LONDON: After decades of devotion and 18 years of marriage, King Charles III will finally see his goal realized when his “darling wife” Queen Camilla is crowned at his side on Saturday.
She was the non-negotiable part of his life, despite their long relationship challenging Britain’s institutions and triggering strong public resistance.
But at London’s Westminster Abbey, Camilla will be anointed and crowned as queen, in the presence of world leaders.
Never truly in her element in the public eye, is the woman who lived for so long in the shadows worried about the global spotlight of the coronation?
“Anyone would be anxious on an occasion of this sort of importance,” her son Tom Parker Bowles told The News Agents podcast.
“I’d be terrified if I had to sort of walk out wearing ancient robes,” the food writer said.
“She’s 75, it’s hard to do it. But she never complained.”
Parker Bowles said the couple were “doing amazingly.”
His 74-year-old stepfather was a “good, kind, intelligent man who cares deeply about his roles,” he said.
However, the road to the coronation has not been easy.
In the 1990s, Camilla was the most hated woman in Britain, blamed by Princess Diana for the break-up of her own marriage to Charles. Diana nicknamed Camilla the “rottweiler.”
Charles and Diana’s younger son Prince Harry, now estranged from the monarchy, branded her a “villain” who played the long game to get the crown.
But Charles never wavered in his devotion to her.
The couple first met in the 1970s. Close to aristocratic circles, Camilla Shand was relaxed in his company, amusing and reassuring the then-insecure prince.
However, while Charles went off to serve in the Royal Navy, Camilla fell for the playboy army officer Andrew Parker Bowles, tying the knot in 1973, leaving Charles feeling empty and devastated.
Their marriage crumbled amid Parker Bowles’ extra-marital affairs.
In 1981, Charles wed Diana Spencer, the daughter of an earl, in what was branded a fairy-tale marriage. He was 32; she had just turned 20. Camilla was among the wedding guests.
Hopelessly mismatched, Charles and Diana soon drifted apart. Prince William was born in 1982 and Harry in 1984.
As the marriage disintegrated, Charles fell back on Camilla and they rekindled their relationship.
Home and dry
Britain’s tabloid press went to town, in 1993 publishing transcripts of intimate phone conversations secretly recorded four years earlier.
The conversation veered between being reincarnated as a tampon and discussing motorway directions. After that humiliation, some wondered whether Charles would ever become king.
Camilla divorced in 1995; Charles in 1996. Diana’s death in a 1997 Paris car crash saw Charles’s popularity plummet. Camilla retreated further into the shadows.
It took years of carefully orchestrated public relations work to pave the way towards even public acceptance of Camilla — let alone the possibility of marriage.
Queen Elizabeth II was long hostile towards their relationship, but ended up accepting she was the right one for Charles.
A compromise was found allowing the couple to marry in April 2005: a civil ceremony followed by a religious blessing.
At the wedding reception at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth — in a speech peppered with horse racing references — said: “My son is home and dry with the woman he loves.”
Charles and Camilla are “soulmates,” said royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams.
“Similar age, a similar sense of humor, similar friends… everything that he and Diana did not have in common,” he told AFP.
He said Camilla had a “strong sense of duty” and “regards her role as to support Charles.”
Having come through a barrage of attacks and never spoken out, “she’s tough”, Fitzwilliams noted.
Tom Parker Bowles added: “My mother has strong views on many things but she keeps them quiet.”
At the time of their marriage, it was announced that Camilla would eventually take the lesser title of princess consort rather than queen.
But seven months before she died, Queen Elizabeth said it was her “sincere wish that… Camilla will be known as Queen Consort” — putting that issue to bed.
The coronation invitations mention “Queen Camilla” for the first time.
Despite her dedication, hundreds of public engagements a year and numerous charitable patronages, Camilla’s approval rating remains mixed, at 48 percent positive, according to pollsters YouGov last month.
Only 14 percent of Britons want a “Queen Camilla,” according to another poll.