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Say what you want about Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall—her public image has come a long way since the 1980s and 1990s, when the then Camilla Parker-Bowles was cast as the villain (perhaps rightfully so), known basically only as the mistress of Prince Charles and, therefore, the rival of Princess Diana. After Diana’s death in a Paris car accident in 1997, Charles and Camilla slowly became more public with their relationship, eventually marrying in 2005. Since then, Camilla’s image has gone under a pretty remarkable transformation, culminating earlier this year when the Queen expressed that it was her wish for Camilla to one day be Queen Consort upon Charles’ ascension to the throne. (Tell anyone in, say, 1993 that Her Majesty would make an announcement like that, and watch the laughter and incredulity ensue.)
But now, according to The Daily Express, Camilla fears the house of cards surrounding her carefully crafted image will crumble upon the release of stepson Prince Harry’s forthcoming memoir, and that she “lives in dread” over what it contains. Seventeen years ago, when Camilla married into the family, “Operation PB” (presumably for “Parker-Bowles”) was put in place, intent on rehabbing Camilla’s image as “the other woman” in favor of showing she was a force for good. “Operation PB” still continues to the present day, The Daily Express reports, and was seen in full effect this summer surrounding the Duchess’ seventy-fifth birthday in July, where she was the focus of an ITV documentary, guest-edited a special edition of Country Life magazine, and carried out a week’s worth of celebratory royal engagements.
But, of all of the members of the royal family, Camilla could be first in line for any attack Harry wishes to level against the family—after all, though Camilla has transformed her image over the past couple of decades, she was still Charles’ mistress, and Harry is fiercely protective over his mother Diana.
“The scorched earth left by Diana still smolders,” royal expert Tina Brown tells The Daily Beast, per The Daily Express. “For the first 10 years after her death, the royals were still destabilized by the catastrophes surrounding Diana—from her divorce, the damage to Charles, the car crash, the effect on the boys. The rise of Kate Middleton and William have done a great deal to reduce that dark dust and decrease the Diana decibel. But with what Harry and Meghan have said and done, the next season of The Crown [which will focus on events leading up to and after Diana’s death], and Harry’s memoir will resurface a particular agony for Charles.”
Netflix’s hit The Crown—which will cover the turbulent 1990s in the royal family in its next season—and Harry’s memoir will introduce an entirely new generation to the drama of the decade, which saw Charles and Diana separate in 1992, divorce in 1996, and Diana’s death in 1997.
“The Queen was restabilized after the death of Diana, whereas Charles has continually battled to end those ghosts,” Brown says. “The rehabilitation of Camilla’s image has been utterly successful, but she lives in dread of Harry’s book. In some ways, Diana’s ghost still rattles at the gate.”
Harry’s book is due out by the end of the year, seeking to capitalize on the lucrative holiday market. The exact publication date remains unclear, with Page Six reporting (per The Daily Express) that it could be delayed until 2023 “because it is brimming with ‘truth bombs’ that the Duke of Sussex is unsure about publishing.” Though in a release Harry called the book “accurate and wholly truthful,” according to The Daily Express, a royal expert claims he is “very worried” about the memoir, saying he is concerned about getting “in trouble” with his family.
“I think he’s very worried,” royal biographer Angela Levin tells GB News. “He’s in the middle of two very different positions here. If it does come out and it slags off his parents, slags off the Queen, slags off the royal family, again, I think he’s going to be in trouble. We’ve now all heard more than enough about what a terrible time he’s had, which is not always true. But if he doesn’t write it, then Meghan will be furious, because she’s been helping him to write it.”
Levin says Harry is “in a very difficult spot,” adding “I think he might take out some of the extra nasty bits.” But, she adds, “at the same time, he’s got to get it out there because he’s been promised a lot of money for this book.” (Reports have the book netting Harry at least $20 million from publisher Penguin Random House. Proceeds from the book and the audiobook are expected to be donated to charity.)
And, while it is unclear what exactly the book contains—and whether Camilla will be a prime target in the tome—Penguin says the memoir will cover Harry’s lifetime in the public eye, from childhood to the present day, touching specifically on his experience as a senior royal, his military service in Afghanistan, and his life as a husband and a father.
Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the royal editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
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