Winning hearts and minds: On the road with Camilla

Thumb_tim-ewart
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall Photo: Anwar Hussein/Anwar Hussein/EMPICS Entertainment

I got a few angry responses when I claimed in my report from Paris that the Duchess of Cornwall is increasingly high profile and increasingly popular in Britain. One Twitter follower hoped the French would give her an appointment with "Madame Guillotine."

Camilla will never achieve, nor would she dream of aspiring to the level of popularity enjoyed by Diana Princess of Wales.

I have met enough Diana devotees in my travels with the royals to understand just how passionate many people remain about her. And just how unforgiving too of the woman who has taken her place beside the Prince of Wales.

But at the risk of offending them, and of attracting more Madame Guillotine reactions, I'm going to say that it's hard not to like someone as outgoing and as humorous as the Duchess of Cornwall.

Read more: Camilla speaks 'rusty' French on her first solo engagement overseas

The reaction of the royals to those of us in the media can sometimes be decidedly frosty. Prince Harry's recent attacks on the press in the interviews he gave in Afghanistan were evidence of that.

A shout of "good morning" from the press pen is often met with little more than a curt nod from a passing royal, if that.

The Duchess of Cornwall arriving at Gare Du Nord station in Paris
The Duchess of Cornwall arriving at Gare Du Nord station in Paris Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

But at St Pancras Station, departure point for Camilla's trip to Paris, she headed straight for the little huddle of cameras and reporters and stopped to chat. Yes, it was her first official solo visit abroad, she said, and probably her last. She hadn't spoken French for 50 years and was dreading it.

On Eurostar we all shared a compartment and she again wandered over for a natter. We jumped to our feet and deferred to her as "Ma'am," of course. But what was this? A royal having a laugh with the enemy? That's not in the brochure.

The Duchess of Cornwall's journey to acceptance has not been an easy one. Many people remain sceptical, even hostile. But if you took a straw poll among the hacks in that press pen, my bet is she'd get a pretty resounding thumbs up.