TV plays role in campaign to rehabilitate Camilla

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A Camilla Parker Bowles propaganda campaign will hit something of a peak this weekend, with the broadcast of a sympathetic documentary about the Prince of Wales's "special friend" on Channel 5, and an episode of BBC1's Heart of The Matter exploring the implications for the Church of England of a marriage between the two.

According to the maker of the Channel 5 documentary, Mrs Parker Bowles's biographer, Christopher Wilson, the film was made against the wishes of the Prince's office at St James's Palace, although it has not denied that a "Camilla campaign" is in full swing.

The two programmes come just two weeks after the Daily Mail splashed with the headline "Charles and Camilla: could they marry?", which quoted "friends" of the couple speculating that public opinion had softened in favour of a marriage that would avoid Camilla being called Queen.

Royal correspondents for the tabloid press admit that the sources for a number of pro-Camilla stories are professional public relations experts who are advising the couple with the complicity of St James's Palace. These include one unpaid advisor from Sir Tim Bell's PR agency, Lowe Bell Communications.

The re-making of Mrs Parker Bowles began in April, when she posed for her first official photograph, as a patron of the National Osteoporosis Society.

The society was chosen because Mrs Parker Bowles's family has suffered from the disease, and it would therefore look less like a PR exercise.

Royal watchers have been briefed to expect a 50th birthday party for Mrs Parker Bowles at Prince Charles's home, Highgrove House, in Gloucestershire, later this month. It has also been well leaked that the couple will take their first semi-public holiday together in September.

"The quality of their PR advice has improved no end this year," said one of the royal pack yesterday. "Although it would have been hard for it to get any worse - she was the most reviled woman in the UK."

"It's fairly subtle stuff, moving slowly to make sure they don't upset the public." he added.

The Channel 5 documentary will broadcast Mrs Parker Bowles' first public speaking engagement, captured on grainy home video at a National Osteoporosis Society event. Her voice, heard for the first time in public, sounds exactly as you would imagine the voice of The Prince of Wales's mistress and the ex-wife of a Cavalry officer to sound.

It is possible to believe that St James's Palace had no influence on the documentary because, as usual, the members of the Royal Family emerge looking like the villains of the piece.