Camilla's Life Was Never The Same After Meeting King Charles

The world has known the name "Camilla Parker Bowles" for decades, having watched — many with a judgmental eye — as the once-girlfriend of King Charles III got married to her first husband, kicked off an affair with the then-heir to the British throne, got divorced, got remarried to the royal, and become the queen consort of Great Britain. To say that Camilla, Queen Consort, has had a remarkable transformation in the public eye is an understatement, and while many couldn't have predicted that she would one day be crowned alongside her husband, that's what the world came to witness on May 6, 2023.

The timeline regarding Camilla and Charles' first meeting has been debated, but it's largely understood that they met in 1970. As their introduction happened at a polo match — and Camilla has a well-documented interest in equestrian events — the two quickly bonded, and she even was said to have brought up her ancestor, Alice Keppel, who famously had an affair with King Edward VII.

Clearly taken with one another, Charles and Camilla started dating — but as every royal watcher knows, their first dalliance was cut short, and Camilla went on to marry Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. Time, however, was on Charles and Camilla's side — through mutual affairs, a maintained friendship, and decades later, the two tied the knot in 2005. It's certainly fair to say that Camilla's life was never the same after meeting Charles all those years ago.

Camilla and Charles met at a polo match and were instantly taken with each other

Camilla, Queen Consort, wasn't always the woman at the center of scandal but rather a well-raised girl with an appetite for all things equestrian-related. Her path in life ultimately changed in the early 1970s — while she was brought up in a well-to-do family, Camilla's journey through life became intertwined with royalty, bringing both love and heartbreak into her life. 

Camilla and King Charles initially met at a polo event in Windsor Great Park. Reports of their first interaction are mixed — People noted that Camilla reportedly made a comment to the young prince about her great-grandmother, who was known for her role as a royal mistress. "My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common," Camilla allegedly said. Other accounts have the pair meeting via a mutual friend and sharing common ground in that capacity — either way, the two hit it off immediately. Of course, as many of us know, Camilla and Charles' timing was a bit awry. While smitten with one another, Charles' duty in the Royal Navy interjected.

Camilla was ready to get married, but Charles was not

We all know what it's like to be in a relationship that's unbalanced — sometimes you're ready to commit, but the person you're with just can't see it through. Being in this position can be brutal, as was the case between Camilla, Queen Consort, and King Charles. As noted by Express, Charles was "besotted" with Camilla, but his naval training took him out of the country, leaving Camilla to pretty much fend for her (romantic) self. As such, she sparked a connection with Andrew Parker Bowles, and the two eventually tied the knot. 

It might come as a surprise to some that Camilla moved on from her romance with Charles so quickly, but, as Biography noted, she had been essentially waiting for marriage her entire adult life. Coming from an upper-class family, Camilla did not have a career or profession that would allow her to provide for herself, but rather she expected (and was expected) to become a wife and a mother. She did not go to school but, rather, took short-term jobs, waiting to eventually walk down the aisle.

Camilla became a wife for the first time, straining her relationship with Charles

Camilla, Queen Consort, had another drastic change once she realized that King Charles was not going to pop the question. But, despite his hesitation, Charles was still incredibly taken aback by Camilla's decision to marry Andrew Parker Bowles. According to Vanity Fair, Charles didn't understand why "such a blissful peaceful and mutually happy relationship" went awry. Of course, Camilla had expectations of what life would look like, and her seven-year relationship with Andrew allowed her to settle into the role of a wife and mother. 

To make matters worse, however, for the heartbroken Charles, he watched as the "wedding of the year" took place between his former love and Andrew. Even the queen mother,  Charles' grandmother, and Princess Anne attended the nuptials, marking what many thought to be the end of Charles and Camilla's affair. "Everything in life is timing," Jane Churchill, a royal wedding decorator, said, per the magazine. "Charles and Camilla were both quite young when they met, and she was going out with Andrew, and Charles was abroad and away, and she probably didn't know him as well then, and so she married Andrew."

Camilla was exposed to royal scrutiny after meeting Charles

Throughout the love affair between King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, many people have asked why the two didn't initially get married in the first place — why were Andrew Parker Bowles and Diana Spencer dragged through the divorce mud if the two loved each other from the start? As it turns out, Camilla's life before meeting Charles may have had some impact. 

As noted by Marie Claire, Charles' great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, wrote a letter to Charles explaining that Camilla was not a suitable choice. "I think it is disturbing for women to have experiences if they have to remain on a pedestal after marriage," Mountbatten wrote, alluding to Camilla's past dating experience. We should note that Charles was encouraged to play the dating field and "sow his oats" before settling down, just so that the hypocrisy is clear.

If that scrutiny weren't bad enough, Camilla was reportedly viewed as "earthy" or "common," as she didn't have a title of her own. Ultimately, the royal family saw her as an "early test run" for Charles, but never someone who was suitable to be by his side in public.

Camilla's life changed again when her friendship with Diana Spencer went public

If things hadn't drastically changed for Camilla, Queen Consort, because of her love affair with King Charles already, her path took another sharp turn when she met Diana Spencer. Camilla and Charles remained very close — even if they were no longer romantically linked — and Camilla's approval of Charles' future wife meant a great deal to him. As noted by Vanity Fair, Camilla supported the union and reportedly saw Diana as someone she could influence.

"[Diana] was young enough to be molded to the role of wife and mother according to the special needs of the institution," biographer Jonathan Dimbleby wrote, noting just how powerful Camilla's hand was in the shaping of the future royal.

In fact, while history has certainly pitted these two women against each other, Tatler noted that Diana and Camilla were actually quite close at one point. Camilla was 14 years older than Diana and had experience in the public eye. As a result, Camilla invited Diana to her and Andrew Parker Bowles' home in the country on a regular basis, and the two women even supported Charles' polo competitions together.

After Camilla became a mom in the 1980s, her marriage took a turn for the worse

You'd think that after a decade of whispers, King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, would've distanced themselves from one another, but the two were pretty inseparable. Charles and Camilla continued to integrate each other into their lives and even involved Camilla's children. Yes, despite being married to Andrew Parker Bowles and having a romantic history with Charles, Camilla made the heir to the throne the godfather to her son, Tom Parker Bowles. If that wasn't an indication that things were changing for the pair, we don't know what is.

By the mid-1980s, Charles and Camilla were back in each other's lives romantically and began their sordid affair. Years of cheating and deterioration finally led Diana Spencer to confront Camilla, and the account of the interaction leaves us speechless.

As noted by Oprah Daily, Diana approached Camilla at a party in 1989 and laid it all out on the table. "I said, 'I know what's going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that,'" Diana said of the interaction. It was the beginning of the end.

Once Camilla and Charles' affair was exposed, Camilla became public enemy number one

It seems as if everyone had an inkling that something was going on between King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, while they were both married to other people, but Camilla's life drastically changed again when Charles publicly admitted to their affair. As noted by The New York Times back in 1994, Charles' sit-down interview — as part of an extensive documentary about his life — did not bode well, as he confessed he had not been faithful to Diana Spencer. 

When asked if he had maintained his marriage, Charles said, "Yes, until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried." The floodgates opened at that moment, and Camilla's life was drastically altered as a result. Camilla essentially became a prisoner in her own home because of the hounding paparazzi (and a public that was incredibly displeased). "I couldn't really go anywhere," she admitted in an interview with The Daily Mail. "It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn't want to put my worst enemy through it. I couldn't have survived it without my family."

Camilla's life changed drastically after she and Charles divorced their spouses

King Charles may have gotten some serious flack for admitting to his affair, but it set the wheels in motion for him and Camilla, Queen Consort. Charles and Diana Spencer officially separated in 1992 — and after Diana's explosive interview with Martin Bashir in which she admitted there were "three" people in her marriage (just one of the times Diana broke royal rules) — after Queen Elizabeth "urged" them to do so.

While Charles' marriage was up in flames, Camilla's union to Andrew Parker Bowles was also collapsing. The couple — who had been married for two decades — officially called it quits in January 1995.

"We have grown apart to such an extent that, with the exception of our children and a lasting friendship, there is little of common interest between us," the couple's statement read. "We have therefore decided to seek divorce." We can't imagine just how speculative this time period was for both Charles and Camilla, as the entire country (and the world) watched for what would come next for the heir to the British throne.

The plan to publicly reintroduce Camilla and Charles as a couple was delayed in 1997

So what on earth would two people — who had been in love for three decades — do once they're both divorced? Get together. The life of Camilla, Queen Consort, changed once again when both she and King Charles were able to strike out on their own, free from the constraints of two unhappy marriages. It didn't take long for Charles and Camilla to re-establish their romantic relationship outside of their divorces, and, as noted by The Guardian, the heir to the throne came up with a plan to reintroduce Camilla to the public. 

Charles was set to celebrate his 50th birthday and reportedly wanted to use the occasion to give his "long-time companion" a more substantial public role (and, no doubt, quell some of the frustrations among the British public). Until that point, Charles and Camilla hadn't been spotted in public together, and the campaign to bring Camilla into the royal forefront hinged on a successful reentry into public life. Of course, everything changed when Diana Spencer unexpectedly died following a tragic car accident in Paris, after which the plan to bring Camilla into the public eye was "abandoned."

Camilla became again exposed to the royal family's opinions of her

You would think that, with time, the royal family would've warmed up to the possibility of Camilla, Queen Consort, joining their ranks. While things are certainly better now than they were, Camilla endured yet more drama when royal family members — namely Queen Elizabeth — did not hold back their thoughts on her, despite her and King Charles' individual divorces. 

Per Marie Claire, the queen wanted Camilla "gone" from the royal circle even after both divorces were finalized. To make matters even worse, the queen allegedly let Charles have it over his affair, according to People. Investigative journalist Tom Bower revealed in his biography of the then-prince that, after downing a couple of drinks, she "would not condone his adultery, nor forgive Camilla for not leaving Charles alone to allow his marriage to recover."

Queen Elizabeth even reportedly called Camilla "that wicked woman," further saying, "I want nothing to do with her." Charles reportedly left the conversation besotted and called Camilla "tearfully," recounting his mother's harsh words. Who knew that all it took was a couple of James Bond-esque drinks to really get the royal drama brewing?

Camilla finally married Charles in 2005

After decades of drama, the life of Camilla, Queen Consort, changed for the better when she finally married King Charles. The couple waited until 2005 to officially tie the knot — perhaps in an extended nod to the late Diana Spencer's memory — and had a wedding with far less pomp and circumstance than we know royal weddings to have. Queen Elizabeth finally came around regarding the nuptials, too. And, although she didn't attend the wedding due to her position as head of the Church of England, she did give the couple her blessing. 

Santa Sebag Montefiore, Charles' goddaughter, opened up to Vanity Fair about the celebrated day and shared what it meant for the couple. "There was a real sense of triumph at Saint George's Chapel when they came in, these two people who had gone through so much to get there," Montefiore said. "Everybody was so pleased for them — filled with this feeling that they're together at last, and without any doubt about Camilla's position, finally." Her thoughts were echoed by decorator Jane Churchill, who put it simply, "Charles has ended up with his soul mate."

Camilla became a stepmother but not without its difficulties

To say that the life of Camilla, Queen Consort, changed after marrying King Charles is a grave understatement. She took on the life of a royal family member, and she also stepped into the position once held by Diana Spencer. Not only did the public take issue with this, but Charles' sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, reportedly had a tough time, too. According to The U.S. Sun, the nature of the early relationship between Camilla and the young princes was a case of "one step forward, two steps back," as it was fraught with "awkward" and "tense" moments. 

As it turns out, Camilla was the one who was allegedly nervous about meeting the boys, and reports suggest she turned to get a drink when it was suggested she meet William ahead of his 16th birthday. While the initial meeting between Camilla and William went surprisingly well, the young prince was reportedly upset that details of the meeting were leaked to the press.

From then on, there was an "icy indifference" between Camilla and the princes — while thawed now, those early days did not sound easy.

Public outcry over Camilla and Charles' affair reignited after The Crown aired

In the 2000s, it seemed as if Camilla, Queen Consort, and King Charles were settling into their lives together. The public appeared to accept Camilla as a member of the royal family, and the pair went about their business with little pushback. Things change rapidly for those in the public eye, though, and, in late 2020, Camilla suffered yet another drastic blow when Season 4 of "The Crown" dropped. The Netflix drama has captivated audiences for years, and Season 4 focuses predominantly on Charles and Diana's marriage, including all its highs and lows.

Despite the dramatic and overblown nature of the show, "The Crown" reignited public hatred of Camilla for being the "other woman" in the relationship that made Diana so miserable. As noted by Express, the revived scrutiny got so bad that Charles and Camilla turned off their Twitter comments, as they were being mercilessly dragged by the public.

With time, Diana's story has gained even more traction in the public eye — namely with the critically acclaimed film "Spencer" — so it's hard to say if the reinvigorated passion against Camilla will die down anytime soon.

Camilla became a central figure in Queen Elizabeth II's royal circle

Though many couldn't have predicted that the woman Queen Elizabeth II once referred to as "that wicked woman" would one day become part of her inner circle, that's just what happened between the late monarch at Camilla, Queen Consort. Commenting on Camilla's revived public acceptance and the tactics used to appeal to the queen and the public, King Charles III's former press secretary Colleen Harris told Vanity Fair, "They'd all made a lot of money out of the story that Camilla was this evil, horrible person who ruined Diana's life and was ruining the children's lives, and they wanted that story to continue. The more we made Camilla acceptable, the less the story had traction. The idea was to make her more human without making her more popular than him."

And such tactics were successful. Not only did Elizabeth warm to Camilla over time — handing her royal designations along the way — but Charles' wife rose to a heightened place of significance in the queen's inner circle. By the time her Platinum Jubilee was underway in 2022, the queen made it clear that Camilla would be referred to as queen consort when Charles took the throne. 

Though a shocking announcement — as it was determined that Camilla would be named princess consort upon her 2005 wedding to Charles — the queen's announcement made it clear that the ice had melted between them.

Camilla was on the receiving end of a new wave of popularity thanks to this trait

To say that Camilla, Queen Consort, was public enemy number one is a bit of an understatement. Seen as the "other woman" in the marriage between King Charles III and the late Diana Spencer, Camilla was often blamed for the devolvement of the royal marriage — it certainly didn't help her case, too, that Diana was so beloved. After Diana's tragic death in 1997, a public poll discovered that more than half of the British public disapproved of Camilla — not a position most people want to be in.

However, by the time Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022, Camilla was on the receiving end of a 53% approval rating. So how did she do it? Historian Simon Heffer — who wrote about the queen consort's changing approval ratings for The Telegraph — asserted that unlike other royals who played into the firm's way of doing things, Camilla maintained her down-to-earth demeanor and relatable approach. It was, ultimately, a tactic that won over the hearts of many.

"It is her natural curiosity that puts people at ease: she likes to find out about those she is going to meet from talking to them rather than reading a brief," Heffer estimated, noting that she began working with organizations that she actually believed in, rather than felt obligated to associate with. He added later, "Although her husband's consort, she is not in his shadow."

The royal's life changed again when Prince Harry took aim at her in his memoir

Though Camilla, Queen Consort, experienced a change in public attitude toward her, her life changed once again when Prince Harry started speaking about his time as a royal. After stepping down from the firm in 2020, moving to California, and speaking out in a variety of ways, Harry put everything on the table in his memoir, "Spare." Amid the release of the book, Harry sat down with ABC News' Michael Strahan and discussed Camilla specifically, as he estimated in his pages that the queen consort used him as part of her plan to win over the British public.

"When your father married Camilla, you wrote, 'I had complex feelings about gaining a stepparent, who I thought had recently sacrificed me on her personal PR altar.' What has she done at that point, you felt?" Strahan asked amid their interview, to which Harry responded, "She had a reputation or an image to rehabilitate, and whatever conversations happened, whatever deals or trading was made right at the beginning, she was led to believe that that would be the best way to doing it."

Adding that the two hadn't talked to one another in some time, Harry further said of Camilla, "I don't look at her as an evil stepmother. I see someone who married into this institution, and done everything she can to improve her own reputation and her own image, for her own sake."

Camilla became Great Britain's queen consort

One of the most profound changes to happen in the mother of two's life was becoming Britain's queen consort. Camilla, Queen Consort, is now the most senior female royal, a position that few thought possible back in the day. Her title, however, has been a bit of a sore spot for people. When the invitations for the May 6, 2023, coronation were mailed out, royal watchers quickly noticed that Camilla was listed as Queen Camilla, with consort having been left out. According to historian Nicoletta Gullace who spoke to NPR about the decision, consort was included during Queen Elizabeth II's lifetime in order to differentiate between the two women — now that it's just Camilla on the scene, consort was kicked to the curb.

Come May 6, Camilla was crowned after King Charles III was, and she joined her husband while a choir sang a heavenly tune. It was a visual representation of her ever-changing life since meeting Charles, and while some were happy to see Camilla take her spot next to her husband, not everyone was pleased.

According to royal insider David Emanuel, Princess Anne confronted Camilla about her use of the title of queen — rather than queen consort — before the coronation, reportedly telling her, "You're not queen, you're the queen consort" (via The Mirror). Emanuel said, "Suddenly she's now going to be queen. And it's very difficult because a lot of people have told me they were unhappy about it."

Charles and Camilla have a new press enemy now that Harry and Meghan are stateside

While Prince Harry has been vocal about his experiences within the royal family, he has also been critical about the royal rota — the British tabloid press that reports on the royals, all while working with their press offices to pin members of the firm against each other. While some may have not believed Harry's estimations when he first started sharing his experiences, it seems as if King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort, are now experiencing the brutal press comings and goings in real-time, as they now have new public enemies — Prince William and Princess Catherine. As Harry and Meghan Markle are now stateside, their status as the royal press scapegoat is not what it used to be. Now, press offices are warring with one another, and Charles and Camilla are said to be exceedingly frustrated at being shown up.

"Pa and Camilla didn't like Willy and Kate drawing attention away from them or their causes," Harry wrote in his memoir, "Spare." "They'd openly scolded Willy about it many times."

While Harry may have issued the warning, Camilla's life is once again changing as Catherine has taken the spotlight off her and Charles more recently, showing up at the Chelsea Flower Show unannounced and before the more senior royals. According to a source who spoke to The Daily Mail, a frustrated Charles and Camilla "received less coverage than might have been expected."