With Diana and her new Egyptian-born boyfriend grabbing headlines that summer, Charles was more confident than ever that the tide was about to turn in Camilla's favor. On September 13, Camilla was to keep up the momentum by cohosting a celebrity-packed charity ball to benefit the National Osteoporosis Society. It was to be their debut as a couple at a major public event.
The ball was immediately canceled on news of Diana's death, as were the couple's plans to vacation at Balmoral in late September. In a single stroke, the chances of their ever marrying were obliterated. "If Charles intended at some future time to marry the woman who has been his mistress for twenty-five years," the Daily Mail wasted no time editorializing, "he knows, and Camilla knows, that this must now be put off to a date so far in the distance that some of their circle are actually using the word 'forever.'"
Once again Camilla, who finally divorced her husband Andrew Parker Bowles in 1995, had become the most hated woman in the realm. After all, it was Camilla who had destroyed the Prince of Wales's marriage and driven the much-admired Diana to suicidal despair. 'They've got to blame someone," Camilla told one of her neighbors in Wiltshire, where she lived at Raymill, a converted mill house. "That someone is going to be me, I'm afraid."
Raymill, which Camilla had purchased for $1.3 million after her divorce, was conveniently situated just sixteen miles from Highgrove, the Prince's country residence outside of London. "If Camilla's car is seen near Highgrove for the next six months," said veteran journalist Judy Wade, "it could be the end of them. The public simply won't tolerate it." Toward that end, Charles and Camilla made a pact not to be seen together in public for the foreseeable future.
Camilla would indeed be held accountable for ruining Diana's marriage and causing the Princess untold heartache. But blame for the crash would initially -- and falsely -- be laid at the feet of overzealous paparazzi who pursued Dodi and Diana into the Alma Tunnel. Camilla was not entirely convinced. "Are they certain it was just an accident, Charles?" Camilla asked him point-blank. "Could it have been intentional?" "Whatever are you talking about?" Charles shot back. "Those bloody reporters are responsible."
While Camilla would never raise the issue again, Dodi's father was determined to. The flamboyant tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed, who counted among his trophy properties Harrods Department Store in London and Paris's Ritz Hotel, had long been at odds with Britain's establishment. The moment he received word of the crash at his palatial country house in Oxted, Surrey, Al Fayed echoed Camilla's sentiments: "Accident? Do you really think it was an accident?"
In the Arab world, this theory soon gained traction. Predictably, Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi wasted no time pointing a finger at both the English and the French for "arranging" the accident. But even respected journalists like Anis Mansour cried conspiracy. "The British intelligence service killed them," Mansour wrote. "They could not have let the mother of the future king marry a Muslim Arab."