The world’s most hated woman is now a beloved and benign queen
I like Camilla. I really do. Watching her walk down at the coronation ceremony of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey earlier this week – her back a little hunched, her shoulders slouched, her smile crinkled – she reminded me of a sweet little matriarch.
I think it was far more heartwarming to see her in the spotlight than her gauche husband, although I feel sad the poor man has always been outshone by his wives.
Camilla, being crowned with Queen Mary’s former topper (without the Kohinoor this time because it would just be in bad taste), was like watching an older woman getting dressed for her second wedding perhaps. It’s a happy occasion, but she is mindful of being sombre, subtle and a little more sedate than the ceremony demands of her.
Camilla, 75, has that warm, fuzzy grandmotherly vibe, which is possibly why William and Harry have always stated she’s far from the wicked stepmother.
In today’s world, with divorces being normalised and blended families not so uncommon, it would be unfair to ask the royals to remain in antiquity.
Even the Indian Supreme Court has decided that a couple who wishes to divorce by mutual consent can waive their six-month cooling-off period, and have the no-questions-asked separation they seek. They don’t need to find excuses of “adultery”, “cruelty”, and other harsh words. An “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” will do just fine.
Queen Camilla: The real fairy tale
Camilla and Charles seem to be quite the ideal couple, who have braved all odds to marry, find acceptance at home and in public, and finally get the titles they waited too long for. Camilla’s task has only been an uphill trek, considering Diana’s immense popularity, her eternal beauty and her shocking, heartbreaking early death. I have to admit, we have always looked at Camilla through Diana’s eyes. She was always the third person in her marriage to Charles, as she admitted to BBC’s Martin Bashir, and, according to Diana, “a Rottweiler”.
Today, to see how Camilla had slowly and steadfastly won her mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth II over (the queen, once her worst critic, was later keen Camilla take on the title of Queen Consort), has cleverly built an image of Charles’ supportive wife, and a long-standing friend to William and Harry, she seems to be all kinds of wonderful. I have to say, in contrast, Diana seemed impetuous, attention-seeking and whiny.
Camilla is also Charles’ equal, and he clearly loves that about her. It is well-documented how nonchalantly she flirted with him when they first met at a polo match. She supposedly said to him, on that day in 1970, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. So how about it?”
Their shared love for a good joke began their romance, which would end up being a lifelong love affair that would scandalise the world and had Britain wonder whether Charles would be a suitable king since he couldn’t keep his wife (Diana) happy.
But the world’s most hated woman is now a beloved and benign queen.
A UK commentator has actually called Camilla a “feminist icon”, and I find myself agreeing. Charles has always admitted being drawn to her cheerful and gregarious nature. In her book, The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked The Crown, Penny Junor profiles the new queen as an upper-class minor aristocrat who had a near-perfect childhood and family life. “She treated him (Charles) like a normal person, as she had when they were together, and if ever he behaved badly, or was selfish or thoughtless, she wasn’t afraid to tell him so,” writes Junor. “She was his proper friend.”
Her first marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles resulted in divorce, thanks to his numerous affairs. But along with their two children Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Lopes, her ex-husband attended the coronation too. There’s something so mature and solid about this. It has been reported that Charles was godfather to Tom, much before he became his stepfather, showing a great sign of his friendship with Camilla.
Much like Catherine, Camilla stays in the lane she is expected to. She follows the rules of ‘The Firm’ as the British royal family is called. And yet she has made room for her unconventional self within it. One could even say Camilla has lent a more approachable, down-to-earth bent to the otherwise stuffed shirts and gilded capes. Charles’ good friend, the American actor Joan Rivers described Camilla as “rough around the edges… in a good way”.
I especially love how confident Camilla is about the way she looks. She’s hardly had a fashion upgrade since she married Charles. She claims to have had one “smart dress” from Monsoon, and always dresses in below-the-knee sobriety. She enjoys her wrinkles, she laughs off the suggestions on plastic surgeons she gets from American friends.
Divorced and twice-married, grey and wrinkled, grandmother and stepmother, unfashionably and insouciant – Camilla is the real twist in the fairy tale.
Views expressed by the author are their own
Suggested Reading: How British Imperial History Shaped King Charles III’s Coronation Ceremony