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From her ‘naughty’ ex to her AbFab friend: who’s who in Camilla’s inner circle

The wife of King Charles III is said to be ‘nervous’ ahead of her and her husband’s coronation, but has a tight-knit circle of trusted friends and confidantes around her. Charlotte Cripps explores what we know about them

Saturday 29 April 2023 07:04 BST
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(Getty/iStock/UK Parliament)

In the lead-up to Camilla and her husband King Charles’s coronation, intrigue surrounding her innermost circle has peaked.

Charles and Camilla have long-surrounded themselves with a tight-knit social set, but now, more than ever, she will be relying on her most trusted confidantes ahead of the ceremony on Saturday 6 May.

The coronation is planned as a “slimmed-down affair” of around 2,000 guests, in contrast to the 8,251 invited to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.

As her son Tom Parker Bowles pointed out in a rare interview last week, it was understandable if his mother felt nervous about the coronation.

“I think anyone would be anxious on an occasion of this sort of importance in terms of the historical,” he said, adding: “And yes, I think I’d be terrified if I had to sort of walk out wearing ancient robes... She’s 75, but you know, it’s tough to do it. But she’s never complained. You just do it. Get on with it.”

So who is helping Camilla remain calm – even helping her to keep a sense of perspective ahead of the big day?

Interestingly, one of the main players is her “naughty” ex-husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, who has been invited to the coronation and remains a huge part of her life.

Her five teenage grandchildren – Lola and Eliza, both 15, Freddy, 13, and twins Louis and Gus, also 13 – will bring her joy as they play central roles in the ceremony.

She has chosen her three teenage grandsons and great-nephew Arthur Elliot to serve as her page of honours (she and Charles selected four each). They will be responsible for attending to her during the coronation service and carrying the train of her robes.

During the ceremony, Camilla will be crowned with the Queen Mary’s Crown, with both her sister Annabel Elliot and her close friend Lady Landsdowne by her side throughout the service.

Britain Coronation King At Last (WPA Rota)

Camilla’s daughter Laura Lopes will also be nearby as her mother prepares for all the pomp and ceremony of such an event.

Some of Camilla’s clan will be sorely missed, including her younger brother Mark Shand, who died in 2014 after sustaining a serious head injury during a fall, and her sister Annabel’s husband, Camilla’s brother-in-law, Simon Elliot, who recently died after an illness.

There are also the Queen’s companions (formerly known as ladies-in-waiting). There are six in total, all of whom will be prepared to leap into action for any little or big issue she might have on the day.

As Camilla steps into her starring role in the royal family, could the loved ones in her court be the making of her as Queen? It might sound like an episode of The Tudors, but trusted companions go a long way in securing a royal’s position.

Here’s a who’s who of some of the main players in Camilla’s inner circle:

Tom Parker Bowles

(Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Eton-educated food writer Tom Parker Bowles, 48, is the oldest child of Camilla and her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, whom Camilla wed in 1973 when she was 25. Parker Bowles handled the high-profile relationship between his mother and the future King well, according to Charles, who is one of his godfathers, but he couldn’t face reading the news when the affair scandal broke in 1993.

“’I just felt p***ed off. I wasn’t going to read that sort of stuff about my mother…,” he told The Times in a recent interview.

He has appeared on TV cookery shows including BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals. He married fashion editor Sara Buys, with whom he has two children, Lola, 15 and Freddy, 13, in 2005. Their relationship ended in 2018. He dated former journalist Alice Procope in 2019 until she died of cancer in 2021, aged just 42.

Laura Lopes

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (C) watches a race from the temporary Royal Box with her son Tom Parker Bowles and daughter Laura Lopes (Getty Images)

Camilla’s daughter, Laura Lopes, 45, is a former Tatler motoring correspondent-turned-art curator who co-founded Eleven, a fine art gallery in Belgravia, in 2005 and is now curating exhibitions.

In 2006, she married former Calvin Klein model turned chartered accountant, Harry Lopes. They have three children, Eliza, 15, Louis and Gus, non-identical 13-year-old twins.

He’s now the founder and CEO of Eden Renewables, which develops renewable energy and storage projects throughout the UK.

While she keeps a low profile, Laura reportedly gets along really well with her stepbrothers Prince William and Prince Harry. The royal brothers were guests at her wedding, and she attended both their nuptials. She’s in line to inherit two stately homes, as her husband, the son of a baron, is set to take over Gnaton Hall in Devon and Skelpick estate in the Scottish Highlands

Annabel Elliot

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (r) and Annabel Elliot (l) on day three of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon on June 25, 2014 (Getty Images)

Camilla’s younger sister Annabel Elliot, an interior designer and antique dealer, is Camilla’s closest confidante and will be one of her two Ladies in Attendance at the crowning along with Camila’s close friend, the Marchioness of Lansdowne.

It was at Annabel’s 40th birthday party that Diana confronted Camilla over her relationship with Charles. At her 50th birthday, Charles and Camilla stepped out in public for the first time as a couple, when they were photographed leaving the party at London’s Ritz Hotel.

Annabel has been a longtime supporter of Camilla and Charles, with the couple apparently meeting discreetly at her and her husband Simon Elliot’s Dorset home in the village of Stourpaine, before their relationship became known to the public. It was Annabel who drove Camilla away from the press scrum when the Prince and Princess of Wales’s separation was announced in 1992.

The sisters had a formal but idyllic childhood in East Sussex. “Under the magical South Downs, my sister, brother and I galloped over the hills on our beloved ponies”, Camila wrote in Country Life. Annabel has overseen many interior design projects for Charles and Camilla.

Andrew Parker Bowles

Andrew Parker Bowles OBE and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attend Ladies Day, day 2 of The Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 12, 2014 (Getty Images)

Camilla’s ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles will be in the coronation congregation watching as his former wife is crowned as Queen. “The Brigadier” as he known among friends, is still a big part of Camilla’s life – and reportedly they are “joined at the hip”. A friend of Parker Bowles told The Times: “He arranges so much for her. They have lunch together the whole time. He’s right in there. He was always, and still is, Camilla’s co-conspirator.”

The Queen Consort was married to Parker Bowles for 22 years before they divorced in 1995. The following year, he married Rosemary Pitman, with whom he’d had a longterm affair. The couple remained together until Rosemary died from cancer in 2010.

Clearly, there are no hard feelings between Andrew and Camilla, given he was also a guest at Charles and Camilla’s wedding in 2005. Before his marriage to Camilla, he had a brief romance with Princess Anne.  Their friends describe the retired army officer as “a bit of a rogue” and “very naughty”. It has been suggested he is the inspiration for the womanising Jilly Cooper character Rupert Campbell-Black in her books.

Lola, 15, and Freddy, 13, Parker Bowles

(AP2006)

Lola and Freddy are the children of Camilla’s son, Tom Parker Bowles and his ex-wife, fashion editor, Sara Buys. Freddy, a Spurs supporter, is Camilla’s page of honour at the coronation. Apparently, he hasn’t really taken on board how profoundly important his role is in the ceremony and worries more about football than pomp.

Eliza, 15, Louis and Gus, both 13, Lopes

Eliza and her non-identical twin brothers, Louis and Gus, are the children of Camilla’s daughter, the art curator, Laura Lopes, and the aristocratic ex-Calvin Klein model, Harry Lopes. Both Louis and Gus will serve as Camilla’s pages of honour at the coronation. When Eliza was three, she was a bridesmaid at William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and was photographed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with Charles. Prince Harry reportedly pulled out a wiggly worm from his pocket to keep her entertained at the event.

King Charles and Camilla enjoy gin and macarons on trip to Malton

Arthur Elliot

Camilla’s great-nephew, Arthur Elliot, 10, is a page of honour at the coronation. His father Ben is a former co-chairman of the Tory party and his mum Mary-Clare is the daughter of singer Steve Winwood. The family are recently mourning the death of Ben’s father Simon Elliot, the husband of Annabel Elliot, Camilla’s sister.

Gyles Brandreth

The author and former Tory MP used to have a crush on Camilla. He has known her since the 1960s when they were teenagers and once admitted he fancied her while talking on BBC Radio 4. Now a long-term friend, he has written about his vivid memories of the 17-year-old Camilla Shand wearing jodhpurs and smoking cigarettes in the garden at her grandparent’s house, Hall Place. He has since written a book on Camilla’s romance, titled Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair.

Sarah Troughton

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Lord-Lieutenant of Wilshire, Mrs Sarah Troughton attend a church service during a visit to Wiltshire on December 02, 2021 (Getty Images)

Sarah Troughton was one of the first six women appointed as Queen’s companions to Camilla – replacing the former role of lady-in-waiting. She is the Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire – King Charles’s representative in the county. Troughton is also the King’s second cousin via her maternal grandfather, who was the brother of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She was a lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Kent from 1990 to 2000.

On Good Morning Britain, in 2022, she sang Camilla’s praises, saying she is “the nicest, kindest, most amusing friend one could possibly have”. Her grandson, Nicholas Barclay, is one of the King’s four pages at the coronation.

Lady Sarah Keswick

Camilla’s close friend is married to the former chairman of Arsenal Football Club, Sir John Chippendale “Chips” Lindley Keswick. The mother of three children has been spotted enjoying trips with Camilla to the royal box at Wimbledon where the pair were photographed in 2011, along with the late TV game show host Bruce Forsyth. Of course, she’s got aristocratic blood: she is the daughter of former Tory whip and 16th Earl of Dalhouse Simon Ramsay.

Fiona Marchioness of Landsdowne

The interior designer Fiona Mary Petty-Fitzmaurice, known professionally as Fiona Shelburne, is godmother to Camilla’s daughter, Laura. She will be one of the two coronation attendants at the crowning, along with Camilla’s sister Annabel.

The Marchioness lives at Bowood House in Wiltshire with her husband Charlie, the 9th Marquis and their three dogs Tinker, Tulip and Maud. Apparently, the couple has a weekly picnic in their wooded garden every Sunday, come rain or shine The couple’s residence is open to visitors, but they reportedly have their own private sanctuary within the house, away from the glare of the public.

A general view of the clubhouse during the Golfplan Insurance PGA Pro-Captain Challenge - West Regional Qualifier at Bowood House (Getty Images)

Carlyn Chisholm

Carlyn Chisholm is known as Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen. She is a life peer in the House of Lords and gave up her job as a Tory whip to join Camilla as a Queen’s companion. Originally, she had been a nurse – which might come in handy if Camilla feels dizzy with nerves at the coronation. She is also a horse racing fan and is often spotted at Royal Ascot with Charles and Camilla. She used to go fox hunting with the couple before it became illegal.

Lady Katherine Brooke

It’s often about keeping it in the family with royal confidantes. The close friend of both Camilla and Charles is the daughter of Lady Susan Hussey, who served as the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting for more than 60 years. Hussey found herself the centre of a scandal when, at Camilla’s reception to discuss ending violence against women, she asked guest Ngozi Fulani, a Black woman who runs domestic charity Sistah Space in Hackney, “What part of Africa are you from?”. The incident caused huge embarassment for the royal family, with Prince William, Lady Susan’s godson, swiftly issuing a statement to say that racism has “no place in society”.

Jane von Westenholtz

Jane von Westonholtz’s daughter Violet is a childhood friend of Prince Harry and is the one who introduced him to Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex. She is married to the interior designer and former Olympic skier, Baron Piers von Westenholtz, who was entrusted with the successful refurb of Charles’s Dumfries House, while his wife, Jane, has been close to Camilla for years. 

Charles saved the former residence of the Marquises of Bute in 2007 from going to auction reportedly using £20m of his own charitable foundation’s money to help secure the house and its collection of Chippendale furniture.

Joanna Lumley

Dame Joanna Lumley (Kirsty O'Connor/PA) (PA Archive)

It has been announced that the Absolutely Fabulous star will attend the coronation before presenting coverage of the celebrations on Sky News. She is, however, an old friend of Camilla and the royal family. She attended Camilla and Charles’s wedding in 2005.

Lumley has criticised Netflix’s The Crown for its portrayal of Camilla – and claimed to have stopped watching it out of loyalty to the royal family. Her concern was that “people think it’s the truth”.

“Suddenly, it began to get closer and closer and they had people acting as Prince Charles, as Camilla Parker Bowles, as Princess Anne,” she said. “I know them all. I know that’s not how they speak or what they said or did.” She won’t be playing herself then when the Netflix hit gets up to speed with the 2023 coronation.

Judi Dench

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Skyfall actor has teamed up again with pal Camilla for a coronation award: The Coronation Champions Awards will be given to 500 British people who have overcome adversity and contributed positively to their communities. Dench was also snapped in 2018 having a catch-up with Camilla over a vanilla ice cream on the Isle of Wight. Camilla was visiting Osborne House, in East Cowes – Queen Victoria’s holiday residence. Dench who played the former Queen in the film Victoria and Abdul is a patron of the Friends of Osborne House and took Camilla for a spin around the newly decorated Durbar Room, where she filmed some scenes. In 2021 she attended a reception for the Reading Room charity where she was seen chatting away in a very relaxed fashion – both to Camilla and Charles.

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