LONDON (AP) — The heir to the British throne and his consort, Camilla, are celebrating 10 years of marriage — a decade in which Camilla’s public image has gone from aristocratic home-wrecker to admired addition to the royal family.
Prince Charles, 66, and 67-year-old Camilla marked Thursday’s anniversary privately at the royals’ Balmoral estate in Scotland. It’s a favorite retreat where the couple can spend time fishing, walking and painting.
They married on April 9, 2005, in a modest town-hall ceremony lacking the pageantry of Charles’ 1981 wedding to Princess Diana — an extravaganza watched by millions around the world.
In 2005, many Britons were cool to a woman some blamed for the failure of Charles and Diana’s marriage. But since then Camilla’s charity work and down-to-earth humor have made her a popular figure.
A look at the woman who may be queen:
A LONG ROMANCE
Charles met Camilla Shand in the early 1970s, and the pair bonded over a shared sense of humor and love of rural life. But he sailed off with the Royal Navy without cementing their relationship; in his absence she married Andrew Parker Bowles.
Charles went on to marry 20-year-old Diana Spencer, a union whose fairytale image could not survive real life.
Within a few years, Charles had resumed his relationship with Camilla. “There were three of us in that marriage,” Diana said later — although she acknowledged affairs of her own.
Many Britons took Diana’s view, vilifying Camilla as a royal home-wrecker. Charles and Diana separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.
Camilla’s first marriage also ended in divorce. After Diana’s death in a 1997 car crash, Charles and Camilla cautiously began making their relationship public. Their first public appearance together came in 1999, the first public kiss in 2001.
Finally a wedding date was set — April 8, 2005.
But there was one more delay. The wedding was postponed for a day so it would not conflict with the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
A LOW-KEY WEDDING
Britain had never seen a royal wedding like it: the simple civil marriage of two 50-something divorcees.
Charles and Camilla wed at the town hall in Windsor, near London, just down the street from Windsor Castle.
The bride wore a cream silk chiffon dress and matching coat, with a lace-trimmed straw hat. The groom was in formal morning wear. There were 30 guests, including Charles and Diana’s sons, William and Harry.
A blessing ceremony at the castle’s St. George’s Chapel was attended by 800 people, including the groom’s mother Queen Elizabeth II, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and comedian Joan Rivers.
There weren’t the throngs that packed London’s streets in 1981, but the nuptials still drew thousands to Windsor. When the newlyweds emerged — offering waves, but no public kiss — there were a few boos from Diana die-hards, but mostly loud cheers. One banner in the crowd read: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
In deference to Diana and public sentiment, it was decided that Camilla would not become Princess of Wales. She took the title Duchess of Cornwall instead.
HER OWN WOMAN
Over the years, many Britons came to see Camilla as a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stuffy royal family. A lover of dogs, horses, gardening and the British countryside, she has a hearty laugh and a self-deprecating streak, and is a busy charity campaigner for causes including literacy and osteoporosis, which afflicted both her mother and her grandmother.
Royal author Penny Junor said Camilla had never been drawn to the perks and pomp of royal life.
“She’s never had any ambition for herself,” Junor said. “She didn’t want to be a princess or a duchess. She just happened to love a man who was the Prince of Wales, and look at the fuss that caused.”
A decade ago, opinion polls suggested a large majority of Britons opposed the duchess becoming Queen Camilla if Charles takes the throne, though that attitude has now softened. Camilla has said she wishes to be known as Princess Consort rather than queen.
Her friend, novelist Jilly Cooper, said the royal consort was “great fun and very kind.”
“I think by being brave and behaving beautifully she’s done brilliantly. The public have come to love her.”
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