It’s the stuff of fairytale and legend; a young girl falls in love with a handsome prince, and after a series of trials and dramas, the couple lives happily ever after in a royal palace. 

This is, essentially, the narrative of the relationship between the King of England, Charles III, and his Queen Consort, Camilla. Yet, for much of their story, the circumstances and public perception of the couple at the heart of this enduring love story was anything but a fairy tale. 

When Charles Met Camilla

There are a range of accounts that describe the first meeting between Prince Charles (as he was then) and the young Camilla Shand, later Camilla Parker-Bowles. 

It’s widely believed that the pair met at a polo match in the early 1970s, and there was an instant connection between the 20-something prince and the pretty young aristocrat who was a similar age. There have even been claims that Camilla spoke to the prince about her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, who was the famed mistress of Charles’ great-grandfather, King Edward VII. 

Whatever the details of their early meeting, it’s clear that they bonded in a way that would endure for many decades, and ultimately see the pair unite in marriage and ascend together to the British throne. 

Marriages & Scandal

The role of Camilla as the ‘third party’ in the marriage of the then Prince Charles and his wife Princess Diana has been well documented. It’s believed that Camilla was an enduring presence in Charles’ life throughout his first marriage, and this relationship was the cause of the breakdown of both marriages – that of Charles and Diana, as well as Camilla’s own marriage to Andrew Parker-Bowles. 

These marital breakdowns and scandals were played out publicly during the 1990s, resulting in both Charles and Camilla being single again, after years of building their families with their respective former spouses, and raising their children, alongside carving out their own paths in their careers and callings. 

The Wedding That Should Have Been

In 2005, Charles and Camilla were finally free and permitted to marry each other, the happy culmination of a decades-long love affair that had been through some of the most public and difficult trials. 

This was the wedding that, with hindsight, would perhaps have saved a great deal of heartache and calamity if it had been allowed to go ahead when the young couple first fell in love in the 1970s. Yet, it was believed at the time that the young Camilla Shand was not regarded as a suitable wife for the then Prince of Wales. The protocol and influence of the royal family and palace staff were not the only complications. 

As with many ill-fated love affairs, a series of events  – third parties, ex-boyfriends, controlling parents, and career moves – resulted in the young couple’s chance for happiness together being thwarted during those early years. 

Charles & Camilla – Married At Last

In 2005, after a number of years of quietly reintegrating into the life and high-profile status of Prince Charles and the royal family, Camilla finally married her prince. 

Despite many years being regarded as the cause of so much turmoil and heartbreak, the relationship between Charles and Camilla entered a happy new phase of marital harmony.  By this stage, it had become clear to both the members of the royal family and the entire world that this was a relationship that was meant to be. 

Having endured unhappy marriages, scandal, divorce, as well as an extreme public backlash, the couple were finally able to settle into the marriage and companionship that had been denied them for so many decades. 

Though the children of the failed marriages were no doubt cherished and loved, the final reunion of Charles and Camilla as a legitimate couple must have seemed like something of a miracle, as well as an enormous relief. 

There’s no doubt that the love, connection and companionship of the prince for his first love has been one of the more enduring love stories of the ages.

King & Queen Consort – A Fairytale Ending

In September of 2022, when Queen Elizabeth II died and Camilla’s husband ascended to the British throne, Camilla became Queen Consort of the United Kingdom. 

Charles and Camilla after their coronation
Charles and Camilla after their coronation – HM Government, OGL 3, via Wikimedia Commons

During the troubled times of the 1990s, it seemed impossible to imagine that Camilla would ever be crowned as the Queen of England. Yet, decades later, this is the reality. 

Although the rise of Queen Consort Camilla is an unlikely tale with many twists and its share of tragedy, her route to the throne is not too unlike many other aristocratic women who have fallen in love with the heir to the crown and found themselves reigning alongside their sovereign partner. 

While Camilla’s background may have been cited as unsuitable for her marriage to Charles when the couple first began dating, it wasn’t her family pedigree or lineage that was a problem. After all, Camilla can claim a high degree of nobility in her family tree, along with strong associations with the kings and queens of the past. 

Camilla’s mother, Rosalind Shand, (maiden name; Cubitt) was the daughter of the 3rd Baron Ashcombe of Dorking in Surrey. Rosalind’s mother was the daughter of George Keppel, the son of the 7th Earl of Albemarle and the Countess of Albemarle, and the famous Alice Keppel, who was the favorite consort of England’s king, Edward VII.  

The tradition for heirs to the throne to choose their wives and life partners from the pool of aristocratic women was still a factor when Prince Charles was a bachelor, with parents – and a whole constitution. – who were keen to see him make a suitable match. 

Yet, the family background of Camilla, which featured noble titles such as Earl, Countess, and Baron within just a couple of generations, as well as a King’s favorite consort, would seem to have fit the bill when it comes to the pedigree of royal wives. 

Whatever the decisions or conversations around the prospective match between Charles and Camilla, the plot twists in the narrative around the women who rose from quiet nobility to the highest-ranking royal female within the British Royal Family is a remarkable tale. And the story of the woman who reigns alongside the man she has loved for a lifetime is undoubtedly one of history’s great fairytale endings.