When Season 5 of Netflix’s “The Crown” drops on Wednesday, all eyes will be on Camilla, the royal mistress who became queen consort.
The scripted drama takes on the British royal family’s turbulent 1990s, which Queen Elizabeth II famously labeled “annus horribilis” – Latin for “horrible year.” It is expected to focus on the breakdown of then-Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s doomed marriage and how the former Camilla Parker Bowles found herself at the center of the drama.
It took years for many in Britain to forgive King Charles, whose admitted infidelity and long-time links to Camilla torpedoed his marriage to Diana, known as “the People’s Princess.”
“It’s been 25 long years since Diana died,” author Angela Levin told Fox News Digital. “Camilla’s main job now is to support Charles. She’s devoted to him, and she’s devoted to the monarchy. She’s very keen on the monarchy and what it stands for… As time goes on, there are fewer misconceptions about her. But they’re still there.”
Levin has recently written a new book titled “Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort.” The book explores how Camilla transformed herself into one of the key members of the royal family. Levin spent four months with the Queen Consort in 2015 while on assignment, and she has since spoken to numerous palace insiders and sources who are close to the 75-year-old.
Levin said that for years, Camilla struggled with the public breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage. At the time, she was depicted as a “wicked woman” who maliciously tore the couple apart. She was vilified as “a marriage wrecker” once more during 2020’s Season 4 of “The Crown,” which detailed the royal love triangle. Viewers were so enraged that Charles and Camilla’s Clarence House Twitter account had to turn off comments due to the backlash.
“I think Camilla has been astonishing in the way she’s managed to cope with the insults that have been thrown at her and the accusations,” Levin explained. “I think it’s been very painful. She has said she wouldn’t have been able to manage without her family supporting her and her good friends.”
Charles and Camilla first dated after being introduced at a polo match in 1970. She was 23, and Charles was considered the most eligible bachelor in Britain. The two instantly became close, but the romance was interrupted by Charles’ eight months of naval duty.
The couple split in 1973 when Charles went off to sea. Camilla went on to marry Andrew Parker Bowles that same year. Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. According to reports, Charles and Camilla rekindled their romance in 1986. In 1993, an intimate phone call between Charles and Camilla leaked, rocking the palace and confirming the persistent reports of an affair.
In 1994, Charles was asked during a TV special if he had been “faithful and honorable” to Diana. He replied, “Yes, yes… until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” Then in 1995, Diana spoke about Camilla’s relationship with Charles on BBC’s “Panorama,” famously saying, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Many of Diana’s supporters blamed Camilla for the couple’s strained relationship. During the “Panorama” sit-down, Diana admitted to having an affair of her own, while noting that Charles’ closeness with his former flame hurt her.
“[Camilla] hid away at home,” Levin explained on how Camilla faced the intense public scrutiny. “Friends would go shopping at supermarkets for her because it was very difficult for her to go out. There’d be newspaper people and filming people outside her door. It [was] very difficult for her. But I don’t think she compared herself to Diana… Diana was stunningly beautiful. Camilla is attractive, but she’s not a natural beauty… But she never compared herself to Diana.”
Levin claimed Camilla was wary of how her close friendship with Charles would impact his marriage to Diana.
“They didn’t see each other after the king got married for six years,” Levin claimed. “They occasionally talked on the phone, but there was nothing else because she didn’t want to affect the marriage. She understood that she couldn’t marry Charles. The queen wouldn’t allow it because of her experiences, and it was very important that Charles did marry.”
Camilla and Parker Bowles called it in 1995. Charles and Diana’s breakup became messy and public. Their divorce was finalized in 1996. In 1997, Diana died from injuries she sustained in a Paris car crash at age 36. In 1999, Camilla and Charles made their first public appearance. Then in 2005, the couple said “I do” in a private ceremony.
Over the years, Camilla has stayed silent about Diana and is absent on days that commemorate the late royal’s birthday and tragic passing. Levin said that her sources haven’t shared how Camilla feels about the princess today.
“I would think on the day of her death, she would have been particularly kind and gentle with Charles,” said Levin. “When it was first heard that Diana died, it was in the middle of the night… Prince Charles went for a walk in the fields. He rang her because he said… ‘She’s the only woman I can ever really talk to.’ She said how terrible it was for those boys, those poor boys to have lost their mother. She was full of sympathy and felt very strongly for the children.”
The public mood has softened since Camilla became a member of the royal family. She has taken on roles at more than 100 charities, focusing on a wide range of issues including promoting literacy, supporting victims of domestic violence and helping the elderly. Charles, 73, appears more relaxed beside her as they take on royal duties together. In February of this year, the queen expressed her “sincere wish” that Camilla be known as “Queen Consort” when she succeeds her.
The queen passed away on Sept. 8 at age 96. Charles, her eldest son, became king.
Levin noted there is no doubt Camilla will face criticism with “The Crown” revisiting the royal love triangle. However, she hopes her book will shed new light on a figure she believes has been misunderstood.
“She doesn’t like being in a floodlight,” Levin explained. “She doesn’t want to be center stage. She’s quite happy to get on with her own things behind the curtain and do fantastic things for charities and not… get a load of praise. She’s not out there to open the curtains. She’s devoted to Charles…. She’s a different woman from the one [people] imagine.”
“I started talking to a lot of different people, friends who’ve known her for a long time, former staff, bishops – all sorts of people who’ve met her over the years,” Levin continued. “They’ve all come up with very similar things about her. They say she’s easy to talk to, she’s very kind. I said to some of them, ‘You’re all saying the same thing to me. What am I going to write?’ And they said, ‘That’s what she’s like. She hasn’t changed.’… I hope people will see her through different eyes. Not through my eyes, but through the eyes of so many people who know her.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.