Camilla Parker Bowles Facts Only Big Royal Watchers Have Heard

As the world continued to come to terms with the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, royal fans are also adjusting to the new titles bestowed upon members of the royal family. The Prince of Wales is now King Charles, Prince William has become the new Prince of Wales, and Harry's children have been assigned the titles of Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, per Woman & Home. But perhaps the most difficult change the British public must adjust to is Camilla Parker Bowles' new moniker. After the 70-year reign of Elizabeth, it's somewhat difficult to fathom Camilla as queen consort.

For many decades, Camilla was public enemy No. 1 among Lady Di devotees, with King Charles' second wife deemed an interloper in the house of Windsor. And Camilla is all too cognizant of this painful truth. "It's not easy," she told Vogue. "I was scrutinized for such a long time that you just have to find a way to live with it. Nobody likes to be looked at all the time and, you know, criticized." Granted, Camilla has faced her share of vitriol and backlash since her adulterous relationship with Charles came to light. She has been subjected to much gossip and a whole lot of assumptions, but do we actually know the real queen consort?

It turns out that there's more to Camilla than meets the eye. From her penchant for raunchy phone calls to her surprising hobbies and ardent activism, here are some facts only the biggest royals watchers may know about Camilla Parker Bowles.

She had a childhood fit for a princess

Born Camilla Shand, Camilla Parker Bowles was raised into upper-class privilege. She grew up in a $2 million country mansion in the quaint village of Plumpton in East Sussex, around 50 miles from London, per Daily Star. Her father, Major Bruce Shand, served as an officer in World War II, while her mom, Rosalind, was a descendant of the aristocratic Roland Cubitt, 3rd Baron Ashcombe, as noted by Woman & Home. Some digging by Ancestry found that Camilla and her future husband, King Charles, are actually related, as is often the case with aristocratic couples.

Camilla had a happy childhood and was incredibly close to her parents, per The Telegraph. As she confessed to the Daily Mail, she scarcely had any reason to complain due to her social privilege. "We were brought up in a very happy family and I can't whinge about my childhood because it was idyllic," she said.

According to the book "Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne," Camilla loved telling the kids at school that she was an aristocrat, ordering that they bow before her. "My great-grandmother was the lover of the King," she apparently declared. "We're practically royalty." Despite her princess aspirations, she was a tomboy in her youth and liked hanging with the guys. At a young age, she developed a fondness for animals and began pony riding, having competed in equestrian events.

Camilla Parker Bowles first met Prince Charles in 1970

In 1970, a 22-year-old Charles first set eyes on Camilla at a polo game. It's been reported that her first words to Charles were, "​​My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common," per Cosmopolitan. The pair were immediately smitten, with the book "The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown" (via Good Housekeeping) noting that Charles was attracted to Camilla's absence of awe and sycophancy. Although the pair began dating, Charles' duties within the Royal Navy drove them apart, as he was stationed overseas.

By 1973, Camilla was married to Andrew Parker Bowles, her boyfriend since the mid '60s, and they welcomed two children. Meanwhile, Charles married Princess Diana in 1981. Charles and Camilla still saw each other, however. But much like Charles' marriage to Diana would be blighted by infidelity, Camilla was also being cheated on. "[Andrew] was hopelessly unfaithful, had affairs with people including Camilla's best friend, and it was very hurtful for her," author Penny Junor told Elle. It's been alleged that Andrew was even sleeping with Charles' sister, Anne, though this supposed affair occurred before he wed Camilla.

A great source of embarrassment for the royal family came in the form of the Camillagate tapes, which exposed raunchy phone sex conversations between the lovers. In a transcript obtained by The Mirror, Charles, in what was hardly his crowning moment, laments that he can't be reincarnated as a women's hygiene product.

Diana dubbed Camilla The Rottweiler

Although Camilla Parker Bowles and Princess Diana were once pals, their relationship soon grew sour when Lady Di realized that Camilla had set her sights on her man, per Tatler. As the feud between Diana and Camilla heated, the People's Princess came up with a nickname for her love rival: The Rottweiler. When  Di, who admitted to being scared of Camilla, confronted her about her apparent affair with Charles, she grew defensive, as Diana reveals in her recordings. "You've got everything you ever wanted," Camilla reasoned. "You've got all the men in the world to fall in love with you and you've got two beautiful children. What more do you want?" Diana felt little pity for her hubby's mistress, however, and replied that she simply wanted her husband. 

Thereafter, Diana and Charles divorced, to immense public scrutiny. Subsequently, Charles and Camilla allegedly schemed to make the latter queen consort, a plan dubbed Operation Parker Bowles (aka Operation PB), per the New York Post.

In the aftermath of Diana's tragic death in 1997, Camilla found herself facing immense public backlash. Accordingly, she became a target for the paps, who camped outside her home. "The paparazzi used to follow us everywhere and lurk around like spooks," her son, Tom, told the Daily Mail. "We used to keep binoculars in my mother's bathroom, and one of us would look out every morning to see how many paparazzi were hiding in the bushes. We could tell by the flash of sun on their camera lenses."

This was Camilla Parker Bowles' surprising regular job

After leaving school with virtually no qualifications, Camilla Parker Bowles studied in Switzerland and Paris, before returning to the U.K. where she rented a swanky pad in London, per Woman & Home. There, she began a series of office jobs, which certainly doesn't seem like an occupation befitting the future queen consort. 

She worked, albeit briefly, as a secretary at the fancy interior design company Colefax & Fowler. Camilla was fired after coming into work late following a night of partying (well, it was the '60s). "There were lots of debutantes working for us, even Camilla," a former colleague told The Times (via the Daily Mail). "She worked for us for a moment but got the sack."

But a lucrative career was never an aspiration for the young Camilla, who was happy to flit from job to job, as she enjoyed the carefree partying her background enabled. "She didn't have a career before," her biographer, Angela Levin, told The Daily Star. "She wasn't interested. She just liked to read, go to parties, and have fun. And she wasn't brought up to think in any other way." Indeed, her goal was to end up with a rich husband, at least according to former classmate Lynn Redgrave. "Landing a rich husband was the top of the agenda," Redgrave once said, according to Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne. "Camilla ... wanted to have fun, but she also wanted to marry well because, in her mind, that would be the most fun of all."

Her feud with Prince Andrew

With tales of his problematic behavior and sordid connections coming to light in the post-MeToo era, it's safe to say that Prince Andrew isn't exactly the most popular royal. But long before he made enemies with the British public, Andrew was feuding with his brother's future wife.

According to the book "Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall: From Outcast to Future Queen Consort" by Angela Levin (via The Telegraph), Prince Andrew deemed his brother, Charles, unfit to become king and hatched a plan to become temporary monarch until William could succeed him. Accordingly, he was reportedly cruel to Camilla and tried to prevent Charles from marrying her. Royal biographer Tom Bower claimed that Andrew had been spreading nasty rumors about Camilla to dissuade her from joining the firm, per Express.

Royal insiders allege that Camilla was angered by Andrew's supposedly nonchalant attitude to Charles following Diana's death. The queen consort believed that Andrew should have helped her get into the royal family's good books, particularly amid the brutal public backlash she faced. "Camilla has always felt Andrew could have done more," sources told the Daily Mail (via Express). Camilla's feud extended to Andrew's ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, per New Idea. Subsequently, she made a point of not going to Princess Eugenie's wedding. "Camilla has never been a great fan of either Andrew or Fergie and that's why she made an excuse not to go to Princess Eugenie's wedding last year," royal biographer Phil Dampier explained.

The royal is an avid dancer

Most of us took up unusual hobbies during quarantine, and Camilla Parker Bowles was no exception. At the height of lockdown in April 2020, she embarked on an online ballet dancing course, dubbed The Silver Swans, at the tender age of 72. Speaking with Town & Country, she scoffed at ageism and notions that elderly people ought to be reluctant about stepping out of their comfort zone, proving that it's never too late to adopt a new hobby. "I've certainly never done any ballet before, and it doesn't matter whether you've done ballet or not," she said. "It's something that will make you feel better. It gives you a certain amount of confidence in yourself ... You might groan a bit afterward, and huff and grunt and everything else, but you do feel so much better."

Although she first became a silver swan before the pandemic, she saw the extent of the importance of her rigorous classes once she was cooped up indoors during lockdown. "It's what we try and tell people to do to keep their bones strong," she advised.

Of course, this wasn't the first time she showcased her passion for dance. In 2017, Camilla joined forces with "Strictly Come Dancing" judges and busted a move in a manner that put even the most seasoned TikTokers to shame, per The Sun. She also showcased her impressive moves during a trip to Ghana the following year, proving that she is indeed the dancing queen (consort).

Queen Elizabeth reportedly wasn't Camilla's biggest fan

Much like her favorite son, Andrew, Queen Elizabeth wasn't particularly fond of Camilla's emergence into the firm. According to an article Penny Junor penned for the Daily Mail, the queen did not want her son cavorting with the erstwhile Ms. Shand. "The Queen had wanted her gone before Diana's death and felt no differently after it," Junor explained. Elizabeth reportedly blamed Camilla for the breakdown of Charles' marriage and saw her as a nuisance, though she had previously been fond of Camilla before she learnt of her affair with her son.

Prior to their first public meeting in 2000, the queen apparently outright refused to acknowledge Camilla's existence, per the BBC. Ouch. On another occasion, Liz reportedly downed one too many martinis and told Charles that she would never forgive Camilla for becoming romantically involved with him so soon after his divorce, per the Daily Mail. She reportedly referred to the future queen consort as "that wicked woman," much to Charles' dismay.

The queen would later make her apparent disapproval of her son's marriage painfully clear. When Camilla and Charles tied the knot in 2005, the queen didn't show up. "I am not able to go," Elizabeth said, per The Telegraph. "I do not feel that my position [as Supreme Governor of the Church] permits it." However, it's possible the pair later mended their rift, with Camilla paying tribute to her mother-in-law following her death. "I will always remember her smile," she reflected (via The Guardian).

She was targeted by student protestors

In 2010, student protests swept across the U.K. after the Conservative government announced that college tuition fees would be raised from £3,290 (around $3,671) to £9,000 ($10,000) a year. Unfortunately for Camilla and Charles, they got caught up in the pandemonium as the demonstrations grew increasingly heated. Per The Guardian, the royal couple were riding through London in their Rolls-Royce when protestors began attacking the car. "There were 400 to 500 protesters there ... Charles and Camilla looked quite relaxed at first but when they saw how many people there were they began to get worried ... It was complete chaos," an onlooker explained. However, Camilla took the ordeal in good humor, remarking, "First time for everything."

According to a report by the Daily Mail, Camilla screamed and cowered in fear as demonstrators threw paint bombs at the vehicle, supposedly chanting, "Off with their heads!" Photographer Matt Dunham took the now infamous snap of Camilla looking on in horror as the paint balls are hurled toward her. "Charles seemed to be waving calmly at first, trying to be amicable, but then he looked worried. Camilla was visibly agitated," he said. Meanwhile, another witness revealed that Charles comforted his wife amid the chaos, pushing her to the floor for safety.

However, The Guardian condemned the negative depictions of the protests in the press, arguing, that the protestors' attitude that everyone is entitled to an education and their willingness to oppose the status quo was certainly an awakening.

Camilla the feminist

"Camilla" and "feminist" are two words one doesn't expect to be uttered in the same breath. But surprisingly, Camilla Parker Bowles is devoted to campaigning for women's rights. In an interview with the BBC, Camilla called out misogyny and violence against women. "It's lack of respect. It's treating women like chattels and people thinking they can get away with it," she said, adding that she would put tackling violence against women at the forefront of her agenda as queen consort.

The Telegraph argued that Camilla would be the most feminist queen consort of all time, highlighting her refusal to conform to idealized beauty standards and the backlash she's faced because of it. Moreover, Camilla is held in high regard among some feminist campaigners. "She cried when a few of us survivors met her about five years ago, listening to our stories," anti-domestic violence advocate Rachel Williams told the outlet.

In 2021, Camilla gave an impassioned speech against sexual violence in the wake of the murders of two British women, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, who were both killed by men as they walked home from work. Speaking at a Women of the World event (via Sky News), Camilla said the onus was on men to stop normalizing violence against women, as opposed to instructing women on how to stay safe. "We do not ... hold all men responsible for sexual violence. But we do need them all on board to tackle it," she stated. "After all, rapists are not born, they are constructed."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Camilla Parker Bowles enjoys watching The Crown

With all its scandals and dramatic pathos, "The Crown" is arguably the jewel of Netflix's original programming. While the at-times contentious depictions of the characters will hardly put the series in the royals' good books, Camilla Parker Bowles actually watches the show. In 2018, her nephew, Ben Elliot, admitted to Vanity Fair that "The Crown" was a guilty pleasure of Camilla's, though she "wasn't looking forward to the bits to come," in reference to the duchess' introduction in Season 3.

By 2020, royal sources told Vanity Fair that Camilla had become an avid viewer of "The Crown" and has no qualms about Emerald Fennell's depiction of her. "I imagine she'll be tuning in with a glass of red wine to watch it, she has seen the previous series," Camilla's confidante divulged. "She has a wonderful sense of humor and this won't fuss her in the slightest."

Camilla took the fandom one step further in 2022 when she met up with Fennell during an International Women's Day event, per People. Although Fennell feared she'd receive a stern greeting from Camilla, the two women hit it off. "I was nervous I might be thrown in the Tower — but so far, so good," the actor joked. Meanwhile, the royal paid tribute to Fennell during a humorous speech. "It's very reassuring to know that if I should fall off my perch at any moment, my fictional alter ego is here to take over," she quipped. "So, Emerald — be prepared!"

She's arguably one of the least popular royals

Once dubbed the "most hated woman in Britain," Camilla Parker Bowles can undoubtedly count herself among the least popular royals, per NBC News. Backlash against Camilla began in the wake of Charles and Diana's highly publicized divorce, with the then-Prince of Wales' lover being blamed for the disintegration of his marriage. "She was seen as the person who was driving the wedge between the fairy tale princess and the Prince of Wales," PR executive Roddi Vaughan-Thomas explained. When Diana tragically died in 1997, the shade against Camilla worsened.

As reported by The Mirror, Camilla received a barrage of hate mail, with Diana stans blaming her for the death of the People's Princess, and urging her to stay away from the late royal's children. "Some of the mail is pretty scary stuff ... All threats are taken very seriously and she has round-the-clock protection," a royal insider lamented. With her introduction into "The Crown," the hate has resurfaced in recent years in the form of online abuse. Per Newshub, trolls left menacing comments on an Instagram photo of Camilla, with one writing, "Camilla: The world hates you. Princess Diana forever."

Regardless of what the public thinks, Charles remains his wife's biggest fan. In 2016, he unveiled the Duchess of Cornwall, a pub named in Camilla's honor in the village of Poundbury (a model village created by Charles), per The Mirror. "God bless all who drink in her," Camilla joked while enjoying a beer in her namesake establishment.

The Camilla Parker Bowles book club

Camilla Parker Bowles has always been a passionate proponent of the written word. For the queen consort, literature is more than a hobby — it's an escape from the darkness her life has at times been enshrouded in. As she explained to the Daily Mail, reading was her refuge when she was at home hiding from the paparazzi. "I would pass the time by reading a lot -– more than I'd ever have been able to in a normal life," she revealed. "I thought, well, if I'm stuck here I might as well do something positive like read all the books I want to read."

But she didn't want her penchant for reading to be a solitary act. Accordingly, she saw lockdown as an opportunity to share her love of books with likeminded individuals who were struggling with being cooped up indoors. She launched a book club, The Duchess of Cornwall's Reading Room, an initiative designed to encourage people to celebrate the written word, per Town & Country

"I think I'd like it to be something that everybody could delve into and find something that suited them and enjoy it," she explained. "I just think it's because I love reading myself I think a lot of other people also get a huge amount of pleasure from it." Following the formation of the book club, Camilla said she was delighted to have interacted with fellow literary lovers from across the globe, highlighting the power of books to connect and empower people.