As she prepares to head off on another packed tour, representing her country, you can only doff your hat to the Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla has created a royal agenda and role of her own, against the odds, let’s not forget, and is now widely accepted as one of the bedrocks of the 21st century House of Windsor. So given all she’s achieved and all she is still clearly planning to do, is it time to call her by her most senior title and acknowledge Camilla publicly as Princess of Wales?
We all know why she’s currently called Duchess of Cornwall. From the moment it was announced ahead of their 2005 wedding that Camilla would take her title from her honour automatically bestowed on an heir to the throne, there was an acknowledgement that the title Princess of Wales belonged, in the public’s view at least, to Diana. Separating Camilla from that was one way of building support for a marriage that was still controversial. But in the past 14 years, much has changed.
Time, for a start, has flown on with that certainty it always has. Over two decades since her death, Diana remains an essential figure in the history of the House of Windsor, but the emotions which surrounded her passing have changed. The anger and rawness that some felt following the car crash in Paris on August 31st 1997 have subsided while the 20th anniversary of her death, with commemorations overseen by her two sons, in some ways marked a watershed. Now that William and Harry are moving on to separate households, inevitable as they formed their own families and looked to their differing futures, the pace of change in the House of Windsor is quickening and our view of Camilla is altering all the while.
Camilla, though, is the main reason for the change. Since her marriage, on April 9th 2005, she has become a pillar of the Royal Family. She carries out hundreds of engagements a year, including several overseas tours annually, and she has made no secret of her passion for causes and charities which really need support. She also clearly gets on with her in-laws and her stepsons. That family love and her own quiet determination have seen a shift in the public attitude towards her. So much has altered that the Duchess herself was recently able to joke during a speech that a taxi driver once asked her what she thought about herself at the time when the War of the Wales’ dominated the media. That this anecdote got a laugh rather than outrage is an indication of all that has altered.
We all know, too, that when Prince Charles does become king, there will be a debate about the title Camilla takes. The original statement from the royals that she would be known as Princess Consort has been slowly forgotten and now doesn’t feature on official websites. The presumption is that when the reign of her husband begins, she will be known as his queen consort and despite changing attitudes, it will still cause discussion. It can be argued that it is perhaps better to have the debate about changing the original intentions now, in the security of The Queen’s long reign and at a time dominated by babies and weddings, than in the early days of a new rule when feelings will be running high, and the royals will be grieving deeply.
But then we’re not the ones who will sit at the eye of the storm. It’s easy to say from a distance that the medicine might be better taken now. Camilla is clearly in a very happy time in her life. She has a loving marriage, her own children are settled, and she has the joy of her own and Prince Charles’ grandchildren. She also has popular approval and support. Whatever has changed, there will be some opposition and Camilla is the one who will have to face the prospect of her past being raked over in an attempt to look to the future.
We should also remember that the brand, Duchess of Cornwall, is a powerful one. Since her marriage, Camilla has espoused many causes and enjoyed considerable success where others might well have failed. Her initiative to provide wash bags to those affected by sexual assault is a project that can’t be commended highly enough while her support for literacy across the community, even taking her campaign to bring reading to all into prisons, has given a boost to thousands of people. All that has been done under her title, the one she has made her own, that of Duchess of Cornwall. Would changing to Princess of Wales have an impact on that?
However, the bottom line remains that Princess of Wales is Camilla’s actual title, and there’s no better time to give her that due. In this fiftieth year since Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales, she has become one half of a power couple that is building the future of the British monarchy before our very eyes. No one will forget Diana, but her legacy is secure and calling Camilla by the title that once belonged to her now seems like a natural progression rather than an unnatural development. So as she prepares to head off on another tour, doff that hat and why not call Camilla, Princess of Wales?