TV GOES IN SEARCH OF THE REAL CAMILLA
A one-off documentary screening on TVNZ 1 this week follows a year in the life of the Duchess of Cornwall. James Rampton reports.
Coverage of the British royal family has gone into overdrive this year, particularly with the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This week there is still more to come with a behind-the-scenes insight into the Duchess of Cornwall, featuring a year in her life. In The Real Camilla, a new British documentary, cameras follow the 70-year-old Duchess as she readies herself for her role as Queen Consort. What emerges is a picture of a woman with a good sense of humour and a knack for relating to people. She also reveals herself as a doting grandmother. Camilla is at her most content when in the company of her five grandchildren and step-grandchildren – Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. Talking about being a grandmother, she says, “I’d recommend it to everybody. It’s very nice as you haven’t got the full responsibility. You can give them a wonderful time, spoil them, give them all the things their parents won’t allow them to have and then give them back again. They spot me occasionally on television. They rather tend to wave and they expect me to wave back again.” Her nephew Ben Elliot says that, “Camilla’s magnificent with her grandchildren. She’s called Gan Gan. She spends a lot of time – when she’s not doing her job – with her children and their children.” The Real Camilla features interviews with friends such as Joanna Lumley, Gillian Anderson, and Giles Brandreth
(who maintains that she, “Isn’t interested in position or status”), as well showing her decorating the Christmas tree at her official home, Clarence House.
There are also scenes of the Duchess taking her two Jack Russell dogs for a walk in the grounds of Dumfries House in Scotland. The 18th-century stately home was rescued after a successful campaign to raise $90 million by a group of charities led by the Prince of Wales.
The Duchess admits that at first she did not fall in love with Dumfries House – in fact, it positively spooked her.
“If you could have seen it when the Prince first spotted it, you wouldn’t have believed it was the same house. It was so sad, un-lived in, unloved and neglected. And it had a really eerie feel about it.
“There was definitely a ghost – without a shadow of a doubt. I walked up the steps, got into the hall and I thought, ‘I can’t go any further’. I literally froze.
“If my hair could have stood on end, it would have done. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to come back’, and I didn’t for a few years.”
When at last Camilla did go back to Dumfries House after the refurbishment, she felt a lot more comfortable there.
“I walked in and whatever was there had disappeared. The whole thing seemed to be smiling again.”
In addition, The Real Camilla focuses on the Duchess’ charitable interests. She works for 90 charities and it is here that we really get to see the Duchess’ ability to connect with people.
The Prince of Wales says they always try to co-ordinate their charitable visits.
According to Prince Charles, “My darling wife has been absolutely wonderful with all these charities and takes a huge interest.
“She does have a wonderful way with people. That’s the special thing, I think. She’s the best listener in the world, so she can get anything out of anybody and find out their life’s history in a very short time.”
Further evidence of her ability to identify with others is shown when she invites octogenarian siblings George, Mary and Alice Dowling to tea at Clarence House. They had courageously confronted masked robbers twice in a week, and the Duchess of Cornwall proves understanding about their ordeal.
When Alice, 83, the youngest of the three, discloses that she punched one of the burglars, Camilla smiles and says, “Quite right. You gave as good as you got.”
We also witness some of Camilla’s other talents on a trip to Florence. When a schoolchild asks her to sketch something, she does a swift and impressive drawing of a horse. She then adds that it is very hard to do, “Without my glasses”.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (left) with the royal family