Just a few months into her husband’s reign, Queen Consort Camilla is already putting her own personal stamp on the job, says CTV News royal commentator Richard Berthelsen.
On Nov. 29, the Queen Consort hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace to raise awareness around violence against women and girls. Domestic violence is just one of the “gritty issues” Camilla has spoken about publicly, focusing her advocacy on lending support to victims, Berthelsen said.
“For her to have hosted that particular reception … was quite remarkable and it’s not the sort of thing the palace has been doing for a while,” Berthelsen told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on Monday. “It’s a real marked change from the past.”
This level of advocacy around complex social justice issues has not typically been exercised by past members of the Royal Family who were in a similar position, Berthelsen said. This includes Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip.
“We haven’t seen this from someone in that position,” Berthelsen said. “For someone … at the top of the royal pyramid, it’s very significant to take on those kinds of issues.”
Prince Philip had a strong interest in matters of the environment, industry and engineering. He was unlikely to take on social justice issues in the same way Camilla has, with such a hands-on approach, Berthelsen said. While he would engage with organizations focused on these topics, these engagements would often take place outside of royal residences such as Buckingham Palace, he said.
Other members of the Royal Family, such as Diana, Princess of Wales, have also raised awareness around serious topics such as HIV/AIDS and the destigmatization of the condition.
In addition to domestic violence, the Queen Consort has also spoken publicly about health conditions such as osteoporosis, which claimed the lives of her mother and grandmother, as well as children’s literacy.
“Her interests are … topical and of relevance to people living right now,” Berthelsen said. “And these are things that are important to her.”
In addition to paving her own path through the causes she champions, the Queen Consort has also stepped away from royal tradition by deciding not to appoint ladies in waiting. A Queen or Queen Consort’s lady in waiting acts as a personal assistant, helping with day-to-day tasks such as responding to letters and greeting guests at official events.
These women are friends of the Queen Consort, and were likely chosen based on their closeness to Camilla and overall willingness to take on the role, Berthelsen said.
Instead, Camilla has appointed six “Queen’s companions.” The role is meant to be similar to a traditional lady in waiting, but will not be as extensive, Berthelsen said. The “companions” will likely be in attendance less frequently than Queen Elizabeth II’s ladies in waiting while still accompanying her on the odd royal engagement, he said.
“She’s trying to move in a different direction [by] giving them less onerous responsibilities,” Berthelsen said. “It’s a much less committed role … and so that expands the number of people that can be a part of it, I think that’s what her thinking is.”
The acceptance of Queen Consort Camilla by the British public has increased significantly over the years, Berthelsen said. According to royal commentator Afua Hagan, Camilla’s public relations team has played a crucial role in helping her build a more favourable public image after facing criticism over they way she and Charles treated Diana.
“In this massive PR push Camilla has come across and charming and fun,” writes Hagan in an opinion column for CTVNews.ca. “She’s been repackaged as everything from the ultimate grandma, to a glam-ma, to [King] Charles’ ‘strength and stay.’”
These latest decisions made by the Queen Consort as she continues to settle into her new role are less about modernizing the monarchy and more about leaving her personal mark on the job, Berthelsen said.
“I’m sure it’s an adjustment for everyone but I think that people are happy to give her this chance,” he said. “She wants to do things in her own way.”
Camilla is likely to continue to put her personal touch on future engagements hosted at royal households, Berthelsen said. This includes adding her input on how the palaces should be decorated, and the kind of food and drinks that should be served.
Unlike his father before him, Charles is also expected to play an active role as host now that he is King. This has already begun to take shape, as witnessed at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 22. In welcoming South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the King used sustainable flowers from the palace garden rather than importing flowers from around the world.
King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, are likely to act together as royal host and hostess going forward.
“They’ll share that role in a way that [Queen Elizabeth II] did not.”