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A look back at the Duchess of Cornwall’s life

On the occasion of her 70th birthday

The Duchess of Cornwall, born Camilla Rosemary Shand, graced the world with her presence on the morning of 17 July 1947. Camilla’s father, Bruce Shand, would later be known as a businessman, but in his early years worked as a British army officer. Her mother, Rosalind, would spend her life caring for her three children, and worked as an adoption officer. Growing up in a country house in East Sussex created an idyllic setting for Camilla, a life that also included a younger brother and sister. On occasion, her family would spend time at their second home in South Kensington.

Early Years

A few months after her birth at King’s College Hospital in London, Camilla was baptised at Firle Church in Sussex. In those early years, Camilla became quite fond of reading, a pastime that no doubt reminded her of the memorable times with her father. Camilla’s childhood could not have been more perfect. Her family was a part of the gentry; hence they had position, help, and wealth. They even opened their gardens for the local Conservative Party Association’s summer party.

Education

At the age of five, Camilla’s parents sent her to a co-educational school in nearby Ditching Village, known as Dumbrells. Many of Dumbrells former pupils recall the school as being quite harsh, but Camilla thrived during her time there. When Camilla was ten-years-old, she continued her studies at Queen’s Gate School in South Kensington. While at Queen’s Gate, many of the friends Camilla had made went on to describe her as a strong, confident, magnetic young woman.

After six years at Queen’s Gate, Camilla travelled to Switzerland where she attended Mon Fertile, a finishing school that prepared her for university. It was her decision to study French literature at the University of London Institute in Paris, a stint that lasted six months. By March 1965, Camilla found herself back in London, where she played the role of a debutante. Upon arriving back in London, friend Jane Wyndham encouraged that she and Camilla share a flat. After some time, Camilla moved to a bigger flat, which she split with her landlady Lady Moyra Campbell.

Love and Marriage

In the late 1960s, Camilla met Andrew Parker Bowles, who at the time was a Guards Officer and Lieutenant in the Blues and Royals. They would soon become a couple but would go through a period where they dated on and off, which lasted until they finally broke up in 1970. For a short time, Andrew dated Princess Anne, but in 1973, he and Camilla announced their engagement to the world. On 4 July 1973, Camilla and Andrew wed in a lavish ceremony, which was described as the “society wedding of the year.” The newly married couple then settled in nearby Wiltshire and would soon become parents to two children.

Andrew often found himself away home on assignment, while Camilla stayed home with their children. The couple spent more than two decades together, but after twenty-one years of marriage, Camilla and Andrew divorced. Their divorce was finalised in March of 1995.

The year of 1971 changed the course of Camilla’s life forever because it would be the year she would meet her future husband, the Prince of Wales. After they had become close friends, Charles and Camilla began dating, which was well known in their social circle. Their relationship ended quite abruptly after Charles left to join the Royal Navy, a position that took him overseas. Many historians have speculated why their relationship ended, but in reality, no one will ever know.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall leave the opening of Parliament in 2013. Image: House of Lords 2013/Roger Harris (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr

When Charles found out about Camilla’s engagement to Andrew, he was said to of been full of emptiness. Sometime in the late 1970s, Charles leant heavily on Camilla for support, even though she was now married to Andrew. There are claims that during this time, Charles and Camilla rekindled their romance, but in 1981, everything changed when the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer. The public would become privy to the affair between Charles and Camilla in 1992, only after the press published Diana, Her True Story. Considering how loved Diana was, Camilla’s image quickly deteriorated.

Secret recordings released in 1993 further damaged the reputation of Charles and Camilla. A year later, Charles spoke on the issue saying, “Mrs Parker Bowles is a great friend of mine…a friend for a very long time. She will continue to be a friend for a long time.” There was not much else that could be done. Both of their marriages would come to an end around the same time, which allowed them to rebuild their image together. The death of Diana proved to be a turbulent time for Camilla, but she remained steadfast to Charles.

The years after their subsequent divorces, Charles and Camilla started to attend events together, which demonstrated to the world they were committed to each other. In 2000, Camilla joined Charles on a number of official engagements, and later met The Queen during a birthday party for the former King of Greece. Not too long after attending The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, Camilla moved into Clarence House – Charles’s primary residence.

The Duchess of Cornwall with the Duchess of Cambridge during the 2013 Trooping of the Colour. Photo: Michael Garnett (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Becoming A Duchess

On 15 February 2005, Clarence House announced the engagement of Charles and Charles, a union that seemed to be supported by the public. The wedding took place in April 2005 at a town hall in Windsor Guilford, with only a few witnesses who observed the civil ceremony. Later The Queen would hold a reception for the newlyweds at Windsor Castle.

During her time as the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla has taken on her station with grace. She has filled her time with numerous engagements and is quite possibly one of the hardest working members of the royal family. Camilla seems to have a genuine interest in her patronages and cares about her work as a royal. She’s even known to personally respond to letters she receives from the public. All of these characteristics are perfectly suited for someone who will someday stand next to the future King of the United Kingdom.

  • luigi pasquali

    A teenage school dropout with no formal education. You can tell by looking at her.

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