The Duchess of Cornwall - Biography
Prince Charles always made it clear that his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles was "non-negotiable". And, despite the controversy it provoked, he remained true to his word, championing the divorced mother-of-two and gradually making her role in his life increasingly prominent.
Born Camilla Shand in London on July 17, 1947, Camilla was educated in London and "finished off" in Switzerland and France. The granddaughter of Lord Ashcombe, she grew up on a country estate in Sussex, spending much of her free time hunting.
Self-confident Milla, as she was known, met the shy, 25-year-old Prince Charles at Windsor Great Park in the early Seventies. Friendship grew into romance, with Camilla often spending time in the Prince's apartments in Buckingham Palace. Believing Charles would never propose, Camilla married Army officer Andrew Parker Bowles shortly after the heir to the throne was sent abroad on a naval mission. Camilla and Andrew had two children, Tom, born in 1975, and Laura, born four years later.
But her friendship with the Prince endured, and Camilla became a constant in his life even after his 1981 wedding to Lady Diana Spencer. The fairytale marriage was not without its difficulties, however, and Charles and Diana announced their separation in December 1992. Camilla, still a trusted member of the Prince's inner circle, immediately offered Charles her support and comfort.
The down-to-earth, outdoorsy woman came under the public spotlight after Charles confirmed he had commited adultery with Camilla while still married to Diana. As controversy raged around her, Camilla chose to remain silent.
Her marriage to Andrew ended in divorce in January 1995, and the former Cavalry officer went on to marry Virginia Pitman just a year later.
After Diana's tragic death in August 1997, Camilla retreated from the public eye. It appears to have been Charles' son Prince William who extended the olive branch to his father's companion by inviting her to tea. At the request of the young Prince and his brother Harry, Mrs Parker Bowles also accompanied Charles and his sons on a Mediterranean cruise in August 1999.
The couple began to undertake public engagements together, and were often snapped in each other's company on social occasions. With speculation over Camilla's role in the life of Britain's future sovereign mounting, on February 10, 2005, Clarence House announced Charles and Camilla were to wed at Windsor Castle on April 8.
Though naysayers began to brand the wedding as "jinxed" after a number of obstacles arose - including a switch of venue to the more humble Windsor Guildhall, and a one-day postponement when the original date conflicted with Pope John Paul II's funeral - the April 9 nuptials went without a hitch.
After tying the knot with Charles in a brief civil ceremony witnessed by just 30 guests, Camilla, in a long porcelain blue gown, walked down the aisle alongside her Prince for a prayer service at St George's Chapel attended by 700. The blessing was followed by a lavish Windsor Castle reception, before the longtime couple set off for their honeymoon in Scotland.