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Camilla, a socialite by birth

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st November 2007 03:00 AM

THE organ played on. Charlie is my Darling rose softly through Crathie Parish Church in Scotland. It was like petals falling on the aisle as the bride steps forward.

THE organ played on. Charlie is my Darling rose softly through Crathie Parish Church in Scotland. It was like petals falling on the aisle as the bride steps forward.

By Harriette Onyalla
THE organ played on. Charlie is my Darling rose softly through Crathie Parish Church in Scotland. It was like petals falling on the aisle as the bride steps forward.

Only, there were no petals. But there was a girl. Of course, she is a woman now, but this is the fulfilment of her girlhood. The day before, she had been a bride, three decades after meeting her husband. Late, you would say, but that is the beauty about dreams, for even though its path be strewn with thorns, it still comes true.

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was 23 when she met ‘her prince’. That was 1970. Only, it was not just her prince, Charles was a prince in England. The two became inseparable, frequenting London’s hottest spots together. But she was just Camilla Shand, with no titles. He? The Prince of Wales. Was it royal tradition then, which stood in the way of a marriage? In July 1973, Camilla married Col. Andrew Parker Bowles.

According to, Camilla, the first of three children, grew up in an elite family in Plumpton village in Sussex, England. Her mother, Rosalind, was a member of the Cubitt family, which founded the Cubitt construction company.

Her father, Maj. Bruce Shand, was deputy lord lieutenant of East Sussex, the Queen’s official representative in the county. He was also a wine merchant who was a twice-decorated Second World War hero and known as the local master of foxhounds.

Like other girls of her station, Camilla went to top schools, getting groomed for a place in society perhaps as a wife of an aristocrat. However, most of that grooming seemed to have fallen on dry ground.

Camilla was athletic; she enjoyed being outdoors and traditions like hunting and fishing. She also turned out a woman who did not care about appearances, dressing up or having her nails painted.

Camilla cares about people. As a child, she made friends quickly. She is kind and witty, a thing, which perhaps counts to the bevy of friends she made on her way to womanhood.

Prince Charles being among those friends. After her marriage to Andrew, Camilla must have made peace with her heart, settling into the role of wife and mother with her usual warmth towards people and life.

Prince Charles continued being a friend to the Parker Bowles family even becoming the godfather of their first child. They have two children. Camilla gave her blessing for Prince Charles’ marriage in 1981.

Then, news filtered through that the two were no longer just friends, but lovers again. And, we pounced on Camilla; she must have winced at our ferocity. She was the commoner rocking a royal marriage. We called her names, pointed fingers forgetting that the other four were pointing back at us. We span theories about her, if it were wool; we would have dressed all the poor in the world and sold the remaining bulk to feed them. Like Jesus’ five loaves miracle, we would have had more left.

But did she ever wish the ground could swallow her up when she read what we said? Did we for once stop to see how she struggled to keep a straight face when we talked on and on and on, and yet all the while she wanted to flee and hide and cry her heart out? Oh how we rode on, painting her all shades of black, if black has got shades anyway.

We did not care for her side of the story. We chose to forget that even we are mortal and subject to the overbearing throbs of love.

Was she shattered? Did she cry herself to sleep? Did she beseech the Almighty to make the world stop so her heart would not break? So it would not hurt too badly? Did she wish upon a star that her place in life would be different?

Would she have gladly traded the comforts of English aristocracy for a place with the downtrodden, if only to find her love, her prince? Sadly, we do not know, we did not care to know.

But love is strong, stronger that all our words, all the walls we build around us which sadly cannot even protect us from ourselves. In March 1995, Camilla and Andrew divorced. The rest is her-story as in his-story.

On April 8, 2004, Camilla and Charles were married. Over 20,000 people cheered as the couple arrived at the Windsor’s Guildhall for the private civil wedding ceremony. A love whose depth is hard to fathom had triumphed.

On the first day of their honeymoon, they went to seek God’s blessings. According to, Camilla wore a fuchsia hat and coat, and the prince, a traditional Highland dress. That is where Charlie my Darling played.

How true that song must have rung. Afterwards, husband and wife returned to Windsor Castle for a service of blessing in St George’s Chapel, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. A reception, hosted by the Queen, was held at the castle’s State Apartments.

Camilla has eased into her roles as Duchess of Cornwall and Duchess of Rothesay, as she is known in Scotland, a living tale that dreams indeed come true, an inspiration for every girl to dream of true love, a lesson for them not to settle for anything other than love. For, this love waited three decades. Then, every home will have a fulfilled mother, a fulfilled family.

As for us, to be reminded that everything works for good, perhaps it is a blessing that someday we shall have a queen who knows pain that she may nurture our world.

Camilla, a socialite by birth

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