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Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall: Royal Mistress Turned Grandma

Jul 17 2013 - 4:00am

Today is Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall's 66th birthday, and she'll soon be celebrating the birthday of her sixth grandchild, the royal baby! She recently revealed her excitement ahead of the birth of step-son Prince William's child, saying [1], "We are all just waiting by the telephone. We are hopeful that by the end of the week he or she will be here." As Prince Charles's wife and former mistress, the Duchess of Cornwall has certainly spent some time in the royal spotlight over the years — and public opinion wasn't always so favorable. Today, she's a prominent royal figure with admirable charity involvements, public support, and a storied royal romance. Ahead of the royal baby's birth, get to know more about Camilla's childhood, her longtime relationship with Prince Charles, her children, and more.

Additional reporting by Laura Marie Meyers

She's Been in Charles's Inner Circle for Decades

Camilla, seen here with then-Lady Diana, first met Prince Charles in 1970. Some say they met at a polo match, while others say they met through a mutual friend. In any case, the two shared an immediate connection, and they dated until the following year when Prince Charles joined the Royal Navy. Months later, while Prince Charles was away, Camilla started dating Andrew Parker Bowles (the queen mother's godson and the former love interest of Prince Charles's sister, Princess Anne.) While Camilla was married to Andrew, she stayed close with Prince Charles, remaining in his circle of friends and eventually engaging in an affair with him.

Her Great-Grandmother Was Mistress to the King

Although Camilla was not born into the royal family, she does have a royal connection in her lineage — her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was the mistress of King Edward VII. In fact, her love affair with Prince Charles reportedly started after Camilla said, "My great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress, so how about it?"

She Has a Well-Known Ex

When Camilla met Andrew Parker Bowles, he was a British Army officer who also happened to date Princess Anne, Prince Charles's sister. The two married in 1973, and had their first child together the following year. In 1995, the couple divorced, and in 1996, Prince Charles and Princess Diana were divorced. That same year, Andrew married his mistress, Rosemary Pitman, who passed away in 2010.

She Was at the Center of Scandal

"Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," Princess Diana famously said of Camilla making the royal mistress one of Britain's least popular women. She and Charles carried on a romantic relationship from the 1970s and into their marriages to other people, and a low point came when a flirty conversation between Camilla and Charles was caught on tape and published in 1992. The tapes included an exchange in which Charles said he wanted to be Camilla's tampon. [2]

Their First "Official" Date Came in 1999

For decades Prince Charles and Camilla weren't photographed together, arriving and leaving separately for events. It wasn't until 1999 that the couple was pictured as a pair, when they were photographed leaving the Ritz Hotel in London. The couple's first public kiss didn't come until 2001, more than 30 years after they met.

She Was Accepted Slowly

Although public favor hadn't always been on Camilla's side, as her relationship with the no longer married Prince Charles became more public, she gradually gained more favorability with the British and their royal family. She started to show up at official functions, albeit in the background, and it helped, of course, to have the support of both Prince William and Prince Harry. Ahead of Prince Charles and Camilla's wedding [3], the two princes released a statement [4] saying, "We are both very happy for our father and Camilla and we wish them all the luck in the future."

They Were Engaged in 2005

On Feb. 10, 2005, it was announced that Prince Charles had proposed to his longtime friend and lover. The heir to the throne reportedly got down on one knee to propose, and the ring Prince Charles gave to Camilla once belonged to the queen mother.

The Queen Supported Their Marriage

Prince Charles's marriage to his longtime mistress Camilla was tricky for the queen, but she showed her support. At their wedding [5] reception, Queen Elizabeth toasted them with a reference to her beloved horse racing: "Having cleared Becher's Brook and the Chair [tough racing obstacles] the happy couple are now in the winners' enclosure." While the queen did not attend the civil ceremony, considering her role as head of the Church of England, she brought smiles to their religious blessing in the Spring of 2005.

She Won't Be Queen

The British royal family has come a long way since the abdication crisis of 1936 in which the king had to resign in order to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson. Yet it appears the country is still not ready for a divorcée queen. Upon her marriage, Camilla announced that when her husband Charles becomes king, she will take the title of Her Royal Highness the Princess Consort instead of queen. It's not the only title Camilla has declined to use — she also decided not to be addressed as the Princess of Wales, opting for the lower title of the Duchess of Cornwall out of obvious sensitivity to Princess Diana. Technically, Camilla's full title is Her Royal Highness The Princess Charles, Princess of Wales and Countess of Chester, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Carrick, Baroness of Renfrew, Lady of the Isles, Princess of Scotland.

She Has Two Kids

Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles had two children together — Tom, born in 1974, and Laura, born in 1978. Tom is a writer, who has multiple food-related books to his name, his latest being 2012's Let's Eat: Recipes From My Kitchen Notebook [6]. Laura, too, has a background in writing.

And Five Grandchildren

The royal baby won't be Camilla's first grandchild. Her son Tom had his first child, Lola (pictured), in 2007, followed three years later by a son named Freddy. Laura also has three kids, including a daughter named Eliza and twin boys named Louis and Gus.

She's a VIP Royal

As the wife of the heir apparent, Camilla has completed her transformation into a very important working royal. Long gone are the days of her staying discretely in the shadows, as Camilla now appears alongside the queen in public, joins her husband on high-profile royal tours, and makes appearances on her own as well. In 2012, the queen even went as far to make her a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. It's the highest personal gift the queen can bestow, and she did so to honor Camilla's seventh wedding [7] anniversary with Prince Charles.

She Welcomed Kate

Leading up to the royal wedding [8] in 2011, Camilla said the royals were "very lucky" to have Kate in the family and that she is "a lovely girl." Camilla is always one to share her excitement about Kate and Will's major milestones, most recently saying of the royal baby: "We are all just waiting by the telephone. We are hopeful that by the end of the week he or she will be here."

She's an Animal Lover

Camilla loves to ride horses, and as a patron of the British Equestrian Federation, she's regularly seen at equestrian events. Her charity involvement also reflects her passion for animals, since she's a patron of the Animal Care Trust and the Langford Trust For Animal Health and Welfare.

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