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FeaturesKing Charles III

Before they were royal: The Duchess of Cornwall

The Duchess of Cornwall married The Prince of Wales in 2005, officially making her a member of the Royal Family. But who was she before she officially became a royal? We continue our “before they were royal” series with our fourth edition on the former Camilla Shand (and later Parker Bowles): 

The Duchess of Cornwall, daughter of Major Bruce Middleton Hope Shand and The Hon Rosalind Maud Shand, was born as Camilla Rosemary Shand. She was born in King’s College Hospital, London, on 17th July 1947. The Duchess was baptised at Firle Church, East Sussex, on 1st November 1947.

The Duchess is an older sister to her sister Annabel Elliot and brother Mark Shand, who died in 2014. The family lived in The Laines, an 18th-century house in Plumpton, East Sussex, and they later moved to their second home, a three-storey house in South Kensington.

The family owned a number of pets throughout Camilla’s life, including cats and dogs, and at a young age, she learnt how to ride a pony. The future Duchess was also known to be an avid reader.

Educated firstly at Dumbrells School in Sussex and then Queen’s Gate School in South Kensington, Camilla later found herself in Switzerland where she attended Mon Fertile School. Her final place of education was in Paris where she studied at the Institut Britannique.

The Duchess of Cornwall’s first marriage was in 1973 to British Army officer Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles whom she had courted on and off for some years after first meeting in the late 1960s. Camilla was 26-years-old, and Andrew Parker Bowles was 33-years-old when they got married.

The couple had a Roman Catholic ceremony at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London. There were 800 guests in attendance, including members of the Royal Family: Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret, the Countess of Snowdon.

The couple had two children, Thomas Henry born in 1974, and Laura Rose born in 1978, before their marriage was dissolved in 1995. The Prince of Wales is a godfather to Thomas.

On 11th January 1995, a joint statement was released by the couple’s lawyers announcing their divorce, stating that it was due to different interests which eventually led to separate lives. Their divorce was finalised in March 1995.

Camilla first met the Prince of Wales in 1971, and it is believed they had a relationship until 1973 when the Prince had to go overseas for military duties. Sources close to the couple said that in the 1980s, the pair rekindled their relationship, although they were both married.

Once Camilla and the Prince of Wales had finalised their divorces, the pair began to make public appearances together, the first being in 1999 at the Ritz Hotel in London. In 2001, then Camilla Parker Bowles was made the President of the National Osteoporosis Society, which first introduced her to the public.

In 2003, the future royal moved into Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales. On 10th February 2005, their engagement was announced, and they married in April 2005. This marked the beginning of The Duchess of Cornwall’s life as an official member of the Royal Family.