At one point, Queen Camilla was something no one was willing to stomach either. Andrew Morton's "Diana: Her True Story" (written with the assistance of Diana herself) revealed that Charles had been carrying on with his old pal Mrs. Parker Bowles while his beautiful wife became so desperately unhappy that she fell prey to bulimia, threw herself down a flight of stairs while pregnant and sliced at her wrists with a lemon peeler.
Charles looked like the ultimate cad, but Camilla fared even worse in popular opinion. She had dated Charles in the early 1970s, but either because she wasn't considered suitable royal bride material, didn't want to subject herself to the pressures of royal life or Charles wasn't ready to make up his mind (theories differ; Camilla herself has never said), she married a cavalry officer, Andrew Parker Bowles, and had two children. Camilla resumed a friendship with the prince. Charles later said he remained faithful to Diana "until the marriage had irretrievably broken down," but Diana clearly felt that Camilla had always been her rival. "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," the princess said in a 1995 interview.
The more the public learned about Camilla, the less they liked her. Calculating Camilla, the story went, had even helped choose Lady Diana Spencer as a bride for Charles, in the belief the naive girl would not threaten her own position with the prince. In 1992, a mob of shoppers at Camilla's local supermarket pelted her with bread rolls.
The release of the infamous "Camillagate" tape didn't help matters. A revolted public could call a special number to hear their future king prattle on about his most intimate longings, including a bizarre desire to be reincarnated as a feminine hygiene product. "Oh, God, I'll just live inside your trousers or something," he said, according to transcripts published in myriad newspapers and books.
Following his 1996 divorce from Diana, Charles took some tentative steps toward making his relationship with Camilla more public. She and her husband had divorced a year earlier, after Charles admitted on TV that he had committed adultery.
The death of Diana in 1997 put a crimp in their plans to win the public over, but gradually the couple began to be seen more in public. In 1999, more ice was broken when Camilla met Prince William. Diana's sons seemed to like their father's companion well enough.
The Queen Mum -- Charles' beloved grandmother and the wife who had urged George VI to deny the Duchess of Windsor the coveted HRH -- was adamantly opposed to recognizing Camilla. But the Queen Mother's death in 2002, at the amazing age of 101, removed another obstacle to the couple's acceptance. When the prince moved into his grandmother's old residence, Clarence House, Camilla came too. People became accustomed to seeing Camilla at the prince's side.
Much has been made of the fact that Parker Bowles is a divorcée whose first husband is still living. The Church of England, of which Charles will one day be supreme governor, frowns upon divorced people getting married. (Charles is also divorced, but his ex-wife is no longer around, so that doesn't count against him.)