It was a move so beautifully representative of the Queen‘s selflessness and desire for a lack of fuss.
On the day she marks an unprecedented 70 years on the throne, we’re not talking about Her Majesty’s historic achievement that will likely never be repeated.
Instead, the Queen has diverted focus to a future, much shorter reign of her son Prince Charles, with an unexpected late-night proclamation that she expects Camilla to become Queen Consort upon her death.
In a letter which she poignantly signed ‘Your Servant’, the Queen wrote: ‘When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me. And it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.’
The move, which simply confirms legal precedent, is highly controversial nonetheless.
The Queen has diverted focus to a future, much shorter reign of her son Prince Charles, with an unexpected late-night proclamation that she expects Camilla to become Queen Consort upon her death
Camilla will be Queen Consort on merit because she has been dutiful for many years. Prince Harry and Meghan are not considered working royals because they refused to be dutiful
When a deeply sceptical British public was first asked to accept Camilla as Charles’ wife and a formal part of the Royal Family – not his adulterous bit on the side who Princess Diana referred to as The Rottweiler – we did so with an official assurance that she would be known as Princess Consort when her husband eventually took the throne.
And while I have accepted that Camilla has become a devoted servant to her husband, the nation and the Commonwealth, I admit today that I will still struggle to accept Queen Camilla.
After the Princess of Wales’ devastating death, millions of her adoring subjects across the world – of which I was one – pledged to keep her memory alive, in the face of a Royal Family that has been, perhaps understandably given their treatment of her, determined to erase Lady Di from history.
While I acknowledge the Queen’s wishes and believe her feelings should be respected, I cannot stop thinking today about the pain and anguish such a move would have brought to Diana.
The very thought of a Queen Camilla horrified her and, when accepting the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla, we were promised this would never happen.
I watched a Guardian political correspondent on the BBC this morning dismiss Camilla becoming Queen Consort as ‘so uncontroversial’.
Well, I beg to differ.
For some time, I have been acutely aware of the disconnect between the establishment and media elite, which has long accepted Camilla, and a significant section of ordinary Brits who still can’t bring themselves to forget the pain the Duchess of Cornwall wrought on a young Diana, who discovered her husband could never give up on his love for his married mistress.
The opinion polls have long backed up that position, with Camilla’s approval ratings remaining stubbornly low.
YouGov’s most recent polling for the fourth quarter of 2021 show her liked by just 34 per cent of Brits and disliked by 28 per cent. Another third of the public have a neutral view.
By comparison, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate is liked by 65 per cent of Brits and disliked by just 11 per cent.
The only senior royals with lower popularity ratings than Camilla are Prince Andrew, Meghan, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
I ran a completely non-scientific poll on my Twitter page last night just after the Queen made her history making statement, which suggests a divide remains. Of the more than 17,000 votes, 57 per cent of my followers said Camilla should become Queen Consort, while 43 per cent still think she should not.
Prince Charles has been lobbying for many years for the decision for Camilla to become Queen Consort to be formalised and will be delighted that the Queen agreed to make the statement on such a significant day of her reign.
While I have accepted that Camilla has become a devoted servant to her husband, the nation and the Commonwealth, I admit today that I will still struggle to accept Queen Camilla
The Queen pictured at Sandringham House to mark the start of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee Year
Harry (pictured with Meghan Markle in 2018) will likely feel personally betrayed and livid by the decision, given his entire mission now seems to be to destabilise and potentially even bring down the monarchy
I accept many will view my loyalty to Diana’s memory as somewhat irrational.
And I concede public opinion has softened since the day in February 2005 when Prince Charles announced his engagement to Camilla.
Back then, one woman protesting outside Clarence House raged to royal author Penny Junor: ‘If Charles is going to marry that woman, he should never be King.’ An email to BBC Breakfast, which producers decided couldn’t be broadcast on air, read: ‘The adulterer should not be allowed to marry his whore.’
While such reactions may seem extreme now, anyone who has read Diana’s own words to Andrew Morton about Camilla knows what a corrosive impact the affair had on her mental health.
As Diana once famously pleaded with Camilla: ‘I want my husband.’ Who could argue with such a simple request?
The Queen herself long held the same view of Camilla, with renowned journalist Tom Bower reporting she once referred to her as ‘that wicked woman’ and vowed she wanted ‘nothing to do with her’. She wouldn’t even be in the same room as Camilla until June 2000.
Of course, I accept there is another side to this debate.
In a letter which she poignantly signed ‘Your Servant’ the Queen wrote ‘when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service’
The former Tory MP Louise Mensch tweeted me to point out that Diana also committed adultery, including a rumoured affair with England rugby legend Will Carling.
She wrote: ‘I knew Julia Carling who was pretty horrified when Princess Diana had an affair with HER husband, so let’s stop rewriting the past and admit we’re all human, royals included.
‘There is no difference between the behaviour of Charles, of Camilla, and of Diana… so how about we all just grow up, and recognise that the king’s wife is the queen, full stop. Well done to Her Majesty for ensuring a smooth transition.’
She has a point there. But the treatment of Diana by Charles and Camilla was egregious because of her age and naivety. By the time Diana strayed, her marriage was long over; Charles and Camilla had trampled on her young heart many times over.
Regardless, this decision is now locked in – the Queen’s endorsement will not be challenged and the passing of time has certainly dulled public fury.
But it’s critical that Charles and Camilla do what they can to win over the sceptics among us, who I would argue make up about a third of the population.
The most obvious way to do this would be a public acknowledgement of Diana by both Charles and Camilla, especially given her importance to William, the second in line to the throne.
Camilla could agree to highlight and elevate the work of the Diana Memorial Awards, for example, first established in 1999.
That would go some way to assuage fears Diana’s legacy will not be extinguished.
The other intriguing factor behind the Queen’s announcement is it shows the true extent of her modernisation during seven decades on the throne.
The woman who denied her own sister marital happiness, is now saying that being royal isn’t simply about bloodlines or custom, it’s about conduct and commitment.
Camilla will be Queen Consort on merit because she has been dutiful for many years. Prince Harry and Meghan are not considered working royals because they refused to be dutiful.
And have no doubt that the scheming Sussexes in Montecito are a big factor behind the Queen’s timing.
As I have previously revealed for MailOnline, royal courtiers – especially those close to Prince Charles – are gripped with fear about the publication of Harry’s tell-all autobiography, which they expect to be particularly brutal towards Camilla.
By making this announcement now, it will make it easier for the Cornwalls to weather the likely storm heading in their direction by providing rock-solid security about Camilla’s future role.
Harry will likely feel personally betrayed and livid by the decision, given his entire mission now seems to be to destabilise and potentially even bring down the monarchy.
William, by contrast, who understandably has all his own complicated and deeply personal issues with Camilla, now accepts the happiness and stability of his father must be put first given the weight of the role he will likely take on one day as an old man.
So I will try to accept the Queen’s desire and shake the uneasiness that I feel deep within me about this decision.
But Charles must do all he can to honour the memory of Diana whose unique place in royal history as the ultimate moderniser should never be forgotten, even when we’re referring to the woman formerly known as The Rottweiler as Queen Camilla.