First she was the royal mistress, reviled by much of Britain for her role as spoiler in the doomed marriage of Charles and his first wife, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. (“There were three of us in this marriage,” Diana declared in 1995, “so it was a bit crowded.”)
Then she was a royal bride, finally married to Charles in a pared-down (at least as far as royal ceremonies go) wedding, in 2005. As a culmination of a decades-long relationship between two middle-aged people who genuinely loved each other despite many obstacles (such as other spouses), their marriage represented the triumph of experience over hope.
And now she is Queen Camilla, her previous title of Queen Consort having apparently been jettisoned nearly overnight. Today’s coronation represents not just the moment that Charles has finally ascended to the role he has been waiting for his whole life, but also the final act in the long rehabilitation of the former Camilla Parker Bowles.
It was interesting to see her body language during the long coronation ceremony. While Charles seemed weighed down by responsibility (and, it must be said, by the heaviness of the crown and the robes and all the things he had to carry), Camilla seemed to get lighter, even buoyant as she herself was crowned, anointed (but in view of the public, not behind a screen like her husband) and given a ring.
She looked at ease and happy on her throne, happy to bask in her husband’s reflected glory. As the two stood on a Buckingham Palace balcony during the traditional and highly symbolic greeting of the public after the coronation ceremony, Charles seemed to visibly relax, actually making small talk with his wife as the family gathered around him.
Alert viewers will have noticed that two ladies, both wearing long white gowns, were near Queen Camilla for most of the coronation ceremony, like bridesmaids at a wedding, and then again on the balcony, corralling several children into place. They were her sister, Annabel Elliot, and a longtime friend, Lady Landsdowne. In a nod to the “slimmed-down” nature of this coronation, they’re not called ladies-in-waiting, but ladies in attendance — another example of how this ceremony has been updated, but only sort of.