From vilified to queen: Camilla’s long road to coronation

FAN Editor

King Charles III isn’t the only person being crowned on Saturday – so is his wife, Camilla. She was once vilified by the public, with many believing she was to blame for the breakup of Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage. But Charles and Camilla’s love prevailed, and now, he is making her queen.

After Queen Elizabeth III died in 2022, Camilla initially took on the title of queen consort, as the queen wished. Unlike a queen, a queen consort does not have any real authority and the title is usually given to the spouse of a monarch. 

But while Charles said he and Camilla were “deeply conscious of the honor represented by my mother’s wish,” when his coronation invitations went out, Camilla’s title was changed to “queen.” On Friday night, the palace referred to Camilla as the queen for the first time, and Britain’s PA news wire said the change had taken effect as of the beginning of coronation day, even before Camilla was formally crowned. 

Camilla is a non-birth member of the royal family, so she will not hold authority, but she will be crowned queen alongside her husband, the king.

Their Majesties King Charles III And Queen Camilla - Coronation Day
Camilla, Queen Consort travelling in the Diamond Jubilee Coach built in 2012 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. / Getty Images

The pair first met when they were young and have walked a long, winding road to get to a point where Charles, 74, could call her his wife and now, queen. 

“The phrase ‘fairytale’ has been turned around a lot at this,” CBS News contributor Tina Brown said during coverage of the coronation Saturday. “Here is a king about to crown as his queen, the woman who has been in his life since he was a teenager.”

“It’s a grand formal occasion, a great state occasion with lots of splendor, but a very personal story between the two of them that we are going to witness today,” Brown said. “We’re going to witness the final crowning of a relationship that has been the story of this moniker for 65 to 70 years, that is kind of fun to watch.”

Charles and Camilla, who grew up in an aristocratic family, were first romantically linked during the 1970s but ended up marrying other people. Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973 and Charles married Diana Spencer in 1981. Still, the pair remained close – Charles is even godfather to Camilla’s son, Tom.

Now, he’s stepfather to Tom and Camilla’s daughter, Laura. After Charles and Diana divorced in 1992 and after her death in 1997, Charles and Camilla’s relationship eventually made their relationship public. 

Another first for royals: The couple married in 2005, the first non-religious, civil ceremony ever for a British royal in England. 

But even though she officially joined the royal family, Camilla was not as welcomed by the public. A YouGov poll in 2005 found that just 7% of the public thought she should be queen one day. 

Before Diana and Charles divorced, the princess gave an extremely candid interview to Martin Bashir, during which she spoke about Camilla’s presence in their lives. “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Diana said. She also admitted to her own affair with an Army veteran James Hewitt.

After the dissolution of Charles and Diana’s marriage, Camilla was regarded as the most hated woman in Britain, facing hostility from ruthless paparazzi. 

While the public’s perception has changed during her nearly 20-year marriage to Charles, some are still critical – including Prince Harry, who wrote in his book “Spare” that Camilla tried to rehabilitate her reputation at his expense. 

Harry said he and his brother, Prince William, asked their dad not to marry Camilla, saying it would “cause more harm than good, and if he was now with his person, that— surely that’s enough,” the prince told Anderson Cooper during an interview for CBS News’ “60 Minutes.

The prince said Camilla’s need to fix her image made her dangerous because of how close she became with the British press. Harry accused Camilla – and even his father – of using him and his brother for tabloid coverage, saying Camilla “sacrificed me on her personal P.R. altar.”

Journalist Petronella Wyatt, a friend of Camilla’s, told CBS News Camilla might have been hurt by Harry’s words, because “she was very, very nice to Harry.”

“I think that Camilla will do the job [of queen] brilliantly,” Wyatt said. “She’s always in a good mood. She’s not stroppy and difficult. I think she’ll shine quietly, while letting Charles be the star.”

During the coronation, Camilla will don the Queen Mary crown, with diamonds from Queen Elizabeth II’s collection added to it for the ceremony.

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