As queen consort, Camilla steps into role as matriarch of royal family

(LONDON) — As Britain’s royal family gathered on Remembrance Sunday to honor members of the U.K. and Commonwealth who died in war, for the first time at the event, a wreath was laid on behalf of Camilla, the queen consort.

The wreath, laid at the Cenotaph war memorial in London, featured Camilla’s racing colors and her new cypher, which is her monogram below a symbol of the crown.

Camilla’s monogram is now CR, which incorporates her initial, “C,” and “R” for Regina, which is Latin for queen.

Camilla, who became queen consort after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September, watched the Remembrance Sunday service from the balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, alongside her daughter-in-law Kate, the princess of Wales.

With the death of the queen, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Camilla and Kate are now the two highest-ranking and most high-profile women in the royal family.

It is Camilla who will be crowned next May at the coronation ceremony of her husband, King Charles III.

The stature of Camilla today within both the royal family and public opinion is a far cry from her low popularity more than 20 years ago when she and Charles first began dating publicly.

Much of the public attention on Camilla, a mom of two with ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles, was as the other woman in the failed marriage between Charles and the late Princess Diana. That tangled relationship is the subject of the new season of Netflix’s The Crown, a fictionalized drama focused on Britain’s royal family.

When Charles and Camilla finally married in 2005, there was debate as to what title Camilla would take when Charles became king, including concern that the public might resent Camilla being known as Queen Camilla.

At the time of their wedding, a spokesperson for the couple suggested she would take the title princess consort.

It was not until Elizabeth gave her blessing earlier this year that it was confirmed Camilla would be known as queen consort, the title given to the spouse of a king. Under U.K. law, whoever is married to a king would immediately become queen consort and be known as queen.

Victoria Murphy, an ABC News royal contributor, said that while Camilla’s popularity is not as high as Kate and her husband Prince William, she is now “very much publicly accepted” as a senior member of the royal family.

“When it came to turning around her public image, an aide once told me that she took the view that she just wanted to go out and meet people and let them decide for themselves about her,” said Murphy. “There was a concerted PR effort to get the public to warm to her after years of seeing her as Diana’s enemy, but I don’t think it would have worked if she hadn’t also turned perceptions around by herself through the way she behaved.”

Murphy said of her own observations of Camilla, “She is also very friendly and polite to journalists, often stopping to chat with people covering her engagements, despite the fact that she has been intensely scrutinized and criticized in the media.”

Though she had some guidance from the late queen, it is Charles whom Camilla has leaned on the most to learn the ins and outs of royal life, according to Murphy.

“She grew up in a wealthy family so was familiar with the activities and social circles of the royals, but royal work was still new to her when she married,” said Murphy. “She had not had a career and like many women of her generation had grown up expecting to focus on her family.”

Murphy said Camilla at first did what was expected of her in the royal role to support her husband, but has since forged her own path, saying, “She has become more and more personally invested in her own causes and the impact she can have.”

The causes Camilla has focused her work on include literacy, osteoporosis and domestic violence.

Murphy said she expects Camilla to continue to focus on those issues as queen consort, in addition to supporting Charles in his role as monarch.

“I expect there will be a focus on key royal events alongside the king as far as her diary goes, but she will still keep up many of her charity visits, both publicly and privately,” said Murphy. “We have already seen things like her Reading Room initiative continue under a new name, and I think she will be keen to continue working to advance the causes she has become passionate about.”

Camilla is also expected to maintain some of her independence, as she has throughout her marriage to Charles, according to Murphy.

Camilla was in her late 50s when she married Charles, and was already the mother of two grown children. She is now a grandmother of five, and a step-grandmother to five more, the children of William and Kate and Prince Harry and Meghan, the duchess of Sussex.

“She retained her own home in Wiltshire when she married Charles in 2005,” said Murphy. “This is where she often spends weekends and sees her grandchildren and I would expect this to continue as they are a couple who do like to occasionally have time apart as well as together.”

The role of family matriarch

What role Camilla will play as the new matriarch on Charles’ side of the family remains less certain, according to Murphy, who said Camilla grew close to the late queen over the years, but is less close with Charles’ three siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew.

“I think Camilla gets along with but is not particularly close to her husband’s siblings,” said Murphy. “Camilla has her own circle of friends and family, such as her sister Annabel Elliot, who are her main confidantes, and I think most important to Camilla is her relationship with her husband.”

Murphy continued, “They are quite different but they have always worked as a team and she has always resolved first and foremost to support him. He can be quite serious and I think she brings a lightness and sense of fun, which is reflected in many of the images that you see of them laughing together.”

In recent years, Charles and Camilla have presented themselves as a united front with William, the heir to the throne, and Kate, with whom Camilla has a warm relationship, according to Murphy.

“Before Kate married William she took advice from Camilla and their relationship has remained on good terms,” she said. “Camilla recently invited Kate to photograph her for Country Life Magazine which I think shows a lot of trust and fondness for her.”

Murphy added of Kate and Camilla’s common goals, “Ultimately, I think both women are first and foremost loyal to, and work in a team with, their husbands.”

Though Charles’ youngest son Harry is now less in the picture after having stepped down from his senior royal role in 2020, both he and William have spoken warmly of Camilla in the past, Murphy said.

“I think that it’s always hard to get a handle on exactly what things are like behind closed doors, but we have certainly heard William and Harry speak warmly of Camilla in the past and frequently seen them greet her warmly publicly,” she said. “Obviously things have changed in the past few years when it comes to Harry’s relationship with other members of the royal family, and I believe it’s fair to say that his relationship with Camilla has followed that trend.”

Elizabeth was known as the great uniter in her family, the one about whom no one had a bad word to say, according to Murphy.

In past years, royal family members would devotedly travel to Sandringham each year to celebrate Christmas together at the queen’s beloved estate.

Murphy said she expects the family to follow tradition this Christmas, their first without the queen, but then new traditions may take shape.

“I still think that family gatherings will be important in the reign of King Charles, but over time it’s possible that we may see the focus shift in terms of who attends,” said Murphy. “Will William’s cousins spend every Christmas with their uncle in the way they did with their grandmother, for example? It’s also possible that Camilla’s children and grandchildren will become part of the Sandringham royal Christmas if she and Charles are hosting.”

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