Royal Historian reveals Camilla’s ‘extraordinary’ chat-up line
Camilla is now one of the most famous faces in the Royal Family. Yet, she only entered the royal fold 17 years ago last week, after marrying the man, Charles, who will eventually become Britain’s king. Their relationship attracted significant controversy at the time, especially after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.
But, the couple finally made things official and tied the knot in 2005 in a low-key civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall.
Although the wedding day itself was akin to a fairytale, it did not come without any hiccups.
That is according to a new book by Tina Brown, a royal author who has written extensively on the Firm, which is being serialized in The Telegraph.
In her latest title, The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, she chronicles a string of potentially catastrophic events that led up to Charles and Camilla’s wedding, ones that could have thrown the nuptials out of the window.
In 2004, several years after Charles and Camilla went public with their relationship, Ms Turner says Camilla felt “marooned”.
Despite all the maneuvering into royal acceptance, “there was always some fresh debacle not of her making that drove her underground again”.
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While Camilla knew every emotional detail about Charles and enjoyed being his company, Ms Turner writes that “the ambivalence of her position was becoming untenable”.
She continued: “For a while, she had thought that there was an upside to not being Charles’s wife.
“She had always hated flying, speaking in public, dressing up and getting press attention.
“She had never had a calendar filled with things she didn’t want to do, which essentially defines the royal way of life.
“The Prince’s routine was relentless.
“He never ate lunch, and breakfasted on the same birdseed and peeled fruit every morning.”
The royal’s strict schedule, Ms Turner says, also became a point of conflict for Camilla: “Punctuality had never been Camilla’s strong suit, but Charles expected her to be ready for engagements at his own regimented pace.
“When she asked where they were going, he would snap: ‘Haven’t you read the brief?’
“One of her friends at that time told me that she had even started to feel some empathy with Diana’s manifold discontents.”
Charles is said to have “dithered” over the question of marrying for a second time.
Aware of his personal ratings among the public, he worried how it might paint him in the eyes of the people.
But, rather than Charles being forced to make a decision on their eventual marriage, Ms Turner says a wedding of one of the royal’s close friends’ sons pushed them over the ceremonial finish line.
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The son of Norfolk landowner Hugh van Cutsem and his Dutch wife Emilie, was getting married to the Duke of Westminster’s daughter at Chester Cathedral.
It was set up in a way that would have seen Camilla forced to sit behind Charles — something that Ms Turner says Camilla refused to do, viewing it as a humiliation.
However, in a twist of events, Ms Turner writes: “Fortunately, there is always an exit if you are the Prince of Wales.
“On the day of the wedding, he found himself obliged to visit the Warminster barracks to meet with the families of soldiers from the Black Watch serving in Iraq.
“Meanwhile, Camilla was ‘otherwise engaged’.
“The absence of the groom’s royal godfather at the wedding was a devastating social setback for the van Cutsems, but one that they had to bear with a stiff upper rictus.
“The Prince of Wales had made an unprecedented show of support for the woman he loved.”
Before long, Charles had proposed to Camilla at Birkhall, on the Balmoral estate, over the New Year.
The Queen agreed — “Camilla’s role was the only course that now made sense for the working efficiency of the Firm” — and they began preparing for the big day.
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Valentine’s Day 2005 was chosen as the date to release the engagement news, and the appointment of Camilla’s new HRH title.
The decision to have a civil ceremony avoided any religious controversy, but it was not the end of any difficulties.
Leaked photographs of Prince Harry wearing a Nazi outfit left Charles infuriated, demanding that his son give an apology to England’s chief rabbi.
Next, Ms Turner writes: “Royal reporter Robert Jobson of the Evening Standard caught wind of the wedding scoop and bounced Clarence House into announcing the plans early.
“The problem: the usually punctilious team led by Michael Peat had made an unfortunate mistake.
“The small print in the Marriage Act allowed marriages to be solemnized in certain ‘approved premises’.
“If Windsor Castle was given a license to host the civil marriage of Charles and Camilla, it also meant that any old yobbo could apply to marry at the Queen’s home.
“So the venue for the couple’s vows had to be switched from the castle to the Guildhall.
“The Queen, as supreme governor of the Church of England, felt she could now attend only the blessing in St George’s Chapel.
“All of this offered an irresistible cock-up narrative for the press: ‘A Bloody Farce!’ “Queen Snubs Charles’s Wedding!”
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Ms Turner continues: “The Queen insisted that Charles represent her at the funeral, which happened to be on his wedding date.
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“‘Can anything else possibly go wrong?’ whooped the Daily Mail.
“The wedding was postponed for 24 hours.
“But the televised blessing was now scheduled to clash with the Grand National.
“The solution was to move the start of the race, allowing viewers to see both.
“The otherwise stalwart Camilla went into meltdown.
“She developed a chronic case of sinusitis and spent the week with girlfriends ministering to her shredded nerves.
“On the day of the wedding, she had to be coaxed out of bed.”
But, from this moment, Camilla rose to the occasion — her “game face was on”, as Ms Turner puts it.
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She writes: “Radiating hesitant joy, she stepped into the Queen’s Rolls-Royce Phantom VI to join Charles for the journey to the Guildhall […] Camilla, dressed in a delicate cream chiffon dress and wide-brimmed, white-feathered Philip Treacy hat, had her own muted dazzle on her wedding day.
“Aged 57, unvarnished, unblushing, unsvelte, she was someone that Diana had never been: the woman whom the Prince of Wales had wanted all along.”
And, the rest is Royal Family history.
‘Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor – the Truth and the Turmoil’ is written by Tina Brown and is published on April 26 by Century.