Fittingly, it was at Windsor that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles first met. The polo match where they discovered their mutual attraction took place back in 1970. They became the closest of friends and their lives were to follow parallel, if separate, paths for many years. Camilla married one of Charles’ polo companions, Andrew Parker-Bowles, in 1973. It is rumoured that Camilla helped Charles choose Diana Spencer to be his royal bride.
Such a close bond was bound to have an impact on the marriage and in 1992 the British press revealed intimate details of a taped telephone conversation between the two. The revelations, dubbed Camillagate, saw Charles admit adultery, and Diana blame their split on her husband’s lover.
In a famous 1994 interview she was asked if she thought “Mrs Parker Bowles was a factor” in the breakdown of her marriage. Her reply said it all: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Camilla’s name and face became known to royal watchers around the world. She was bombarded with questions but kept a diplomatic silence – something she has continued to do.
It was not until 1999 at the Ritz Hotel in London that the couple appeared together in public, the date when Camilla officially met Charles’ sons William and Harry. But there was no real need for introductions. Their extended families are intertwined. Charles is godfather to Camilla’s son. Her ex-husband’s father was a close friend of the Queen Mother. And Camilla’s great grandmother was Charles’s great-great grandfather’s mistress. In 2004 Camilla’s name appeared in the Prince’s official accounts and the pair are said to live together at his official residence, Clarence House.