15 Things You Didn’t Know About Duchess Camilla
The 71-year-old Duchess just appeared in her husband Prince Charles’ birthday portrait—but she’s not just the woman who came between him and Diana. Find out who Camilla really is, from her wry sense of humor and love of horses to her devotion to family and country.
She’s very laid-back—even untidy!
The Duchess of Cornwall, otherwise known as Camilla Parker Bowles, is a down-to-earth country girl who has won the hearts of the British people with her natural, genuine demeanor—just as she did her now-husband, Prince Charles when they met nearly 50 years ago. Although she was born into an upper-class family, Camilla never puts on airs. “I have so many friends who, if I ever even vaguely look like getting uppity, which touch wood I never have, they would just say, ‘Look, come on, pull yourself together! Don’t be so bloody grand!’” she said in a rare interview in The Daily Mail’s You Magazine. A former flatmate even says she kept her bedroom in a state of chaos, reports Vanity Fair. On the other hand, these myths about the royal family are totally false.
She’d rather be gardening at home
Although Camilla has many official duties to attend to, “sometimes you get up in the morning and think you can’t do it, and you just have to,” The Daily Mail reports she told a friend. “The minute you stop it’s like a balloon, you run out of puff—you sort of collapse in a heap.” She still keeps her own country retreat, Raymill, to decompress and get away from it all. Camilla has always loved outdoor pursuits like riding and hunting, as does Charles, and gardening is one of her passions. “I’d be out in my garden all day, every day if I were allowed,” she recently told reporters at an event for the British charity Floral Angels. “I love to get my hands dirty.” Find out the jobs the British royal family actually holds.
She’s a talker
Camilla’s outgoing personality helps her succeed at royal life, even if she doesn’t naturally crave the spotlight. She credits her parents for teaching her manners and how to talk to people, something she says makes royal duties easier. “I remember once there was a dinner party at home with some of the most boring neighbors in the world and we were dragged down to join them for dinner,” she told The Daily Mail. “[My mother would] sit us down at the dinner table, and the minute there was silence, she used to say, ‘Talk! I don’t care what you talk about, talk about your budgie [parakeet] or your pony but keep the conversation going.’ And so I’ve never been able not to talk. It’s in the psyche, not to leave a silence.”
She gets the giggles
It must be hard to attend over 200 official engagements a year without sometimes breaking down laughing—and Camilla’s sense of humor and sharp wit make it almost impossible to keep a straight face, reports The Daily Mail. “You’ve got to laugh through most things, and sometimes I do laugh a bit too much,” she says. “There are situations where it’s very difficult not to lose it completely, especially, you know, if something goes terribly wrong and everybody sits there for a split-second [not sure how to react]. You do have to swallow and pinch yourself very hard to not laugh.” This is a trait she apparently shares with her new daughter-in-law the Duchess of Sussex (formerly Meghan Markle)—at a May 2018 event, both women couldn’t hold in their laughter when a buzzing bee interrupted Prince Harry’s speech. Camilla also doesn’t take herself too seriously: “You have to laugh at yourself because if you can’t, you may as well give up!” she says. Find out more etiquette rules everyone in the royal family must follow.
She’s afraid to fly and dislikes traveling
Although she has a super-busy schedule, homebody Camilla doesn’t actually like traveling—in fact, she has a fear of flying. Her phobia kept her from traveling to several locations around Australia and the South Pacific with Prince Charles recently (she did fly to Brisbane, Australia, for the Commonwealth Games, but opted out of the additional travel). According to the Express, Camilla uses a tapping method called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to help her cope with the stress of flying.
She shares a birthday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel
The birthday buddies were both born on July 17, seven years apart. For Camilla’s 70th birthday, the Duchess released an official portrait showing her relaxing in jeans in her garden, true to her easygoing style. The occasion was marked by a pair of parties, one for her staff and charities, and one for her family and friends. Camilla is 16 months older than her husband, who just kicked off his 70th birthday celebrations with a June garden party in advance of his actual November birthday. Find out why Queen Elizabeth also celebrates two birthdays a year.
She always wears the same Chanel shoes
Could it be the double “C” logo of Chanel, reminiscent of “Charles and Camilla,” that keeps the Duchess coming back to these cream pumps with black toes? (The logo is also reportedly why Princess Diana never wore much Chanel.) Trade mag Footwear News says Camilla has been wearing the classic shoes since at least 2005, and that they’re no longer available for purchase. But her shoes aren’t Camilla’s only fashion repeat—she’s apparently been taking a page out of Kate Middleton’s book and started recycling her outfits as well.
She’s related to Madonna and Celine Dion—as well as Charles!
Genealogical research has linked Duchess Camilla with famous pop stars Madonna and Celine Dion, in addition to actress Angelina Jolie, who are all descended from the same French Canadian couple from the 17th century. Interestingly, Camilla and Charles also have a genetic connection—according to Ancestry.com, they are both descended from Henry Cavendish, second Duke of Newcastle, which makes them ninth cousins once removed. However, in a scandalous twist, Camilla’s great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was Charles’ great-great-grandfather King Edward VII’s mistress. Rumors exist that Keppel’s daughter Sonia (Camilla’s grandmother) was actually the King’s child—which Ancestry reports would make Charles and Camilla half-second cousins once removed. Here’s the entire royal family tree, explained in one easy chart.
She and Charles were star-crossed
The royal couple met in the early 1970s before Charles had ever met Diana. Although they felt instant attraction, the prince then left for a tour of duty with the Royal Navy without declaring his intentions—and so Camilla accepted a proposal from Army officer Andrew Parker Bowles, whom she married in 1973. (Some reports say Camilla’s father snuck an engagement announcement in the paper before Parker Bowles proposed, basically forcing them into it.) “Everything in life is timing, and so often time deals you the wrong hand,” Camilla’s family friend Jane Churchill told Vanity Fair of the couple. Find out the real reason Charles didn’t marry Camilla in the first place.
Camilla didn’t break up Charles’s marriage
A devastated Charles was later reportedly pressured into proposing to Diana by his father, Prince Philip. When asked in a television interview if he and Diana were in love, Diana responded, “Of course,” but Charles cryptically added, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” It now seems clear that Charles and Diana were mismatched, and that Charles had never gotten over Camilla. However, Prince Charles said in a later interview when asked if he was faithful to Diana, “Yes, until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” Not until both Charles’s and Camilla’s marriages dissolved in the 1990s, and after Diana’s tragic death in 1997, were Charles and Camilla free to appear in public as a couple. Read more about what really happened between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Charles is Camilla’s son’s godfather
Prince Charles remained close friends of Camilla and her husband during their marriage. In fact, when Camilla and Andrew’s first child, Tom, was born, Prince Charles was asked to be his godfather and he accepted. But Diana reportedly refused to let little Tom be in their wedding party, although Camilla and her son did attend the ceremony. After Charles married Camilla, he became Tom’s stepfather and godfather (as well as stepfather to Camilla’s daughter, Laura). Both Charles’ and Camilla’s children have said all they care about is their parents’ happiness, and have warm feelings for their stepparents. Camilla and Charles now have five grandchildren from her first marriage—little Eliza Lopes (Laura’s daughter) was even a bridesmaid at Prince William’s wedding—as well as three from Charles’s side.
Her brother died tragically
Camilla’s brother, travel writer and conservationist Mark Shand, died suddenly in 2014 at the age of 62 after he fell and hit his head outside a charity event in New York City. An official statement from Charles and Camilla said they were “utterly devastated” by the tragic loss. Camilla’s parents have also passed, with her mother, Rosalind Shand, succumbing to osteoporosis at age 72 in 1994 (her grandmother died of the same disease eight years earlier). “My family and I watched in horror as my mother quite literally shrank in front of our eyes,” Camilla said, which inspired her to become president of the UK’s National Osteoporosis Society. Camilla’s father, Major Bruce Shand, died in 2006 at age 89, having gotten to see his daughter marry Charles the year before. Camilla remains close to her sister, Annabel Elliot.
Camilla was sick at her wedding
According to Vanity Fair, Camilla was so ill with sinusitis the day of her wedding, April 9, 2005, she could barely move. It was only when her sister, Annabel, threatened to put on Camilla’s wedding clothes that she got out of bed. Because Charles and Camilla were both divorced, they couldn’t remarry in the Church of England, so they had a civil ceremony followed by a church blessing at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle—the same spot Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were later married. Although Queen Elizabeth II hadn’t always been in favor of the match, when it became clear nothing was going to keep Charles from his true love, she gave her blessing. At the reception, the Queen reportedly referenced the Grand National horse race, saying, “They have overcome Becher’s Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles. They have come through, and I’m very proud and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves.” Find out some more of the biggest royal wedding scandals throughout history.
She may not be queen
Although in the past it’s been suggested Prince Charles might step aside and pass the throne to his son Prince William, that seems unlikely now. As Penny Junor’s recent book, The Duchess, asserts, Camilla has actually strengthened the monarchy: “She has given Charles belief in himself that he’s never had before, and that has made him much more likable and therefore much more popular,” Junor writes. “The public wants to engage with him again. And she has made that happen.” But what title will Camilla take when Charles becomes king? Although Charles said in a 2010 interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, “We’ll see won’t we? That could be,” when asked if she’d be queen, the official word when the couple married was she would be Princess Consort upon Charles’ ascension to the throne. But, that statement was removed from their official website, leading to some reports that she’ll become Queen Consort—or even just Queen—after all.
She’s won the hearts of the people
Whatever her title, it’s clear that Camilla has won over the British people as well as the royal family after a rocky start. “I think the way Camilla has turned public perception is honestly by appearing a very normal person, which she is,” royal correspondent Roya Nikkah told NBC News. Although some people still aren’t fans, Camilla and Charles have proved that even royalty should marry for love. The couple paved the way for the monarchy allowing the younger generation, Princes William and Harry, to wed whomever they chose. Next, find out the perks of being a member of the British royal family.