Inside Camilla Parker Bowles' Relationship With Meghan Markle

Queen Consort Camilla Parker Bowles and Duchess Meghan Markle are the two British royals who have received the most negative attention from the public, and their relationship is complicated. Both joined the royal family as outsiders, both have endured all kinds of threats, and both have stayed by their husbands' sides through the emotional roller coaster of monarchy life. 

One might think the two women would be close with so many things in common, but after all the drama, Harry and Meghan barely speak to the king and his wife. Prince Harry has said he feels "I lost my dad in this process" (via The Cut). As for King Charles III, friends have said it was very difficult for him (per The Telegraph). 

So what happened? You may be surprised to learn that things weren't always this way. From new relatives to close allies and eventual adversaries, these two powerhouse women have shared quite a story over the years. We've charted their relationship back to the beginning, so you can see how the bond appeared to sour over time, as well as how it might heal in the future if both sides are able to make peace.

They had a warm, friendly relationship early on

To begin with, Camilla Parker Bowles and Meghan Markle had a lot in common. Both the queen consort and the duchess were divorced before their marriages into the royal family, both were commoners, and they shared similar hobbies. Did you know they both love yoga? "Yoga is my thing," Meghan told Best Health; likewise, Camilla explained to a reporter from The Telegraph that she prefers "a bit of yoga and a bit of Pilates." Harry's bride-to-be also hit it off well with then-Prince Charles, who enjoyed discussing their shared artistic interests (via "Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort," Ch. 23).

It would stand to reason, then, that the queen consort would be supportive of Meghan's arrival on the royal scene — and she was. When she first learned of the couple's engagement, she remarked, "America's loss is our gain" (via "Finding Freedom", Ch. 11). Camilla reportedly went to great lengths to ensure Meghan felt supported and welcomed, as detailed in her 2022 biography. 

To celebrate Meghan's first published book as a duchess, the newlyweds' friend Lucia Santa Cruz said Charles and his wife hosted a special lunch. "As a surprise, Camilla went out of her way to make sure the lunch consisted only of recipes from Meghan's cookbook," she explained (Ch. 23). Based on this information, we have to assume Camilla is also a really good Christmas gift-giver.

They shared a lot of PDA

As shown in the image above, Camilla Parker Bowles and Meghan Markle definitely shared some fun moments. In the photo, which was taken at Buckingham Palace during a 2018 Royal Air Force display, the two can be seen smiling and joking around while the rest of the family kept their eyes ahead. Camilla is well known for her cheeky sense of humor and goofy photo-ops, so it tracks that she'd feel comfortable joking around with Meghan during a formal event.

Later that year, Prince Harry and Meghan made an appearance at Charles' 70th birthday celebration, a festive garden party. During the celebration, a bee began harassing Harry mid-speech. "Sorry," said the duke. "That bee really got me." This relatable moment resulted in a good laugh for the audience, including Camilla and Meghan, who shared a fit of giggles together (via Twitter). The two were also spotted holding hands at the same event. This was a pretty big deal, considering that most members of the royal family keep formal events pretty PDA-free.

Both women served as royal patrons of the National Theatre

With Meghan Markle's career as an actress and Camilla Parker Bowles' background in the arts, it's no surprise that both women have shared the same artistic patronage. Meghan carried the title the first, after becoming a duchess in 2018. A year later, Queen Elizabeth II assigned Meghan the role of Patron of the National Theatre. "The Duchess is delighted to become Patron of both national and grassroots organisations that are part of the fabric of the U.K., and is very much looking forward to working with them to bring wider public attention to their causes," read an official statement from the crown.

Apparently, Camilla was initially disappointed that she didn't get the patronage first. "She really wanted it," one source told The Times. "She was pretty miffed when it went to Meghan, and will be all the more delighted to take it on now, after being disappointed not to get it first time round."

In 2022, two years after Harry and Meghan moved to California, it was finally Camilla's turn to take the reins. The director of the National Theatre took to Twitter to congratulate her on her new position: "The Duchess has shown great support to our industry throughout the pandemic, and I look forward to working with Her Royal Highness for many years to come."

Meghan has had quite a few criticisms for the royal institution

Since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex decided to step down from their roles as senior royals and relocate to the U.S. with allegedly little warning, news outlets and fans all over the world have been wondering about their motives. The royal couple has made it known they have plenty of good reasons why they chose to put some distance between themselves and the monarchy. During an interview with The Cut, Meghan Markle summed up their decision to leave: "Just by existing, we were upsetting the dynamic of the hierarchy."

The duchess' biggest criticisms have centered around alleged emotional damage caused by the royal institution alongside the British press, especially during her first pregnancy. According to a statement from Meghan's lawyers (obtained by Newsweek), when defamatory articles about her began circulating, the crown's PR department insisted on a "no comment" policy, which kept Meghan and her inner circle from refuting the claims made. "This shared frustration amongst [Meghan]'s friends left everyone feeling silenced," read the statement. Meghan has since reiterated that she felt dismissed, unsupported, and unprotected by the crown. "I went to the institution and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help," she told Oprah during a CBS interview (via Newsweek). "I was told that I couldn't, that it wouldn't be good for the institution."

Meghan rejected Camilla's advice

If you follow most Meghan Markle news, you know she's no stranger to breaking royal protocol — sometimes even on purpose. According to the duchess, the accidental rule-breaking wasn't due to a lack of effort. "Unlike what you see in the movies, there's no class on how to speak, how to cross your legs, how to be royal," she told Oprah (via Newsweek). When speaking to The Cut, Meghan added that a princess class would have actually been really helpful to her: "That would've been a very key tutorial to have had in advance of all this."

The view from Camilla Parker Bowles' side of things is somewhat different. According to the queen consort's 2022 biography (Ch. 23), Camilla offered her best advice to help Meghan adjust to her new royal role. "She doesn't want to see anyone struggling and she is fond of Meghan," one source told the biographer. The author claimed the queen consort's helpful hints fell on deaf ears, a sentiment that's apparently been corroborated by one of the duchess' friends. "She was very sensitive to Meghan and provided her with support, advising her to ride out the storm and that it would all pass –- but ultimately Meghan didn't listen," the friend told the Daily Mail.

Camilla developed a frosty, or at least ambivalent, attitude toward Meghan

What was once a fun, close bond between two outsiders began to sour with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's departure. One notable instance of tension occurred before the royal couple even left the country. Camilla Parker Bowles was slated to speak at London's 2020 Women of the World Festival, an annual event that celebrates gender equality and highlights the issues surrounding it (via The WOW Foundation). 

While speaking to the Mirror, an unnamed insider source said the queen consort became "very upset" after finding out that Meghan had posted photos of herself on social media during Camilla's speech. They went on to say: "Camilla's work is very important to her and her decision to highlight the scourge of domestic violence at the 10th ­anniversary of Women of the World was a carefully thought-out plan. ... Of course, it was known Harry and Meghan would be doing engagements this week, some privately, but everyone was in agreement that Camilla's speech should take precedence. ­Unfortunately, some people had other ideas."

If there was any doubt of Camilla's changing attitude toward Meghan and Harry, her strange reaction to their impending departure was evidence enough. When the news of their move first broke, a reporter asked the then-Duchess of Cornwall whether she would miss Harry and Meghan. As you can see in this video, she had a brief, but telling response. "Hmm ... course," is all she said with a smile.

There's a lot of debate over whether Camilla called Meghan a minx

Since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle separated from the monarchy, there's been a lot of speculation and finger-pointing in the media. One of the most quoted "he said, she said" moments came when British journalist Tom Bower wrote in an article for The Sun: "Camilla is the sort who would refer to Meghan as 'that minx' — the self-seeking troublemaker whose antics will always end in tears." Yikes, what a nickname! In his book about Meghan Markle, "Revenge: Meghan, Harry, and the War Between the Windsors," Bower added, "Camilla could see through the American actress' coquettish smiles and tactile performance. ... She found it hard to believe that Meghan would sacrifice her independence to serve silently as a team player."

By way of her biography, the queen consort has denied ever calling Meghan names. "Several insiders said Camilla wouldn't and hadn't ever talked like that about anyone," wrote biographer Angela Levin ("Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort," Ch. 23). "I was told: 'It's not her sort of word and she would never give her views of her in front of anyone.'"

Camilla and Charles may have made racially insensitive comments about Meghan's son Archie

One of the most intense moments of royal drama came after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's sit-down interview with Oprah. During the interview, Meghan said the royal family had brought up skin color to her husband while discussing her future baby: "In those months when I was pregnant, all around the same time, we had in tandem the conversation of he [Archie] won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be." As you can tell from the above photo, this story blew up all around the country and the world.

Harry and Meghan wouldn't say any more about who had voiced such concerns, but author Tom Bower has alleged Charles and Camilla might have been involved. As he wrote in his biography, the prince met with the two at Clarence House, where the family supposedly laid out their expectations for the child's official status (via "Revenge: Meghan, Harry, and the War Between the Windsors," Ch 15). According to a version of the conversation, Camilla said, "Wouldn't it be funny if your child had ginger Afro hair?" A source close to the king and queen consort has since refuted the truth of this comment when speaking to the Daily Beast, but neither side has officially commented on the unsavory remark.

Camilla was apparently hurt over Meghan and Harry's accusations against Charles

If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that the queen consort really cares about King Charles III. Across all the scandals, accusations, and family drama, she's stood by Charles' side. What upsets her husband is sure to upset her. "As for Prince Charles, the pain he feels about the situation with his younger son must be immense, and Camilla is obviously the only person he can really talk about it with," biographer Angela Levin wrote (via "Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort," Ch. 23). One source told her: "What has happened and how [Harry] has behaved has been very upsetting for her."

Of course, we're talking about "Megxit," the rather one-sided term coined by publications everywhere to talk about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's separation from the royal family. Harry reportedly still holds some heavy feelings in his heart toward the royal establishment and his father. The duke told Oprah in their sit-down interview: "I feel really let down, because he's been through something similar." With Harry's new book coming out in 2023, there's a good chance we'll read more about Charles there. "If I was Prince Charles, I'd be looking for a pile of coats to hide under," one source told Us Weekly.

Camilla's reaction to all of this? As one source told The Telegraph, "I don't think the duchess will ever forgive Meghan for what she's done to the Prince of Wales."

Harry and Meghan may be excluded from Charles' coronation if they openly criticize the queen consort

Like Camilla Parker Bowles, King Charles III is apparently very protective of his spouse. An unnamed friend of the crown told the Daily Beast: "Almost everything Charles has done over the past 20 years has, in one way or another, been about getting Camilla accepted by the public. He loves her. He is incredibly protective of her and he couldn't do it without her." His need to protect Camilla's reputation has put him at odds with his son Harry, who has been more and more vocal with his criticisms of the royal family since he moved away from the United Kingdom.

According to the same friend, the Sussex's inclusion in family events, including the king's upcoming coronation, is entirely dependent on what is written in Harry's new book. "It is one thing for Harry to attack Charles, he can take it on the chin, but if Harry forces him to choose, by laying into Camilla in his book, I have no doubt he will choose Camilla." An official guest list has yet to be released, so there will be continued suspense leading up to May 2023.

Both women have gotten a lot of hate

Camilla Parker Bowles and Meghan Markle may not be chatting much these days, but they could probably commiserate over the many, many articles written about their every move. Long before Meghan ever came on the scene, Camilla was making headlines for being King Charles' longtime mistress. Her biggest public scandal was the Camillagate tapes, a leaked recording of a flirting session between her and Charles. Despite the constant media frenzy, the queen consort apparently handled the tabloid pressure fairly well. An anonymous source told The Telegraph: "She didn't really complain about how she was treated. She would get upset sometimes and wonder how long it would go on for, but she always adopted a very English, Home Counties sort of approach to life."

Enter Meghan, who's been touted as the new royal favorite while also being condemned as a rule-breaking homewrecker since she got engaged to Prince Harry in 2017. For the duchess, the media pressure hasn't been so easy-breezy. Tension with the press was part of the reason she and her husband chose to withdraw from the Royal Rota system, the British media pool where all announcements and imagery are first disseminated by the crown. "There's literally a structure by which if you want to release photos of your child, as a member of the family, you first have to give them to the Royal Rota," the duchess explained to The Cut. "Why would I give the very people that are calling my children the N-word a photo of my child before I can share it with the people that love my child?"

Camilla may be trying to initiate peace

Though the air is still frosty and the ground rocky between Meghan Markle and Camilla Parker Bowles (not to mention Prince Harry and King Charles III), reconciliation isn't totally out of reach. As one source stated in Camilla's biography, "There have been a lot of hurt feelings all round, but like all families, you have to embrace it all and hope it will improve." 

In 2022, the Windsors have undertaken a few small gestures as a way of broaching the idea of peace, including a birthday shoutout to Meghan on Twitter. An inside view of the Clarence House during Camilla's Women's Day reception also revealed a few portraits of Meghan and Harry scattered in the background next to the other family photos, so it appears they are still very much on the king's and queen consort's minds. 

One royal expert has even suggested that the royal family wants to patch things up at Charles' coronation. "Camilla has done really everything she can to try and bring this family back together, and press the importance of trying to move on from this rift," Katie Nicholl told Entertainment Tonight. "I think she would be very pleased, as would the king, for Harry and Meghan to be at the coronation." For now, the crown has simply said, "The coronation will reflect the monarch's role today and look toward the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry."