The British Royal Family seem to have been at the center of speculation since practically the dawn of the tabloids. But whereas usually it’s the Queen’s children and grandchildren creating the headlines, this time round it’s Her Majesty Elizabeth II herself to the fore. Here’s how a new book suggests that the longest reigning of today’s monarchs can throw shade with the best of them.
The Queen was born in London in 1926 to the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. After later marrying the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, in 1947, she produced Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Anne, Princess Royal. She then ascended to the throne in the wake of her father’s death in 1952 and was officially crowned a year later.
The Queen gave birth to two more children in the 1960s: Andrew, Duke of York, and Edward, Earl of Wessex. And she’s since celebrated her Silver, Golden and Diamond jubilees in what has been Britain’s longest reign. The U.K.’s devolution, Africa’s decolonization and Canadian patriation are just some of the significant constitutional changes that she’s witnessed during her time on the throne.
Of course, the Queen’s reign hasn’t been all smooth sailing. In 1992 she suffered an annus horribilis when Windsor Castle was severely damaged in a blaze, she was pelted with eggs during a Germany state visit and Prince Andrew and Princess Anne either separated or divorced from their respective spouses. But it’s her eldest son and heir to the throne who’s arguably been at the center of the most drama.
Indeed, thanks to his turbulent relationship with Princess Diana, Prince Charles became a regular tabloid fixture. The pair walked down the aisle in 1981 before welcoming sons William and Harry into the world. But their marriage fell apart thanks to various high-profile affairs, and they divorced in 1996. Princess Diana lost her life in a car accident in Paris just a year later.
Following the tragedy in the French capital, Camilla Parker Bowles seemed to become public enemy number one. The former secretary had first entered into a relationship with Prince Charles in the early 1970s. But after the pair’s split, she promptly married Andrew Parker Bowles, a British Army officer with whom she later had two children: Tom and Laura.
However, Charles and Camilla stayed friends. And then in 1980 rumors began to surface that the pair had become lovers once more – apparently with Andrew Parker Bowles’ blessing. Their affair was then exposed to the public in 1992 when the book Diana: Her True Story hit the shelves. Plus, a year later, a transcript of a private phone conversation between Charles and Camilla appeared in the tabloids.
Prince Charles discussed his relationship with Camilla for the first time in a 1994 TV interview, describing her as “a great friend.” Later that same year, he also revealed in his biography that they had reconnected after his relationship with Princess Diana had “irretrievably broken down” way back in 1986. Mere months after this revelation, Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles officially divorced.
Aware that his and Camilla’s individual reputations were in tatters, Charles hired PR maestro Mark Bolland to help get the British people back on their side. The couple then made their public debut together at a 1999 birthday party, and come 2004 Camilla was accompanying Charles in the vast majority of his official duties. So, by the time the pair revealed their engagement in 2005, most Brits appeared to have accepted their relationship.
The couple eventually made it down the aisle at Windsor Guildhall in April 2005. The Queen and Prince Philip were notably absent from the ceremony, mind you, although they were present at the service of blessing. Despite the controversy of a Royal Family member marrying a divorcee, the Queen had agreed to the wedding and later offered her congratulations in an official statement.
However, a brand-new book by Tom Bower suggests that the Queen felt very differently about Camilla behind the scenes. In fact, Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles sees the British writer describe the pair’s relationship as a “Cold War.” And one particular incident makes for very interesting reading.
In the summer of 1998, the Queen had, it’s said, been enjoying a few drinks at Balmoral Castle. And in a case of poor timing, Prince Charles reportedly decided that this was the exact moment to confront his mother about her antagonistic attitude towards Camilla. Unfortunately for the future king, though, the Queen was apparently having none of it.
According to Bower, the Queen told Charles that she wouldn’t sanction his adulterous behavior. It’s also reported that she chastised Camilla for failing to give Charles and Diana some space during their marriage difficulties. And to make matters worse, she then apparently referred to Camilla as “that wicked woman.”
It’s claimed that the Queen also added, “I want nothing to do with her,” allegedly leading Prince Charles to tears. And according to the book, this certainly wasn’t to be the last time that the Queen rebuked Camilla. In fact, we’re told that she also made her feelings abundantly clear at Charles and Camilla’s wedding.
In particular, the Queen is said to have ignored Camilla on purpose at the wedding reception and didn’t reference the bride’s name once during her speech. And yet this came at a time when the Queen’s attitude to the pair had reportedly softened. Bower claims that the Queen had decided to go a little easier on the couple after the 2002 death of the Queen Mother, who staunchly disapproved of their relationship.
And it seems that it wasn’t the first time the Queen had spurned her daughter-in-law. Reportedly, the monarch had refused to include Camilla at official functions and dinners in the lead-up to her wedding to Charles. It’s also claimed that the Queen punished Charles for his marriage breakdown by refusing to allow him to live in the Queen Mother’s Clarence House home.
According to Bower, “The Queen felt that [Charles] had to be reprimanded. And, in any case, the prospect of Charles entertaining Camilla in a palace shared with the 92-year-old Queen Mother was offensive to her. Instead, he was given St James’s Palace – a cold, comfortless dwelling.”
However, there are signs that the Queen has finally started to accept Charles and Camilla as a couple. In 2016 the monarch gave a place to the now Duchess of Cornwall on her “Privy Council” – an honor that places the duchess among her most favored advisers. It was the first time that a royal wife who doesn’t have a claim to the throne had found herself a member of the council.
That being said, the Queen reportedly made the move to ensure that Camilla could be beside Charles when he eventually becomes monarch. At any rate, though, in 2012 the Queen awarded Camilla the Grand Dame Cross of the Royal Victorian Order as a way of recognizing her contributions. And during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the British monarch also invited Camilla to appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony alongside Charles, William, Harry and Kate.
The idea that the Queen appears to be moving with the times is also confirmed by her grandson’s recent nuptials. You see, the fact that Prince Harry’s bride, Meghan Markle, was a divorcee sparked rumors that the Queen would be a no-show at the ceremony. But a statement from Buckingham Palace before the event revealed that she and, if well enough, Prince Philip would both be in attendance. And so it turned out.