British Royal Family

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla: A love story for the ages

It's been a rocky road, but these two finally found their happily ever after.

By Alex Lilly

Of all the modern royal romances, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla's has more twists and turns than a romantic comedy.

Despite meeting in their youth and even going on to marry other people, Charles and Camilla's love has endured despite tabloid scandals and disapproving family members with the two finally tying the knot in 2005.

On photographing the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall for Vanity Fair, photographer Alexi Lubomirski, who also took the official snaps for Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan's wedding day, said that "there was a sparkle in their eyes — that's when the magic happened. You feel like they are a young couple in love."

The heir to the throne may have had the ultimate fairytale wedding with his first wife Princess Diana with whom he shares his two proud sons William and Harry, but it's his second wife who is the true love of his life.

This is the story of Charles and Camilla and their transformation from starry-eyed youths to the future King and Queen Consort.

"You feel like they are a young couple in love." *(Image: Instagram @clarencehouse)*
"You feel like they are a young couple in love." (Image: Instagram @clarencehouse)

Love at first sight

Charles and Camilla met in 1970 as many well-connected aristocratic couples do: on the polo field. They were introduced by mutual friend, Lucia Santa Cruz.

In The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown, royal biographer Penny Junor says the prince was drawn to the then Camilla Shand as she was "not in anyway overawed by him, not fawning or sycophantic."

Not only did the two 23-year-olds share a love of polo, the great outdoors and have a similar sense of humour but they had a strange family connection too as Camilla's great-grandmother had had an affair with King Edward VII.

The now Duchess of Cornwall joked, "My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common."

The couple dated for a year but it came to an end when the future King was called away on naval duties.

The couple met in 1970 at the polo. *(Image: Getty Images)*
The couple met in 1970 at the polo. (Image: Getty Images)

First marriages

Due to archaic traditions, Charles and Camilla were not a suitable match.

Despite being the granddaughter of a baron, Camilla was not from a royal circle fitting of a future queen and the heir apparent needed to marry someone virginal.

When Charles returned from his eight months of naval duties, Camilla had married Major Andrew Parker Bowles, who she had dated on and off in the late sixties and was seven years her senior. Charles was in the West Indies when he learned of the engagement via a letter from Camilla herself and was heartbroken.

"I suppose the feeling of emptiness will pass eventually," a broken-hearted Charles apparently told friends.

It was quite the high society wedding too, the Queen Mother and even Princess Anne, who had a fling with Andrew himself, attended.

Camilla married her on-again, off-again boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. *(Image: Getty Images)*
Camilla married her on-again, off-again boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. (Image: Getty Images)

Charles, meanwhile had to find his own bride, and as he approached his thirties, the matter became more serious.

In a letter to Prince Charles, his great uncle Lord Mountbatten wrote, "In a case like yours, the man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down."

"But I think for a wife he should choose a suitable attractive and sweet-character girl before she has met anyone else she might fall for."

Even after Camilla married Andrew, she and Charles remained close. *(Image: Getty Images)*
Even after Camilla married Andrew, she and Charles remained close. (Image: Getty Images)

In July 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, the 20 year-old virginal daughter of Earl Spencer in a ceremony watched by millions. The couple had only met on 13 occasions before announcing their engagement and it was reportedly due to pressure from Prince Philip, Charles' father.

Charles and Diana's relationship seemed to be doomed from the start when the Prince of Wales famously said, "Whatever in love means" when he was asked if he and Diana were in love during their engagement interview

Camilla even attended the royal wedding at St Paul's Cathedral and the bride knew about Charles and Camilla's former relationship.

"I knew she was in there, of course. I looked for her," Diana told biographer Andrew Morton in 1991. "So walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla, pale grey, veiled pillbox hat, saw it all, her son Tom standing on a chair. To this day you know — vivid memory."

Camilla (circled in red) attended Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1981 wedding. *(Image: Rex Features)*
Camilla (circled in red) attended Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1981 wedding. (Image: Rex Features)

Affairs and scandals

Years after their respective weddings, Camilla and Andrew and Charles and Diana welcomed their own children and remained in contact.

To this day, Charles is Camilla's son Tom Parker Bowles' godfather and now, stepfather!

However five years into his marriage, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles engaged in an affair. Camilla and Charles' nicknames for each other (Gladys and Fred), were revealed when Diana found a bracelet with the initials GF on it.

But after a controversial phone tapping scandal., a highly-publicised divorce in 1992 followed.

Camilla and Andrew parted ways a few years afterwards in 1995. Despite constant media scrutiny, Camilla chose to stay silent. It was later revealed that Princess Diana and Andrew Parker Bowles were also unfaithful in the marriages.

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla on their first official date. *(Image: Getty Images)*
Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla on their first official date. (Image: Getty Images)

Both Charles and Camilla may have been single, but their first official public 'date' wasn't until 1999, two years after Diana's death. Later that year, Camilla was introduced to Prince William and Prince Harry.

The Queen, however, decided not to attend a private 50th birthday party for Charles because Camilla would be there and she disapproved of the former adultery. However, by 2000, she had accepted the relationship and welcomed Camilla to the fold.

A few short years later in 2003, Camilla had moved into Clarence House, Prince Charles' London residence.

A rare moment of PDA when the royals were officially courting. *(Image: Getty Images)*
A rare moment of PDA when the royals were officially courting. (Image: Getty Images)

Together at last

After years of dating, in 2005 the couple were delighted to announce their engagement.

The bride-to-be was proposed to with a family heirloom art deco style ring that was said to have been given to the Queen Mother in 1926 when the Queen was born. When asked if Charles got down on one knee, Camilla told a reporter, "Of course!"

Charles and Camilla married 35 years after their first meeting in a civil ceremony followed by a wedding blessing at St George's Chapel in Windsor. Though they did not attend the ceremony, the Queen and Prince Philip did appear at the religious blessing and reception.

In a toast to the couple, the Queen reportedly said about the couple,"They have overcome Becher's Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles, they have come through and I'm very proud and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves."

35 years after first meeting, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla became husband and wife. *(Image: Getty Images)*
35 years after first meeting, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla became husband and wife. (Image: Getty Images)

Though she is technically the Princess of Wales, Camilla goes by the official title of Duchess of Cornwall out of respect for Charles' first wife. Even though they are married and the worst has happened, people still view Camilla as "the other woman."

"It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn't want to put my worst enemy through it. I couldn't have survived it without my family," the Duchess confessed years later.

Both families have welcomed Charles and Camilla as one of their own. Camilla's little granddaughter Eliza Lopes was even a flower girl at Prince William and Duchess Catherine's 2011 nuptials.

"She's a wonderful woman, and she's made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing. William and I love her to bits," Prince Harry stated shortly after his father's wedding.

WATCH: Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla on their wedding day. Post continues...

Still in love

It's clear to everyone around them that Charles and Camilla are smitten with each other.

"You can see it when they're together. They enjoy each other's company so much. You can see it best when they are dancing together—such genuine, deep-down affection and love. They both get the giggles — she first, then he tries to hold it together," says Camilla's nephew Ben Elliott.

"Travelling all over the world with the Prince, [Camilla] has had a miraculous effect on him. He is happier, more relaxed and more confident than ever before," royal biographer Penny Junor told The Telegraph.

And the couple have sweet things to say about each other as well. Duchess Camilla, who has been praised for her own work ethic, has spoken many times about how hard her husband works and calls him "a very exceptional man."

"She's remarkable really. She's the best listener in the world," Prince Charles said in a documentary about his wife.

In an interview with CNN, the Prince also said, "It's always nice to have somebody on your side. She is an enormous support, and sees the funny side of life, thank God."

"You can imagine it is a real, real challenge. But she's, I think, been brilliant in the way she's tackled these things."

"It's always marvellous to have somebody who, you know, you feel understands and wants to encourage. Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps."

Here's to many more years of drama-free happiness for the royal couple.

A love story for the ages. *(Image: Getty Images)*
A love story for the ages. (Image: Getty Images)

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