Seeing recent photos of Camilla, I have to say I'm speechless. Once again, the transformation of Camilla is striking; she looks lovelier the more I see of her. For her birthday she was granted her own coat of arms. Search online and you will even find Camilla impersonators; the ultimate compliment. You know you've made it when you have an impersonator. The unflattering photos, clothes, and the rotweiler comments are now history.
We are no longer throwing bread rolls at her; we are breaking bread with her.
But regardless of how she looks, the fact remains is that the royal family needed Camilla. Would we really be paying attention to Charles' engagements if it weren't for her? Instead of being threatened by the attention on his wife, maybe Charles now realizes her value. President John F. Kennedy realized and even acknowledged it: "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it". *Sigh* if only Charles had taken this attitude during his marriage to Diana. Had there been no Camilla, the stamps and souvenirs for Charles' coronation would have looked slightly off. Do we really want a commemorative mug with Charles' mug on it? At the time of his mother's coronation, she had the advantage of youth to hold her own on the china. If the handsome Prince Philip appeared with her it was even better. Charles doesn't have that, if he ever did. Camilla, like Diana, generates an interest, a "what is she going to wear" curiosity. Still finding her legs as the newest recruit, Camilla has a down to earth quality that people seem to like and appreciate.
The makeover of Camilla did not happen overnight. From 1999, when she made her first public appearance with the Prince of Wales to the present, it occurred gradually, under the radar, while people were distracted by the comparisons to Diana. It was complete by the time their engagement was announced. Now she is being complimented and lauded for her fashion sense and naturalness. Camilla positively glowed with happiness and I admit that until the wedding, that was the most beautiful I'd ever seen her.
It really is too bad that it took so long for people to notice. Seeing photos of Camilla in her debutante phase she was a very pleasant looking young woman; not particularly remarkable but attractive in her own way. Now as the wife of the heir to the throne, she is regarded differently. She did not have the benefit, like Diana did, of having youth on her side or the lack of a 'past', a Cinderella story in real life. But before she became a princess, Diana herself could not have been considered to be classically beautiful. She was attractive in a dewy, youthful kind of way, but there was no indication of just how glamorous she would become. In his bachelor days Prince Charles seemed to have a preference for gorgeous blondes and Diana simply didn't fill that mould when she appeared on the scene as a gauche 19 year old. The media helped make her beautiful before we and even she believed it.
Renowned for her beauty, her glamour and royal wife or not, Diana would have fought off the inevitable aging process with all of the botox ammunition at her disposal. According to her brother, turning 40 would have been traumatic for her. She too would have made her 40's and beyond look great, but at the cost of high maintenance. Now Camilla, stepping on to the world stage in her fifties, has the advantage. No retrospective of youthful photos to live up to. She doesn't need to hide her wrinkles; she's earned them. Broken in, so to speak, she appeals to the mature demographic of women once relegated to ads for Geritol, Freedom 55, and anti-wrinkle serum. She isn't a threat and she makes being (almost) 60 look great. One has to wonder though, if Diana were still alive, would we be saying all of this good stuff? Clarence House regards Camilla as a trump card with the potential to fill the Queen Mother's vacant pumps. Probably a relief to Camilla, and already half way there age wise.
We do have double standards for women - in our youth we are prized for our looks but once we get older we are not prized for our experience. This article isn't meant to go into those details but I think that's particularly true in Camilla's case. People wonder what Charles could possibly see in Camilla, how he could have traded Diana in for an 'older model'. In our own cases would we be able to stand up to such minute scrutiny? I'm sure we're far less kind to ourselves when we look in the mirror. Once again, she could appeal to the women out there comfortable in their own skin; Princess Everywoman. But makeover or not, eventually we will see the formal airbrushed photo of her wearing the tiara, priceless jewels and full evening gown. It's only a matter of time.
© Marilyn Braun 2005
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