PERHAPS no woman in history has felt the world’s condemnation more fiercely than the former Camilla Parker Bowles. Yet, for much of the past half century, few people outside her immediate family and close circle of trusted friends have truly understood Camilla’s circumstances.
Rather, she has been known only by reputation, and an exceptionally unfavourable one at that: she has been cited as the callous mistress who tempted the Prince of Wales into committing adultery – the third party in what an entire generation wanted to believe was Charles’ fairytale romance with Lady Diana Spencer, his impeccably pedigreed, glamorous, innocent bride.
Now, in The Duchess, British journalist and longtime royal biographer Penny Junor delivers a contrasting insight.
Junor has been observing the Duchess of Cornwall since she was simply ‘Mrs PB’, newly married to an ambitious career soldier who even during the couple’s courtship flaunted a succession of simultaneous girlfriends (including Charles’ sister, Princess Anne). Andrew Parker Bowles’ philandering continued openly after their wedding while Camilla, rather than pursuing the prince, directed her energy into raising children Tom and Laura and appearing oblivious to her husband’s infidelities.
The Duchess examines the disintegration of both the Parker Bowles and Wales marriages and details the events that led to Charles and Camilla’s reunion after almost a decade of platonic camaraderie.
It documents Camilla’s long and tortuous transition in the eyes of the public from despised ‘other woman’ to royal confidant, companion and, eventually, spouse.
Junor describes the frustrations and embarrassments endured by Camilla as she was stalked by photographers, inundated with hate-mail and lambasted as a ‘home-wrecker’ by Britain’s tabloid press.
Above all, she presents a warm and convincing portrait of a discreet, laughter-loving, honest, down-to-earth individual who is a calming, caring and confidence-boosting influence on the man who one day will become the Commonwealth’s king.