The Sussex girl who fell in love with the future king - Queen Camilla's journey to the throne

WATCH: Rachel Hepworth reports on the Queen Consort's links to the south, and her battle to win people over ahead of the next chapter in her life.

On Saturday, May 6th, the Queen Consort will be crowned alongside her husband at the Coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

It's been a long and often difficult journey for the King's wife.

In the mid 1990s as Mrs Parker-Bowles, she was largely vilified, and blamed for the failure of his marriage to Princess Diana.

But thirty years on she appears to have won many people over, and the girl from Sussex continues to celebrate her roots.

We've been looking through the archives at how the Queen Consort has become established in the heart and centre of the royal family.

Credit: PA

She was born on July 17 1947, the oldest child of Major Bruce Shand, a former vice lord lieutenant of East Sussex and master of the Southdown Hunt, and the Hon Rosalind Cubitt, daughter of Lord Ashcombe.

She grew up near Plumstead in rural Sussex with sister Annabel and brother Mark. She was devastated when her brother died after a fall in 2014.

But it was in Windsor in 1970 that she first met the 22 year old Prince Charles.

The couple met at a polo match in Windsor in 1970

It was the Guards Polo Club, and legend has it that she was the one to remind him of a long-standing liaison between her ancestor, Alice Keppel, and King Edward VII.

"My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather," she is believed to have said.

"I feel we have something in common. How about it?"

The Prince was smitten- but duty called and he was off to the Navy- a moment of indecision that both may have regretted.

Camilla with her then husband Andrew Parker-Bowles and children Tom and Laura in 1984 Credit: PA

Camilla subsequently married cavalry officer Andrew Parker-Bowles in 1973, and Charles married the former Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – but at some point in the 1980s it is thought their romance resumed.

Just WHEN their relationship was rekindled is open to debate, but their first public appearance together did not come until 1999, after their respective divorces and the death of Princess Diana.

Camilla and Charles in Marlborough in 2004 during one of their first official visits to the region

Camilla’s eventual emergence as Charles’ long-term partner was part of a carefully planned PR campaign masterminded by his doctor Mark Bolland.

Their first public appearance together was outside the Ritz hotel in London in 1999, dubbed Operation Ritz, where the mass of waiting photographers had been tipped off.

The Sussex girl who would be Queen

Facts about the Queen Consort

  • Camilla Rosemary Shand was born on July 17 1947, the oldest child of Major Bruce Shand, a former vice lord lieutenant of East Sussex and master of the Southdown Hunt, and the Hon Rosalind Cubitt, daughter of Lord Ashcombe.

  • She grew up in rural Sussex with sister Annabel and brother Mark. She was devastated when her brother died after a fall in 2014.

  • Charles is her son Tom’s godfather, as well as his stepfather.

  • Camilla dated Charles in the 1970s after they reportedly met on a polo field, but at the age of 26 she married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles in July 1973.

  • Charles was heartbroken and spilled out his feelings in a letter to his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, declaring: “I suppose the feeling of emptiness will pass eventually.”

  • After Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, separated, the princess went on Panorama in 1995 and proclaimed “there were three of us in this marriage”.

  • Charles and Camilla finally wed in April 2005 at the Guildhall in Windsor, with Camilla becoming the Duchess of Cornwall, HRH and a member of the royal family.

  • The Queen, as head of the Church of England, did not attend their civil ceremony but went to the blessing afterwards in St George’s Chapel.

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The culmination of their romance was marriage, and a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall on April 9, 2005, delayed because of the death of Pope John Paul II.

The couple's wedding day in Windsor Credit: PA

Her love of the outdoors, is shared with her husband, often reflected in the couple's visits to the region, including Exbury in Hampshire and the Duke of Wellington's Berkshire estate where she opened a farm shop.

She shared a passion for horses with the late Queen, and she was deeply saddened by the recent death of Paul O'Grady, who she worked closely with in support of Battersea Dogs Home.

Camilla with fellow dog-lover Paul O'Grady

She was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Southampton for her work supporting osteoporosis charities.

Both her mother and grandmother suffered from the disease.

Receiving her honorary degree in Southampton

The daughter of an officer, she took over as Colonel in Chief of the Rifles from Prince Philip, and as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards has made regular visits to see them in Aldershot.

And she came to Salisbury as it opened up after the nerve agent attack, like the city, proving you just have to get on with it, without complaining.

That and her ability to remain down-to-earth have served her well, say those who know her.

The Duchess receives a bouquet from Keren at Helen and Douglas House with chief exec Clare Periton (left) Credit: Helen and Douglas House

Among them, Clare Periton, the Chief Executive of the Oxford-based children's hospice Helen and Douglas House.

She has worked closely with Camilla after she became a patron of the charity and has seen, close up, what a difference she makes.

"She is amazing, not just with the children, but the parents and staff too," she said.

"She's very involved and clearly takes an interest in their lives.

"One of the highlights for us is when she invites the children to Clarence House each year to decorate the Christmas tree.

"She then serves up sausages and mash for them. It's a memory they will always treasure."

Clare has been invited to the Coronation concert on Saturday night and regards it as a great honour.

The Queen Consort smiles during a state visit to Germany in March 2023 Credit: PA

"I think she'll be a brilliant queen. I think she's really grounded. I think she's a people's queen and I think she's a practical queen.

"To take on a job like that at the age she is, I'm in awe of her really, because it's going to be relentless I should imagine."

And as an avid reader and  advocate for literacy, Saturday will begin her next chapter - as Queen Camilla - a day that many thought would never come.