Prince Charles and Camilla: Weird things everyone just ignores about their marriage
On April 9, 2005, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles married at the Windsor Guildhall in an intimate civil ceremony. After the two were pronounced husband and wife, they headed to Windsor Castle to receive a blessing from the Archbishop of Canterbury. According to BBC, nearly 800 friends and family came to show their support. It was there at Windsor Castle that Charles and Camilla vowed to remain faithful to one another for the rest of their lives. Of course, this was somewhat ironic considering how much of the royal couple’s decades-long romance was marred by infidelity.
Less than ten years earlier, Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana ended after his infamous relationship with Camilla came to light. Diana was beloved by many and even considered to be the “People’s Princess.” Needless to say, there were plenty of folks who were none too pleased with the prince’s sordid affair.
Now that many years have passed, the details about Charles and Camilla’s relationship have faded into distant memory and, with it, you’ve probably forgotten some of the incredibly weird things about their marriage. But don’t worry — we’ll jog your memory.
They're related by more than marriage
“My great-grandmother and your great-great grandfather were lovers so — how about it?” Those words were the first ones Camilla exchanged with Prince Charles, according to Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and Desire. Although the prince and Camilla would not marry until 2005, they first met at a party in 1970. When Camilla made this unusual introduction, she was referring to her ancestress, Alice Keppel. However, since then, Genealogy Today reported that Ancestry.com proved an even stronger link between the royal couple: They’re ninth cousins once removed. The article explained that Charles and Camilla both descended from Henry Cavendish, the second Duke of Newcastle.
Additionally, they could also be half second cousins once removed. This would be the case if Sonia Keppel, Camilla’s grandmother, was indeed the illegitimate daughter of King Edward VII, as it has long been believed. Any way you slice it, though, Charles and Camilla are definitely related.
The Queen was absent from their wedding
By the time Charles and Camilla married, they were both in their late 50s. While everyone still remembered their scandalous love affair, the shock had long since passed. The repercussions, however, continued to linger. Perhaps the most notable effect was the Queen’s absence from Charles and Camilla’s wedding ceremony.
According to The Telegraph, Queen Elizabeth II gave her reasons to a friend, saying, “I am not able to go. I do not feel that my position [as Supreme Governor of the Church] permits it.” The friend noted, “The Queen feels she has to put her role with the Church before her role as a mother.” A senior royal aide concurred, telling the publication, “The venue was never the issue for the Queen. The civil nature of the service is the issue. She did not feel it was appropriate for her to attend.” Her Majesty did, however, decide to attend the blessing after the ceremony.
These days, Camilla is almost always present at royal engagements and is often pictured standing near Queen Elizabeth II. Still, we imagine the Queen’s absence from her wedding must have hurt.
Camilla has children too
We often hear so much about Camilla’s royal stepsons, Princes William and Harry, that we forget that the duchess has two children of her own from her first marriage. Son Thomas Parker Bowles was born to Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles in 1974, and daughter Laura was born four years later in 1978.
Thomas, or Tom, grew up to become a prolific food writer, but he hasn’t always had a picture-perfect life. He reflected on his past “naughty” behavior, including drug use, as a teenager in an interview with A Current Affair. Despite knowing that he had to keep up appearances for his mother’s sake, he admitted there was no coaching from the royal family as to how to behave. “There was no reason to be coached for me and my sister because we’re not part of the royal family,” he said. “We’re very much, you know, we’re commoners — straight-out commoners.” Of course, that didn’t keep him off the front pages of British tabloids.
Laura has kept a much lower profile, but her royal stepbrothers did attend her wedding to Harry Lopes.
Prince Charles isn't just Tom's stepfather
In Tom Parker Bowles’ interview with A Current Affair, he said, “I’ve always adored my stepfather, and he’s always been a kind and good and lovely man, and I don’t give a crap what anyone in the press says.” Tom went on to say that, if the time ever comes, Charles will make a “fantastic king.” Now, how’s that for a compliment?
Although Tom rightfully referred to Charles as his stepfather in the interview, he could’ve actually used another term to describe him: godfather. Allow us to explain. In the prince’s biography, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, Charles is described as a “conscientious godfather” to Tom. And, although Charles and Camilla had “virtually no contact” in the 1980s, Charles had reason to call Camilla occasionally to check up on his godson. As you can imagine, this proved problematic for Charles and Diana’s marriage.
Charles was close friends with Camilla's first husband
Charles’ biography states that “even just occasional contact [with Camilla] might have been too much for Diana, who was profoundly insecure and jealous.” But, what about Camilla’s first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles — how did he feel? It’s hard to say. When the couple divorced in 1995, they released a joint statement (via People) that read, in part, “We have always tended to follow rather different interests, but in recent years we have … grown apart to such an extent that, with the exception of our children … there is little of common interest between us.” Absent from the statement was any mention of Charles and Camilla’s affair, despite it having long been public knowledge.
Even before his wife’s affair with Charles, he was well acquainted with the prince. In fact, they were friends. According to Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, Andrew was even at Windsor Castle on the same day Camilla introduced herself to Charles. Not only that, but he also dated the prince’s sister, Princess Anne, for a time before eventually marrying Camilla. Small, weird world, right?
Why didn't they just get married in the '70s?
Prince Charles and Camilla’s early relationship could perhaps best be described as “right person, wrong time.” They met decades ago and yet have only been married for 13 years as of 2018. There are a few reasons why they waited so long. According to The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown (via Good Housekeeping), Prince Charles was smitten with Camilla upon meeting her. They often spent time together at polo matches and even went on a secret getaway together. Before long though, Charles joined the Royal Navy, and, with him away, Camilla reconnected with her former boyfriend, Andrew Parker Bowles.
Even if Camilla hadn’t reunited with Andrew or if Charles hadn’t met Diana, there was another issue at play: Camilla wasn’t very high on the royal totem pole. As such, she was likely not considered “marriage material” as far as the royal family was concerned. “To an extent, Charles’s choice of wife was affected by the longstanding struggle for influence within the royal family,” author Carolly Erickson wrote in Lillibet: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
Still, their on-again, off-again relationship persisted, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Their affair was encouraged by this member of the royal family
The royal family may not have wanted Charles to marry Camilla, but at least one member of the royal family approved of their extramarital affair. In transcripts of a documentary about the late Princess Diana shared by International Business Times, Diana is quoted as saying, “My father-in-law said to my husband, ‘Uh, if your marriage doesn’t work out you can always go back to her after five years.'” Yikes. Believe it or not, this wasn’t actually the first time Prince Philip encouraged his son’s sexcapades. According to The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor, Philip even gave his son access to his Hampshire home for that very reason.
“I believe in a case like yours, the man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down,” a letter from Philip to Charles read (via The Firm), “but for a wife he should choose a suitable, attractive and sweet-charactered girl before she has met anyone else she might fall for.” Thus, this appears to be another reason Charles married Diana as opposed to Camilla.
Camilla was once the 'most hated woman in Britain'
Although both Charles and Camilla cheated on their spouses, the prince didn’t receive quite the same backlash as his then-mistress did. NBC News reported that the public “largely blamed Camilla” for the end of Charles and Diana’s marriage in the ’90s. The British media also dubbed Camilla the “most hated woman in Britain.”
Roddi Vaughan-Thomas, a public relations executive at OBS Communications, said Camilla was called “evil Camilla” and was thought of as the “person who was driving the wedge between the fairy tale princess and the Prince of Wales.” After Diana died in a car accident in 1997, the public perception of Camilla continued to plummet.
Now that decades have passed, many no longer think of her as the evil queen. “Her image has been transformed, a carefully managed makeover, and they have done a fantastic job rehabilitating her [reputation],” Vaughan-Thomas explained.
Camilla holds the royal title of the late Princess Diana
Who is the Princess of Wales? If you were to say Diana, you wouldn’t be wrong. If you were to say Camilla, you still wouldn’t be wrong. With Charles and Diana’s divorce, and sadly with Diana’s tragic death, the title of Princess of Wales was no longer in use. However, when Prince Charles and Camilla married in 2005, that all changed.
Royal historian and expert Marlene Koenig explained to Hello! magazine, saying, “Camilla is [Her Royal Highness] The Princess of Wales, but she is styled as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.” The expert continued, “I believe the decision to use Cornwall was done to appease the Dianamanics. I think it is silly to not style Camilla as HRH The Princess of Wales.” Silly or not, royal correspondent Emily Nash concurred, saying, “She is technically the Princess of Wales but has never used the title.” Camilla’s decision to forgo Diana’s former title also likely helped Camilla to restore public favor. Nevertheless, she is still a princess.