They’re about to celebrate 10 years as husband and wife, and Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, couldn’t be happier. But the secret to their marriage is unconventional – in their case, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Insiders say their union is successful because they spend time apart. In fact, they often sleep in separate beds – and separate homes! Charles divides his time between his official London residence, Clarence House, and Highgrove, his Gloucestershire estate, while Camilla is happiest at her home Ray Mill, 27km from Highgrove House in Wiltshire.
When not carrying out official duties, Camilla (67) loves having her five grandchildren around, and Ray Mill is often full of their toys as well as their laughter. Charles (66), on the other hand, prefers the peace of Highgrove, where he can bury himself in his books and papers, and spend time in the extensive garden.
Sometimes the couple, who married at Windsor Castle on April 9, 2005, don’t see each other for days on end, says a friend. “They are two people who’ve spent most of their adult lives apart. They don’t feel a need to be in each other’s pockets all the time. Camilla is not a needy person, and that is why it works so much better for Charles than in his previous marriage. But when they are together, they are fantastic.”
That’s because Camilla knows Charles so well – when to leave him alone, to be by his side, to jolly him along and to be his confidante or lover. “She’s quite brilliant at being every kind of woman to him at the appropriate time.” She is especially good at cheering him up when he goes through what an aide describes as “down periods”. “At such times, the prince feels he is an insignificant figure trapped between an immensely popular monarch and glamorous young couple. Only Camilla is capable of bringing him out of these glooms. It is probably why he needed her as his mistress for all those years.”
She’s had plenty of time to get to know Charles, a complex man. They dated in the early 1970s, but put their relationship on hold when Charles went off to serve in the navy in 1973. While he was away, Camilla became engaged to Andrew Parker Bowles, but they stayed friends after she married. They were rumoured to have started an affair in 1979, after Charles turned to Camilla for comfort following the assassination of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, by the IRA. Their on-off relationship continued while he was married to Princess Diana, but they didn’t officially become a couple until after Diana’s death. “Camilla has virtually made a lifelong study of the Prince of Wales,” says the friend. “No-one knows him better than she does.”
In the past 10 years, Camilla has made an even bigger effort to be supportive of Charles. Arthur Edwards, who has photographed the royals for The Sun for 37 years, admires the way she has thrown herself into her royal role, which is not something she coveted. “This is a woman who never worked until she was 58 after she married Charles,” says Arthur. “She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and is doing her best to make everything work for the prince and for England.” But that doesn’t mean she’s a doormat. She does things her own way, such as leaving the royal family after Christmas lunch to spend the rest of the day with daughter Laura, son Tom and their families. And when on official trips overseas, Camilla, who hates flying, will often go on ahead to acclimatise. “If that’s what she wants to do, that’s okay by him,” says a palace insider. Arthur says since marrying Camilla, Charles has been the happiest he’s ever seen him. “They are so comfortable together. They have the same sense of humour and they laugh and laugh and laugh.” Not the most romantic of men, Charles once famously quipped “whatever ‘in love’ means”, when his engagement to Diana was announced. “He knows exactly what love means now,” says a friend of Camilla’s. “He knows that everything she does for him, from letting him be himself to listening to what he thinks, from consoling him to making him laugh, is because she loves him. “He worships her for it."
Words by: Judy Kean
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