He calls her Gladys, her nickname for him is Fred. They share the same rather naughty sense of humour and can often be found giggling. They love nothing more than pottering in the garden together – he pushes the wheelbarrow, she does the planting. But in some respects, they’re vastly different. He likes to sleep with the windows open, she prefers a warm bedroom. Her idea of bliss is sitting around in the sunshine, while “he’s not one for chilling”, she says.
He’s used to being treated with deference – she, says a friend, “is the least stuck-up person you could meet”. The royal couple have learned to compromise on their differences while celebrating their similarities, and that’s one of the reasons why Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are still so happily married after 10 years. His respect for the way his wife has adapted to being a part of The Firm is also an important factor.
Shortly before the pair celebrated their anniversary last week, Charles (66) spoke out about his wife during an unusually affectionate TV interview. He praised the way Camilla (67) has handled the challenge of becoming a member of the royal family. “You can imagine it is a real, real challenge,” he told Max Foster of CNN. “But I think she’s been brilliant.” He also spoke about Camilla’s charm and sense of humour. “She’s an enormous support and always sees the funny side of life, thank God.”
Royal insiders say Camilla is the best thing that has ever happened to Charles. Ingrid Seward, the editor of Majesty magazine, says she makes life bearable for him. “She’s funny. She’s a glass half full type whereas his is half empty. She’s never pretended to be anything other than a matronly, sensible, gardening type of woman.”
When Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles on April 9, 2005, in Windsor, his bride was one of the most unpopular women in Britain, thanks to the fact that they’d had a long- term affair while he was married to Diana, Princess of Wales. Today, nearly half the population think Camilla should be Queen Consort when her husband inherits the throne, according to a recent survey. That’s a big turnaround from February 2005, shortly before their wedding, when only 7% of people polled thought she should become Queen.
In the days leading up to the ceremony, there were concerns that Charles’ mother, the Queen, might not attend, since her support for a marriage of two divorced people might alienate Christian supporters. But Her Majesty showed that her son’s happiness was important to her when she not only attended the service, but gave a speech at the reception in which she said she was very proud of Charles.
The Queen’s expression of goodwill helped to turn the tide of anti-Camilla feelings, believes royal author Hugo Vickers. “Everybody was so terrible about her until the day after [the wedding] and then everything changed.” It did take a while for the public to warm to Camilla. Once described by a member of her own family as being “the laziest woman to have been born in England in the 20th century”, Camilla silenced her critics by dedicating herself to good causes such as raising awareness of osteoporosis and carrying out royal duties with unfailing good cheer.
She has also had an image makeover – while she was initially described as “frumpy”, when she goes out, she wears elegant outfits that flatter her. In public, she and Charles are often seen smiling at each other and exchanging little asides. “She makes him very happy,” says photographer Arthur Edwards, who has been following the royals for The Sun newspaper for over 30 years. “I’ve never seen him as happy as he has been since marrying Camilla. They’re still very much in love.”
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