The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown by Penny Junor, Harper, US $28.99, Pp 396, April 2018, ISBN 978-0062471109
Camilla Parker Bowles – now the Duchess of Cornwall — wanted little more than making a good marriage, raising children, and riding horses and hunting. She had grown up in a closely knit family with a great past. Her great-grandmother known to have been King Edward VII’s mistress. Camilla and Prince Charles met when they were in their early twenties. At that time, Camilla was in love with her boyfriend of seven years — Cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles — who had not been faithful to her. Camilla and Prince Charles remained close friends even after her marriage and later that of Prince Charles. Their intimacy stopped when Prince Charles started seeing Lady Diana.
In The Duchess, Penny Junor tells us that their friendship was rekindled some five years into Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles’ marriage when it was already irreparably damaged. Camilla was stressed because of her husband who continued to carry on with other women even after their marriage. Penny Juror says that Lady Diana manipulated the press to paint Camilla as a home-wrecking adulterer. Diana squarely blamed Camilla for the failure of her marriage to Charles and for fifteen years of unhappiness. She claimed her husband had been obsessed by Camilla, that he had slept with her night before their wedding, that they’d connived together to continue their affair behind her back.
Yet whatever she might have said – and believed – Diana’s claims were false. Penny Junor says that Camilla was not the sole reason why the royal marriage fell apart, Charles certainly did not sleep with Camilla the night before his marriage to Lady Diana. There were many other factors that explain what went wrong. Penny Junor says that there is no denying that the Prince did always love Camilla – in the way that we all carry a touch for our first love. When the marriage had irretrievably broken down, he did turn to her for solace. By this time, Lady Diana had lovers of her own, but she was still obsessed over his reunion with Camilla.
A heavy price was paid for her happiness with Charles and even now it is compromised by forces beyond their control. Like all stories, over the years the facts have been distorted – either by prejudice or ignorance – and Penny Junor thinks should be retold. When history comes to judge her, Penny believes that Camilla will not be seen as the woman who nearly brought down the House of Windsor. Camilla will be recognized as the woman who shored it up.
Will Camilla be ever known as the Queen? The husbands of Queens have never been known as Kings. Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, was Prince Consort and the present Queen’s husband was given the title Duke of Edinburgh – and neither was in any way diminished by it. Penny Junor writes, “I have little doubt that Charles is so proud of Camilla and so grateful for everything she has done for him and sacrificed for him, that he will insist she gets the full title. It is something she wants – she has said as much. By whatever title she is known, Camilla will no doubt carry on doing her best. She will be the strength behind the Crown and do her husband proud. History will be a kinder judge of their story than their contemporaries have been.
The Duchess is perhaps the first authentic and intimate biography of Camilla Parker Bowles who is known as “the other woman” to many Americans and whom Lady Diana blamed for the failure of her marriage to Charles and for fifteen years of unhappiness. Journalist and author Penny Junor shows that Camilla is hugely misunderstood and wrongly maligned by the British people and media. In The Duchess, Penny Junor offers a balanced and truer portrait of the woman who is likely to become the Queen of the United Kingdom one day. The Duchess is a well-researched and brilliantly-written biography that brings Camilla to life for the readers.