“I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much,” Charles said of his wife in a public address delivered shortly after he became king.
In practical terms, the role of queen consort involves accompanying the monarch to official engagements, at which she is addressed as “Her Royal Highness.”
The queen consort also serves as a counselor of state, along with the next four royals who are in the line of succession: Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice. The role allows her to temporarily carry out some duties on behalf of Charles if he is ill or traveling abroad. Those responsibilities can include “attending Privy Council meetings, signing routine documents and receiving the credentials of new ambassadors to the United Kingdom,” according to the royal family’s official website.
The title of queen consort is typically given to the wife of a monarch. Queen Elizabeth’s mother, a beloved fixture of the royal family famously known as the Queen Mother, held the title during the reign of her husband, King George VI.
For Camilla, 75, the road to becoming queen consort was neither smooth — nor direct.
In the early years of Charles and Camilla’s marriage, it had been thought that Camilla would become princess consort upon the death of Queen Elizabeth. That changed in February, when Queen Elizabeth issued a statement noting it was her “most sincere wish that, when the time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort.”
The statement put to rest years of speculation and debate about Camilla’s future. Her complicated history with Charles has been portrayed in pop culture with varying degrees of accuracy, including in the popular Netflix series “The Crown.”
“There are some people who are going to consider Camilla the ‘other woman’ forever,” said Cele Otnes, emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture .”
While he was still married to Princess Diana, Charles publicly admitted to carrying on a long time affair with Camilla, who was married to her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, during their extramarital relationship. The admission set into motion a series of scathing articles about Charles and Camilla and prompted Diana to famously say in a television interview, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Charles and Diana ultimately divorced in 1996. Charles and Camilla wed in 2005, nearly eight years after Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris.
Years of a carefully choreographed image overhaul followed for Camilla, who has two children from her previous marriage, Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Lopes.
“She’s done a very good job of just keeping her head down and doing good things,” said David Haigh, chairman and CEO of the London-based consulting firm Brand Finance. “I think she’s done her penance over the last 25 years. That’s why the queen rewarded her for her loyalty.”
In recent years, Camilla has put her energy into a number of philanthropic causes, including raising awareness about osteoporosis and domestic violence. She’s also been lauded by many for her unassuming ways.
“I expect Camilla will be keeping two steps behind Charles, keeping her head down,” Haigh said, noting Camilla has always been known for her no-nonsense demeanor.
But some brand experts worry Camilla may be too low-key and too distanced from the public.
“With Diana, she would cry in an interview, she wore super stylish clothes, she was very real about what she was going through,” said Mae Karwowski, CEO of Obviously, a New York-based influencer marketing agency. “Diana just embraced the public rather than hiding behind the gates of the castle.”
Ultimately, it will be up to the British people to determine just how readily Camilla is accepted and embraced in her new role as the queen consort.
Opinions of Camilla were split among Britons who lined up to watch the queen’s coffin make the journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on Wednesday.
“I think Camilla’s been very dignified, very much in the background,” Fiona Dodd of Dorset said. “She’s really good for Charles. They obviously adore each other.”
Some Britons wonder what might have been.
“There are times you wonder what would have happened, had things turned out differently,” Laura Musco from Hampshire said. “Diana would have had the people’s support the way the late queen had. She would have been very much liked and embraced by the British public. If history was different, we would have a Queen Diana right now.”
Richard Morris of Buckinghamshire said he felt indifferent about Camilla. “I’m just glad that Charles has someone supporting him,” he said. “But she will be queen consort—not the queen. For most of us, there’s only one queen, and that’s the one who’s just died.”