I first met Camilla Parker Bowles about 20 years ago. At that time, Prince Charles had been married to Princess Diana for several years.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Camilla was a guest at a small private party in the house where I was staying in the Cotswolds, directly across from Highgrove, the Prince of Wales’ beautiful country house. Then, even though it was not exactly common knowledge, it was certainly known by the British cognoscenti and in royal circles that Camilla was the prince’s mistress. No sooner had she walked in the door than the polite whispering began. Several friends couldn’t wait to tell me that this luminous lady, despite his marriage, was the love of his life and that they were very much together, Princess Diana or not.
After that, you can imagine how I looked her over. There were those who thought she couldn’t hold a candle to the young and beautiful Diana. But there were others, especially me, who thought her fascinating, charming and certainly sexually appealing, cool and confident. No affectation there. I liked her at once.
Later when I mentioned this to Drue Heinz, the Heinz heiress who knows everyone who is anyone in England, she agreed. “That sex appeal seems to run in the family,” she said. “Her brother, Mark Shand, has it.” And, of course, the intriguing history of her great-grandmother, Lady Keppel, is known as one of England’s great royal scandals. Alice Keppel was Edward VII’s mistress, one in a long line and one he apparently loved the most. King Edward was also Charles’ great-great-grandfather.
With the Charles-Diana marriage in chaos, I thought even then that Camilla would somehow prevail and that Diana would never be a match for her. After Diana’s death, I had seen Camilla and Charles together on many different occasions. I believed one day she and Charles would marry and wrote that this was more or less predestined. When they are together, their love and devotion is so obvious. It’s just there. So April 8th will be a great day for both of them. May they live happily ever after.
Camilla has yet to decide what she will wear at her wedding at Windsor Castle. What she won’t do is wear a big dress. It’s a civil ceremony and she’s not a big-dress person anyhow. She is looking at suits and dresses in her favorite colors, blue and lavender, that will be suitable for both the ceremony and the prayer service and dedication that will follow in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. It will be presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and it’s expected that the Queen, Prince Phillip, Princess Anne, Princes Edward and Andrew and Charles’ sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, will all attend and that the prayer service will be followed by a lunch for both families.
Charles discussed the marriage with both his parents and his children last summer and they are all delighted that their love story will have a happy ending. Camilla will be given the title Her Royal Highness Duchess of Cornwall and when Charles accedes to the throne, his wife will be known as the Princess Consort, not Queen Camilla.
The Queen is said to be happy that their romance will finally be formalized. She knows full well that the couple shares her love of dogs, horses and country life.
What Her Majesty, who just celebrated the 53rd anniversary of her reign, is not happy about is that her accountants told her that she has lost $40 million in the last four years. Not to worry. She is still one of the richest women in the world and she still has her jewels, her palaces and the Duchy of Lancaster, whose profits are the basis for her private income, bringing in more than $100 million a year. The Prince of Wales’ finances are in marvelous shape, too, you’ll be thrilled to hear.
Audrey Tautou, as announced, has been chosen for the role of the brilliant cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, in the movie version of “The Da Vinci Code.” She’s French, you know, and she will star along with Tom Hanks, who will play professor Robert Langdon. Director Ron Howard will start shooting in Paris in the spring and move on to London and Scotland. How the chemistry works with Tom and Audrey should be as interesting as the sensational plot.
Drew Barrymore is following in the footsteps, if that’s the word, of Julia Roberts, Helena Bonham-Carter, Elizabeth Jagger, Emma Thompson and Miranda Richardson by deciding to let her underarms go au naturel. She let everyone see the results this week at the Marc Jacobs show when she raised her arm in her sleeveless outfit. This may have something to do with the cooling off period she is currently going through with her beau, Fabrizio Moretti. Maybe she’s just letting it rest for a while.
Two of Hollywood’s most glamorous couples — the beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas and Richard Gere and his lovely wife, Carey Lowell — were the stars of the evening at the Red Ball at The Pierre. This is the party founded by Marty Richards in honor of his late wife, Mary Lea Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heiress, to benefit The Children’s Advocacy Center and The Mary Lea Johnson Richards Institute at NYU Medical Center. Elaine Johnson Wold, Mary Lea’s sister, was the honorary co-chairman along with Zeta-Jones. Christine Baranski, the mistress of ceremonies, looked sensational in a red satin va-va-voom gown. “Les Cagelles” from the Broadway hit “La Cage aux Folles” performed riotously. They had better. After all, Marty is the producer.