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King’s coronation part of long evolution for Queen Camilla

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LONDON, Apriol 27 (AP): When Camilla, Britain’s queen consort, is crowned alongside her husband next week, the moment will mark the culmination of a remarkable – and painstakingly slow – transformation over five decades of a figure once reviled as the other woman and considered a huge liability to the British monarchy.

With the coronation of King Charles III days away and his first seven months on the throne under his belt, many in Britain have grown to accept Camilla, though some experts and observers say she will always walk in the shadow of her past.

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“Without really trying too hard, but just by giving it time and going gently, gently, she has managed to show people the real person that she is — that she’s not this villainess, and that she’s there to do the hard work,” said Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine.

“But the most important thing about Camilla is the way she appears to support her husband and back him up.”

Camilla, 75, was mercilessly torn apart by the tabloids for years. Seward said she earned respect by putting her head down and steadily getting on with her duties.

She’s won over much of the British public with her down-to-earth personality and her charitable work, notably against domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse — causes she says she’ll continue to support as queen.

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But some say she’ll never fully shake her reputation as the third person in the marriage between Charles and Princess Diana.

“I would actually argue that she still is the other woman, and probably will remain the other woman,” said Arianne Chernock, a professor specialising in modern British history at Boston University.

“Diana will very much be a presence in the room in Westminster Abbey in May 6 — I think it’s hard not to see her when you look at Charles and Camilla.

“And the challenge remains even going forward, even as Queen Camilla, which at one point would have been unthinkable.”

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Camilla Rosemary Shand — born July 17, 1947 to a family with long links with Britain’s royal family — reportedly first met Charles at a polo match in 1970, when she was 23.

The pair quickly became close, but their romance was interrupted when Charles went on naval duty.

In his absence, Camilla married her longtime boyfriend, army officer Andrew Parker-Bowles, in 1973. Charles married Diana in 1981.

In the early ’90s, Diana went public with her resentment of Charles and Camilla’s relationship. The sensational details that followed caused an embarrassing scandal for the royal family.

Camilla and her husband divorced in 1995, shortly after Charles gave an explosive television interview admitting the affair. Charles and Diana divorced the following year.

In 1997, Diana died in a car crash; a global outpouring of grief followed. Camilla and Charles waited until 2005 to marry in a private civil ceremony.

Mindful of lingering public hostility toward Camilla, palace officials cautiously managed her public appearances over the decades.

Camilla made dozens of official visits with charities each year, and her warm personality and ease at connecting with people no doubt helped her image makeover; those who’ve met her often describe her as warm, unstuffy and likeable.

“When you meet her, she doesn’t appear to be aloof in any way whatsoever,” Seward said. “She’s just always the same as she was. And I think this is one probably one of her biggest assets.”

Sensitivity about Camilla’s status as Charles’ second wife long made the question of what title she’d hold when he became king a subject of contention.

Queen Elizabeth II settled the matter last year, when she gave the blessing for Camilla to be known as queen consort. The endorsement was widely seen as a formal sign that the royal family had finally accepted Camilla as a respected senior member.

Earlier this month, Buckingham Palace’s official coronation invitations referred to Camilla as “Queen Camilla” for the first time. Queen consorts do not formally share the sovereign’s powers, and dropping the “consort” part of the title won’t change that.

Nonetheless, the change marked another step in Camilla’s long road to rehabilitating her image.

But the change in her title “does not necessarily suggest full public approval”, Chernock said. “Camilla, regardless of what she does, will always be divisive.”

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