how Camilla, the hated former mistress, made her place within the royal family

Not a wave or a word is superfluous. Over the years, he kept a low profile. Long mocked by the tabloids, Camilla Shand has yet to be accepted. Until it became, on September 8, a queen consort, in other words non-regent, with her husband, King Charles III. Since this is the second wife, some believe that she should have been content with the title of “princess consort”. Despite their 17-year marriage, the spouses had to wait in February for Queen Elizabeth II to agree to remove the doubt and declare him. “his sincere wish” for Camilla to be queen consort. Like a confirmation, albeit late but decisive, that the former pariah finally got his place.

However, according to the dogmas of the British monarchy, she should not be with King Charles for the Queen’s funeral on Monday, September 19. When the two young people met in 1970, marriage was impossible, even at this time that morality is free. A crown prince can only marry a princess or an aristocrat.

Their paths first diverged when Charles enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1972 for an eight-month mission. For her part, Camilla Shand married in 1973 to the officer Andrew Parker Bowles, with whom she had two children. But this union ended in divorce in 1995. “If the royal principles had improved earlier, fifty years ago, when Charles first courted her (…) then things would have been less tense for the royal family”, considered very respectable Guardian*.

The royal family was desperate to marry Charles when he returned from the army in 1973. “He is the celibate prince”, tells the historian specializing in the royal family Philippe Chassaigne. “At almost 32, he needed to get married soon, so we found Diana Spencer.” At the age of 19, the young woman met the criteria established by royalty. “He comes from an old aristocratic family, he is qualified”recalls Philippe Chassaigne.

Their marriage, which was celebrated with great pomp in 1981, was in bad shape. And Charles and Camilla continue their love. The scandal came to light when the press revealed a very intimate telephone exchange between the two lovers. “There are three of us in this marriage. It’s a bit too much”confronted Lady Di in a BBC interview in November 1995. The Prince and Princess of Wales officially divorced in 1996.

After these revelations, the tabloids were unleashed against Camilla, whom they held responsible for the failure of Charles and Lady Di’s marriage. Everything goes on: her body, her style of dress… “For a long time, he was presented as the opposite. He was the beloved, he was the ideal cause”, recalls Richard Davis, professor of British civilization at Bordeaux Montaigne University. “Diana is pretty and young, Camilla is older, there’s a lot of sexism in that.”

With Diana’s accidental death in 1997, tabloid attacks on Camilla continued and British public opinion followed suit. “It was not easy, he trusted in July of Vogue UK*, during one of his rare interviews. No one likes to be stared at all the time. But I think at the end of the day, I can handle it and I will continue to live. You have to go on living.”

Faced with attacks, Camilla does not respond, does not respond, does not show herself. A posture he maintains to this day. Despite the harassment from the tabloids, she did not separate from Prince Charles. For him, his relationship with Camilla “non negotiable” with the queen, wrote the BBC*.

Despite their love, it was impossible for the couple to formalize their relationship. “From the time he was married and had two children, all that was possible for the royal family was that it remained a relationship”, explain the historian Philippe Chassaigne.

From that moment, an extensive communication strategy began. Orchestrated by Prince Charles’ advisers, it aims to restore Camilla to the public eye. The appearances of Camilla, who often refused the title of Princess of Wales, which was also linked to Diana, were carefully selected. In 1999, they appeared for the first time together and allowed themselves to be photographed secretly leaving Camilla’s brother’s birthday party, reports the BBC *.

After that, Camilla began to appear more often in public with Prince Charles. He was presented by the Queen in 2000 and participated in the celebration of Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. “It is done gradually, by checking the reactions”, assured Philippe Chassaigne.

“Charles has spoken a lot about the fact that his sons, Princes William and Harry, have become close to Camilla, continued the historian. The message is: if they accept it, you will too. After refusing to allow the prince to marry a divorced woman, the queen eventually agreed to allow Charles and Camilla to marry in a civil ceremony in 2005.

Camilla, helmet of white hair and kind relaxation, slowly imposed herself. Sponsor of many associations, he invests in subjects dear to him, such as reading or violence against women. He tries to visit shelters as much as possible when traveling abroad, he told the magazine. hip*.

During the Covid crisis, he also launched a book club on Instagram, where he offers recommendations and engages with authors. He is also interested in health, animals, and willingly talks about gardening. “Camilla is innocent”, believes Philippe Chassaigne. According to him, he understood the codes of the royal family very well. Start with rule number one: don’t make waves. “Camilla is doing amazing, explained the historian. He had an older practice in this medium, although he was not of aristocratic descent.

Gradually, the newspapers changed their tone. the wire documented this change, in an article dated February * and titled “How the Duchess of Cornwall won the hearts of the public to become the future Queen Camilla”. The daily even claims that “Camilla will be Prince Charles’ mainstay, as Prince Philip is for the Queen.”

What succeeded Diana did not “not easy”the tabloid recognized in February Daily Mail, as quoted by Le Figaro. “But with quiet dignity, easy humor and palpable compassion, he rose to the challenge. He was, quite simply, Charles’ rock.”

“She is the ideal queen consort” even wrote the Sun*, in a strange change of jacket when the tabloid always focused on him. “Camilla is not the woman who almost destroyed the monarchy. She is the one who is helping to save it,” even dare another article* from the newspaper.

Camilla fits, more than her husband, the reserved line imposed by Elizabeth II. Against all odds, he is perhaps the one who best embodies the famous motto of the royal family. : “Don’t explain, don’t complain” (“don’t explain, don’t complain”).

But the road is still long. His popularity increased, but only reached 40% favorable opinions in the second quarter of 2022, according to a YouGov poll*. While her popularity may change now that she is queen consort, her character is unlikely to change. True to form, Camilla is determined to continue her philanthropic work “as far as possible”. A strategy that, in the past, allowed Princess Diana to win the hearts of the British people.

* These links refer to articles in English

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