For much of the final decade of the 20th century, the unravelling of the marriage between Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana dominated the news throughout the galaxy. In the midst of all this was another person. A woman more sinned against than sinning.
Camilla Parker Bowles is possibly the most wronged and misunderstood woman I have ever met. Diana chose to make false claims about her and the mud stuck. She said that Camilla and Charles had made love on the night before the royal wedding. That is simply not true. It was at lunchtime. And only a blowjob at that.
Yet despite all the lies that have been told about her, Camilla has retained her dignity. Her love for Charles, and his for her, has a purity and nobility that has shone through the 35 years I have been writing sycophantic books and articles about the royal family. Far from being the woman who nearly brought down the House of Windsor, it is my opinion she will come to be seen as the woman who saved it. A woman worthy of beatification and through whose devotion and duty Charles has been transformed into a semi-functioning human being.
Camilla had a fascinating childhood if you like reading about the upper classes at play in the postwar years. After leaving Queen’s Gate school with a single O-level in kennel hygiene, she went on to become the most sought-after debutante of her generation. Her smile could light up any room, and she soon caught the eye of the dashing Andrew Parker Bowles who was several years older than her. She quickly fell in love with him, and though Andrew repeatedly broke her heart by sleeping with all her friends she remained loyal and faithful to him up until the time she wasn’t.
The fateful first meeting between Charles and Camilla took place in the shimmering heat of the summer of 1970. There was an instant attraction between the two of them, an attraction born of a shared intelligence and a love of hunting. Had Charles only been able to tell her how he loved her, then perhaps the whole course of human history might have been different. But that is something on which we can only speculate for several chapters. So Camilla decided to marry the roguish Andrew while Charles had to make do with Diana.
How Charles sobbed on his wedding night as he realised the enormity of his mistake. Yet because of his profound sense of duty to his country, Charles decided to give his marriage a go for at least a week before ringing Camilla to have a moan about Diana. Tapes of these conversations mysteriously reached the public domain and have been widely misinterpreted. Though Charles appears to be saying, “Love you” he is actually saying, “Love Hugh.” Hugh was his pet labrador.
Because of her bulimia and other related mental health problems, Diana became irrationally jealous about the fact that Charles sneaked out to see Camilla at every available opportunity, and was constantly dropping into Argos to buy her “Chas & Cam” matching jewellery. Though enough has been written about that unhappy marriage – mostly by me – I should add just one further thing. After extensive private conversations with people who are intimately connected with the the royal couple, I can categorically state that it was Diana’s infidelity that drove Charles into the arms of Camilla. And only then with the greatest of reluctance.
Diana’s death was a turning point in the nation’s history and the Queen advised Charles to end his relationship with Camilla. But the Prince of Wales was determined not to let go of the only woman who had truly understood his loneliness and he and Camilla gradually began to be accepted as a couple by the ordinary people of this sceptred isle. Folk came to appreciate that Camilla was the rock that enabled Charles to cope with the pain of rejection he still felt from the parents who had never truly loved him. Charles once told me in private that Camilla completed him.
The wedding took place in Windsor and Camilla was so nervous she nearly didn’t get out of bed to get to the register office in time. But thanks to the reassurance I was able to give her that she would one day be seen as the greatest woman who ever lived, Camilla was able to get dressed and say: “I do.”
Since that day, Camilla and Charles have been inseparable, even though they live apart for much of the week. Camilla has become very busy doing charity work for several hours a week. And as for Charles? Well he’s now learned to relax so much he doesn’t even mind if the palace is a bit untidy.
Digested read, digested: The Duchess of Hearts.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010