Bibliophile | Angela Levin tells the story of ‘Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort’

Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort
by Angela Levin
Simon & Schuster

Angela Levin is an award-winning journalist and royal biographer who spent a few months with Camilla in 2015 to write a profile for Newsweek magazine, and was surprised how welcoming she was and how good she was with people. Levin was given access to people who are close to Camilla, both in her personal and professional worlds to write about the Queen Consort.

Nobody knew much about Camilla before Princess Diana talked about her unhappy marriage and a scandalous tape of Camilla’s intimate night-time conversation with Charles emerged. Referring to Camilla as “the Rottweiler”, Diana garnered a lot of sympathy for the fact that her marriage was overshadowed by Camilla Parker Bowles.

It was more than fifty years ago that the 22 year-old Camilla met Prince Charles but their relationship wasn’t sanctioned “according to the protocol of the times”. Her great grandmother, who died two months after Camilla was born, had been the mistress of Edward VII and Camilla was in an on-and-off relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles who played polo with Charles.

In one of those off times, Andrew actually dated Princess Anne, with whom he shared a love of equestrian sport. Camilla and Charles spent time together at the Mountbatten family home but, with judgements about her suitability, Charles was sent on a 7 month mission with the Royal Navy and Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973.

Quite a lot happened before Camilla and Charles eventually married in 2005. The Queen was totally against seeing or speaking to Camilla for decades, but Camilla’s endurance and perseverance paid off and, in her platinum jubilee speech to the nation, the Queen gave her personal endorsement.

In many ways, the book seems like a PR exercise for the “quietly determined female with a hint of vulnerability” who has supported the future king and made him happy “and less irritable”. Princess Diana, the book points out, was too emotionally unstable to support Charles and after providing the heir and the spare, became a burden for him.

It’s all in the wording. Rather than writing about Diana’s legacy, Levin writes that Diana’s spectre was hovering over Camilla and that Charles was jealous of Diana’s people skills but proud of Camilla’s. Comparisons are made between the “glamorous wife” and the “stable, warm, witty, less glamorous one” who is loyal to her husband by not being flashy and quietly following behind.

Charles and Camilla have had to work hard to overcome the huge backlash against them and this book, while being informative about Camilla’s passions and pushing the royal boundaries by the charities she is supporting, paints Camilla as a “good sport” whose grace and good humour is winning over most people.

Commenting on the Netflix program The Crown, Levin maintains “Camilla has been the most misrepresented member” of the largely false portrait of the royal family. That is not going to stop people tuning in to its fifth series that starts this week and deals with the 1990s split and divorce of Charles and Diana, with Camilla in the background.

Lezly Herbert


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