Erin Schaff/The New York Times

February 9, 2022

“Queen” Camilla – Duchess of Controversy

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On Feb. 6, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II officially became the first English monarch to celebrate her platinum jubilee. This day marked 70 years since her accession to the throne in 1952, following the death of her father King George VI. The royal family will hold an official four day celebration from June 2 to 5. Within her Accession Day Message, the Queen looks ahead to Prince Charles assuming the throne; “it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.” This message came as a shock to many, as Duchess Camilla was originally intended to be named Princess Consort out of respect for her husband’s first wife, Princess Diana. 

Charles and Diana’s relationship was tumultuous, to say the least, and constantly in the public eye. The affair between Charles and then Camilla Parker-Bowles was at the very core of his and Diana’s marital issues; further, the news of Charles’ infidelity broke while the couple was still married. Camilla was subjected to intense public scrutiny due to Diana’s popularity as the “People’s Princess.” 

From 1992 to 1995, multiple scandals leaked to the British tabloids, where the papers would relentlessly “on-air” out Charles and Diana’s dirty laundry. Finally, in 1995, a secret interview with Princess Diana was broadcast without the knowledge of the royal family. She claimed that Camilla was a significant factor in the destruction of her royal fairytale.

In a now-iconic interview, Diana disclosed, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” 

Diana’s interview was the last straw. Within the same year, Charles asked for a divorce with the blessing of the Queen herself. The divorce was finalized in 1996 and followed by Diana’s premature death in a tragic Paris car accident soon after in 1997. Diana’s death only served to immortalize her place in the hearts of her supporters. It wasn’t until a decade later that the royal family allowed Charles to remarry because public opposition to Camilla was so strong. 

Once married, the new royal adopted the title of Duchess of Cornwall rather than Princess of Wales after her husband, the Prince of Wales. Camilla took this alternate title to avoid continued comparison with Diana, who is still commonly referred to as the Princess of Wales. 

Public reverence toward the late Diana continued, as many predicted that Camilla would take on the title of Princess Consort — instead of Queen Consort — when Charles took the throne. Now that the Queen has officially stated that Camilla will assume what would have been Diana’s title, how will the monarchy deal with the associated backlash?

In recent years, interest in the English monarchy has seen a sort of renaissance. With Netflix originals such as The Crown and The Windsors, public discourse surrounding the family has returned, and old wounds have been reopened. Most notably, with the 2020 release of season four of The Crown, the internet erupted with a renewed hatred for the affair between Prince Charles and Camilla. With this rise in royal content, a new generation has taken to social media in the same way the tabloids once printed their responses to the scandal. 

Will the already antiquated monarchy be able to survive when its two most hated members ascend to center-stage? Perhaps this hostility towards Charles and Camilla will be just what the royal family needs.

In the modern era, the monarchy’s primary concern is their perceived usefulness in light of their figurehead status. With a reinvigorated contempt for the royal affair, the Windsors have seen an increase in their social relevance, especially within younger audiences. While their position is not exactly enviable, Charles and Camilla may reach a point in which their people love to hate them.

Cultural capital, in terms of the media, has no preference for positive or negative connotation. In other words, “there is no such thing as bad press.” Much like the Kardashians, public opinion surrounding this couple has traditionally focused on their perceived promiscuity and has been tainted with an air of disapproval. Yet, while resented, both the royals and the Kardashians have become cultural phenomena, regardless of whether people like them. Their success comes from the public’s fixation on their humanity and faults — which is why Keeping Up with Kardashians continues to stay relevant, and it may be why the Queen has made such a controversial announcement.

So, will the decision to name Camilla as Queen Consort give the monarchy a few more moments in the sun, or will it finally set on the British Empire?

Ashley Koca is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].