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Camilla: The down-to-earth Duchess

Camilla: The down-to-earth Duchess
The Weekly's deputy editor Juliet Rieden on the week she spent with Charles and Camilla

In advance of their official tour of Australia, The Weekly's Deputy Editor, Juliet Rieden, spent a week with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and soon discovered there's a lot more to their exhausting schedule of duties than shaking hands and drinking bubbly.

One thing you could never say about the royal family is that they’re workshy. As jobs go this one’s pretty bizarre and now in her seventh year at the coal face of royal duties Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, is proving to be not just a natural, but able to take the family to new heights of popularity.

In the year from April 2011 to the end of March 2012 , The Prince and The Duchess undertook 804 joint and solo official engagements in the UK and overseas, with many days featuring four or five.

When she married Prince Charles in April 2005, Camilla Parker Bowles, divorced mother of two and long-time mistress of the Prince, was hardly a crowd pleaser.

Memories of Diana and a public abhorrence to the idea that one day she may be Queen (for the record her title will be HRH The Princess Consort), meant her popularity was pretty shabby. But in record time the Duchess, now 65, has not only about-turned her own image, she’s become a leading light in the regeneration of the House of Windsor. And she’s done it simply by being herself.

Following a gruelling few years of meet and greets and global trips, she is now praised for spearheading a fresh wind of change through royal corridors.

For, as I learned when The Weekly was invited to join the Duchess and Prince Charles in the UK in their pre-Australia tour round of appointments, Camilla is a public profile superstar.

In the November issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, friends of Camilla tell Kathy Lette what they think of the Duchess they know.

"Camilla is the least stuck-up person one could meet. And this comment comes from a pig farmer's daughter whose granny would curtsey to doctor when he came to call!" says Penny Mortimer.

"Funny, direct and unexpectedly down-to-earth, with a ribald sense of humour. She makes you feel as if you've known each other forever," says actor Richard E. Grant.

Human right lawyer Helena Kennedy agrees.

"We stayed with them for a weekend and she was great fun," she says.

"So earthy and normal about the usual couple stuff — him wanting to sleep with the windows open so that a gale comes through and her wanting a warm bedroom I once remarked how slim she was looking and she whispered, 'Spanx'."

Read more of this story in the November issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.

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