Early Life, Family and Education
Camilla Rosemary Shand was born in 1947, the eldest of three children of Major Bruce Shand (1917–2006) and the Honourable Rosalind Cubitt (1921–94), a philanthropist and daughter of the 3rd Baron Ashcombe. Camilla’s maternal great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was a mistress of King Edward VII. Camilla’s great-great-great grandfather, Sir Allan Napier MacNab, was premier of the Province of Canada from 1854 to 1856.
Camilla attended Queen’s Gate School in South Kensington, London, and left at the age of 16. She subsequently attended a finishing school in Switzerland and studied French for six months at the Institut Britannique de Paris. Although Camilla described her French as “rusty” in 2013, she successfully delivered a speech in French that year at a charitable engagement in Paris.
First Marriage and Children
Camilla married Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles (born 27 December 1939) in a Roman Catholic ceremony in 1973. The couple divorced in 1995. Andrew Parker Bowles’s parents were friends of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Camilla and Andrew have two children, Tom (born 18 December 1974) and Laura (born 1 January 1978), and five grandchildren. One of Laura’s children, Eliza Lopes, was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.
Relationship with the Prince of Wales
Camilla was introduced to Charles by a mutual friend, Lucia Santa Cruz, in 1970. The couple frequently met at polo matches, where Camilla reputedly mentioned that her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, had been involved with his great-great grandfather, King Edward VII. The relationship lasted until 1973, when Charles departed on an eight-month tour of duty with the Royal Navy and Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles. Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
Charles and Camilla resumed their relationship in 1986. Charles stated in a 1994 television documentary that his marriage had “irretrievably broken down” by that time. Diana blamed Camilla for the breakdown of her marriage, stating in a 1995 BBC Panorama interview, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Charles and Diana divorced in 1996, and Diana died in a car accident in 1997.
Charles and Camilla made their first public appearance together in 1999 at a 50th birthday party for Camilla’s sister, Annabel. The couple announced their engagement on 10 February 2005, which included a statement from Charles’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry: “We are both very happy for our father and Camilla, and we wish them all the luck in the future.”
Duchess of Cornwall
On 9 April 2005, Charles and Camilla were married in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, followed by a Service of Prayer and Dedication at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Charles and Camilla reportedly chose a civil ceremony out of respect for Charles’s future position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. (In 2002, the Church of England declared that divorced persons could be married in the church but only in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of individual clergy.) The Service of Prayer and Dedication was televised around the world, and attendees included Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson and her husband, John Ralston Saul. As the wife of the Prince of Wales, Camilla is technically Princess of Wales, but that title remains closely associated with Diana, so Camilla uses the title of Duchess of Cornwall, as Charles is also Duke of Cornwall.
Public Engagements and Philanthropy
Camilla is president, patron or honorary member of more than 120 charitable organizations. Her philanthropic interests include health, literacy, empowering women (including support for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence), food, animal welfare, the arts, heritage buildings and active older age for senior citizens. In 2016, her philanthropy expanded when she assumed a number of the Queen’s patronages. Camilla also holds eight honorary military appointments, including colonel-in-chief of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. In 2020, she became colonel-in-chief of The Rifles, a British Army regiment, taking over that role from Prince Philip. Camilla frequently accompanies Charles on Commonwealth tours and public engagements in the United Kingdom and around the world. As Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip reduce their public engagements (Philip retired from such duties completely in 2017), Charles and Camilla have assumed a greater public role.
Camilla visited Canada for the first time in November 2009 and toured the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia with Charles. The tour included a visit to Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, which was built by Camilla’s ancestor, Sir Allan Napier MacNab. Camilla asked numerous questions about Dundurn Castle and her family’s history, and the visit prompted headlines like “Camilla explores her Canadian roots at Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle.” A crowd of 500 people gathered to see the royal couple, chanting “We want the Duchess!” which stood out in a tour that otherwise attracted separatist protestors in Montreal and comparatively little public interest elsewhere on the itinerary. In 2010, Camilla became the royal patron of Dundurn Castle.
In 2012, Charles and Camilla represented Queen Elizabeth II in Canada for the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee over Victoria Day weekend, which also marks the Queen’s official birthday in Canada. The itinerary included Gagetown- Oromocto and Saint John, New Brunswick; Toronto, Ontario; and Regina, Saskatchewan. Camilla made her first speech in Canada during this tour and addressed The Queen’s Own Rifles in Toronto, stating, “As your proud Colonel-in-Chief, I feel deeply honoured to be standing here today at your home in Moss Park Armoury, following in the footsteps of the late Queen Mary and Princess Alexandra [Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin].”
In 2014, Charles and Camilla toured Halifax and Pictou, Nova Scotia; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Camilla undertook several solo engagements during this tour, visiting Alice House, an organization that supports women and children who are fleeing domestic abuse, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and the Prince Edward Home long-term-care residence in Charlottetown.
In 2017, Charles and Camilla toured Iqaluit, Nunavut, Prince Edward County in Ontario, and the National Capital Region in honour of the 150th anniversary of Confederation and attended celebrations on Parliament Hill.