGov poll found that she had a 40% popularity rating.
A lot of credit should go to Buckingham Palace’s strategy to integrate Camilla into the family. Instead of strategically making Camilla more “likable,” she was allowed to quietly wait as Britons grew used to her presence, per The Daily Beast. That may be why her likability in America hasn’t changed much. A YouGov poll from November 2021 found that only 14% of Americans approved of her becoming “Queen Consort” and much preferred her taking the “Princess Consort” title (via Express UK). Americans don’t see much of the royal family as Britons do, so their views can hardly come as a surprise.