As Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla assists the Prince of Wales on his official duties. She is also the patron, president and a member of numerous charities and organisations. Since 1994, she has taken action on osteoporosis, earning honours and awards. She has also raised awareness in areas including rape and sexual abuse, literacy and poverty, for which she has latterly been praised.
In the late 1960s, Camilla met Andrew Parker Bowles—then a Guards officer and lieutenant in the Blues and Royals— through his younger brother, Simon Parker Bowles, who worked for her father’s wine firm in Mayfair. The couple courted on and off for some years but broke up again in 1970, when Andrew Parker Bowles began dating Princess Anne; however, Andrew and Camilla later reconciled and announced their engagement in The Times in 1973, marrying on 4 July that year in a Roman Catholic ceremony at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks in London. Camilla was 26 years old and Parker Bowles 33. Her wedding dress was designed by British fashion house Bellville Sassoon, and the bridesmaids included Parker Bowles’ goddaughter Lady Emma Herbert. It was considered the “society wedding of the year” with eight hundred guests in attendance. Royal guests present at the ceremony and reception included Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.
The couple made their home in Wiltshire, purchasing Bolehyde Manor in Allington and later Middlewick House in Corsham. They had two children: Tom (born 1974), who is a godson of Prince Charles, and Laura (born 1978). Both children were raised in their father’s Roman Catholic faith, particularly during the lifetime of their paternal grandmother. Tom did not attend Ampleforth as had his father, but Eton, and was married outside the Catholic Church. Laura attended a Catholic girls’ school but married in an Anglican church. Tom, like his father, is in remainder to the Earldom of Macclesfield. During their marriage, Parker Bowles, as an officer in the British army, travelled extensively and was posted to several countries, while Camilla stayed in the UK with their children.
In January 1995, after 21 years of marriage, Camilla and her husband decided to divorce. The previous year her mother, Rosalind, had died from osteoporosis, and her father later described this as a “difficult time for her”. A joint statement was released by their lawyers on 11 January 1995, stating their divorce was amicable and claiming it was due to different interests, which eventually led to separate lives. The divorce was finalised in March 1995.
Camilla and Prince Charles reportedly met in mid-1971. Though they both belonged to the same social circle and occasionally attended the same events, they had not formally met. Gyles Brandreth has written that the couple did not meet at a polo match, as has been commonly believed. Instead, they were formally introduced to each other at an event by a mutual friend, Lucia Santa Cruz. They became close friends and eventually began seeing one another, which was well known within their social circle. When they became a couple, they regularly met at polo matches at Smith’s Lawn in Windsor Great Park, where Charles often played polo. They also became part of a set at Annabel’s in Berkeley Square. As the relationship grew more serious, Charles met Camilla’s family in Plumpton and he introduced her to some members of his family. The relationship was put on hold after Charles travelled overseas to join the Royal Navy in early 1973; however, it ended abruptly afterwards.