19 Things You Didn’t Know About Camilla, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom
Find out who Camilla really is, from her wry sense of humor and love of horses to her devotion to family and country
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Getting to know Queen Consort Camilla
A lot has changed for the royal family since Queen Elizabeth’s death on Sept. 8, 2022. Two of the biggest changes: Charles is now king, and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles, formerly Duchess of Cornwall, is now queen consort—a title that, at one point, wasn’t guaranteed to her.
Admittedly, the British public hasn’t always seen Camilla in a favorable light, given Charles and Camilla’s affair during his marriage to Princess Diana. However, her popularity among Brits has increased over the years as she stepped into her role as a working royal. Now, she supports King Charles III as he reigns—but how much do we really know about her? Here are some interesting facts you may not know about the newly minted Queen Consort Camilla.
She’s very laid-back—even untidy!
Camilla, queen consort of the United Kingdom, 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, King Charles, when they met 52 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.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Her engagement ring has historical significance
Camilla Parker Bowles’s engagement ring has a five-carat emerald cut diamond in the center and three diamond baguettes on each side, with a gold band. Not only is the ring stunning, but it also has historical significance. The queen consort’s ring once belonged to the queen mother, King Charles’s grandmother. Another royal piece of jewelry that Queen Consort Camilla likes to wear is the Greville Tiara, which was also passed down from the queen mother.
She had many titles before queen consort
Camilla has had the title of queen consort since Queen Elizabeth’s death. Before then, though, she had multiple titles—and they were complex. When she married Charles, then Prince of Wales, she became entitled to use the style Her Royal Highness and also received the title Duchess of Cornwall. Legally, she was also entitled to the title Princess of Wales but didn’t use it out of respect for its former title holder, Diana. Prince William’s wife, Kate Middleton, now has the Princess of Wales title.
When in Scotland, Camilla was known as the Duchess of Rothesay. She also had two Foreign Orders: Order of the Star of Melanesia (Papua New Guinea) 2012 and the Grand-Croix, Ordre Nationale du Mérite (France) 2014. The Queen granted Camilla a Royal Coat of Arms following her marriage. Also, in 2012 she was made a Grand Dame Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, and in 2016 Camilla became a member of the Privy Council. Try saying that all at once.
She loves dogs
Just like Queen Elizabeth loved her corgis, Queen Consort Camilla loves her dogs. Back in 2011, she adopted a Jack Russell Terrier puppy named Beth, her first rescue pup from a shelter. To keep Beth company, she adopted another dog in 2012, also a Jack Russell, named Bluebell. Camilla is also a patron of the charity Medical Detection Dogs. She was able to watch the dogs give demonstrations in sniffing out various diseases. In February of 2019, she visited the pups and their trainers and helped to open their new facility.
WPA Pool/Getty Images
She does a lot of charity work
On top of being a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and step-grandmother, Queen Consort Camilla also contributes a lot to charity. Since marrying Charles in 2005, she has become patron or president of more than 90 charities. She supports charities focused on health and literacy; supporting victims of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence; empowering women; food; animals; and heritage and the arts. She also inherited some charities from Queen Elizabeth, including Barnardo’s, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and The Royal School of Needlework.
WPA Pool/Getty Images
She’s highly educated
The queen consort first attended school at Dumbrells School, in Sussex. From there she studied at Queen’s Gate School in South Kensington, then went on to attend Mon Fertile school in Switzerland and the Institut Britannique in Paris. Here are more things you didn’t know about the British royal family.
She’d rather be gardening
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 King Charles, and gardening is one of her passions. “I’d be out in my garden all day, every day if I were allowed,” she once told reporters at an event for the British charity Floral Angels. “I love to get my hands dirty.”
She’s a talker
Camilla’s outgoing personality helps her succeed at royal life, even if she doesn’t naturally crave the spotlight. The queen consort 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 hundreds of 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 daughter-in-law 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.
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 King Charles (she did fly to Brisbane, Australia, for the Commonwealth Games but opted out of the additional travel). According to 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 former 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.
She always wears the same Chanel shoes
Could it be the double “C” logo of Chanel, reminiscent of “Charles and Camilla,” that keeps her 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.
She’s related to Madonna and Celine Dion—as well as Charles!
Genealogical research has linked Queen Consort 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’s 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. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were also related.
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 then-prince 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.
Camilla didn’t break up Charles’s marriage
A devastated Charles was later reportedly pressured by his father, Prince Philip, into proposing to Diana. 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, 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.
Charles is Camilla’s son’s godfather
King Charles remained close friends of Camilla and her husband during their marriage. In fact, when Camilla and Andrew’s first child, Tom, was born, 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’s and Camilla’s children have said all they care about is their parents’ happiness and they have warm feelings for their stepparents.
Her brother died tragically
Camilla Parker Bowles’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 had 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 to Charles
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.”
She’s won the hearts of the people
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.
- Vanity Fair: “Charles and Camilla, Together at Last”
- Parliament.uk: “Bound Volume Hansard – Written Answers”
- People: “Camilla Parker Bowles Adopts a Rescue Pup”
- Prince of Wales website: “HRH The Duchess of Cornwall”
- Prince of Wales website: “Why does The Duchess have her own home at Raymill?”
- Express: “Camilla Duchess of Cornwall doesn’t always travel with Prince Charles due to this reason”
- Daily Mail: “Prince Charles throws Camilla a 70th birthday party fit for a Duchess attended by 250 of her closest friends and family”
- Footwear News: “Duchess Camilla’s Been Wearing These Classic Chanel Shoes for Over a Decade”
- Ancestry.com: “England’s Future King and Queen Are Actually Related!”
- CBS News: “Camilla ‘Devastated’ by Father’s Death”
- Vanity Fair: “How Camilla Won Over the Queen and Became the Duchess of Cornwall”
- NBC News: “Camilla at 70: Has the Duchess Finally Won British Hearts?”