When Prince Charles ascends the throne, he’ll have his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, by his side. Since tying the knot in 2005 (after they were permitted to marry by Queen Elizabeth), the royal couple has tackled their royal duties as a team.
Charles Anson, former press secretary to the Queen, praises Camilla in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, as someone who “kind of jollies” her husband and “doesn’t let him get too overburdened by the woes of the world.”
He explains, “She’s got a good philosophy about life: There are things you can change, other things you can’t change . . . Don’t get too hung up about it.”
“And I think she’ll be a great consort as queen,” Anson adds.
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Prince Charles first met Camilla in a meeting arranged by a mutual friend at a polo match in 1970, and their connection was instant.
“He loved the fact that she smiled with her eyes as well as her mouth, and laughed at the same silly things as he did. He also liked that she was so natural and easy and friendly, not in any way overawed by him, not fawning or sycophantic. In short, he was very taken with her, and after that first meeting he began ringing her up,” royal biographer Penny Junor wrote in her book, The Duchess: The Untold Story.
For more about the show and how women are shaping the House of Windsor, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands on Friday.
In 1971, Charles joined the Royal Navy, putting a strain on his relationship with Camilla. To make matters more complicated, she didn’t have what were then seen as prerequisites for marrying the Prince of Wales: An aristocratic bloodline and her virginity.
They eventually parted ways, and Camilla reconnected with Andrew Parker Bowles (a former boyfriend of Princess Anne), whom she first met in the late 1960s. They tied the knot on July 4, 1973, devastating the prince.
Camilla and Charles started up an affair in the late 1970s, but he called things off upon his engagement to Princess Diana.
Despite them both being married with children, the pair began seeing each other again in 1986.
At this point, Diana knew about the affair, and even claims to have approached Camilla herself.
“I was terrified of her. I said, ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that,'” Diana said on tapes recorded for Andrew Morton, her biographer. “She said to me: ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children, what more do you want?’ So I said, ‘I want my husband.’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry I’m in the way … and it must be hell for both of you. But I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.'”
Charles and Diana separated in 1992, and Camilla and Parker Bowles followed suit in 1995. That same year, Diana gave an explosive interview to BBC’s Panorama, in which she is candid about the affair, saying, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Charles and Diana’s divorce was finalized on August 28, 1996. She was killed in a Paris car crash one year later.
The former lovers got back together, slowly stepping out together and meeting Harry and William.
In 2005, Charles and Camilla announced their engagement and married in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall on April 9. Though Charles’ parents didn’t attend the ceremony, they did attend the subsequent blessing at St. George’s Chapel, and hosted a reception afterwards.
Anson is one of many sources who speak in depth about the Queen, her family, the past and future of the royal family in The Story of The Royals, a two-night television event presented by PEOPLE, airs August 22 and August 23 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EDT) on ABC.