20 Things You Didn’t Know About Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Find out who Camilla really is, from her wry sense of humor and love of horses to her devotion to family and country.
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. 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 Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall 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. “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 four from Charles’s side.
Her brother died tragically
Camilla Parker Bowles’ 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
As Penny Junor’s 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 the Duchess of Cornwall 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 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.