Camilla at 75: the Duchess of Cornwall celebrates a milestone birthday

LONDON — Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will celebrate her 75th birthday on Sunday, marking the occasion with a small family dinner at Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate in south-west England.

The big occasion follows British broadcaster ITV’s release of a documentary about the Duchess’s time as guest editor of Country Life, in which she helped produce a special edition celebrating the 125th anniversary of the magazine. In a personal tribute, Camilla chose Charles, her husband, as one of her rural heroes.

“It’s not easy writing about your husband,” she said in the film. “I bit off several pencils.”

The milestone anniversary comes at a time when the monarchy, and Camilla’s place in it, is in a generational transition. As 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II soldiers through her twilight years, other members of the royal household are taking on new roles with more responsibility.

Six months ago, in a statement marking her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II expressed her “sincere wish” that Camilla would be known as “Queen Consort” when her son succeeds her. With these words, Elizabeth sought to answer once and for all questions about Camilla’s status, initially shunned by fans of the late Princess Diana, Charles’ first wife.

The Queen’s statement marked a big moment in Camilla’s transformation from the “third person” in Charles and Diana’s marriage to bride-in-waiting. Once blamed for the disintegration of the marriage, the public began to accept her in the years following her marriage to Charles in 2005.

She has taken on roles in over 100 charities, focusing on a wide range of issues including promoting literacy, supporting victims of domestic violence and those with osteoporosis. Known for her wicked sense of humor, she softened Charles’ stuffy image and made the heir to the throne seem less aloof and more approachable.

“I think there’s been an incredible transformation in terms of her public persona. She’s definitely been groomed. … She can even look glamorous at times,” said Pauline Maclaran, author of ‘Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture”. “She’s still very stylish, but age appropriate. Not as fuddy-duddy as she used to be.”

Camilla hinted at her approach to royal life earlier this week at a champagne reception and bar lunch sponsored by The Oldie magazine, which honored her birthday.

In a nod to the magazine’s target audience, the Duchess noted that she was born in 1947, the same year Elizabeth married her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. She paid homage to him and pledged to emulate his example.

“The Duke of Edinburgh’s philosophy was clear: look up, pay attention, say less, do more and get on with your job,” she said. “And that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

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