Camilla celebrates her 75th birthday

LONDON –

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

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

“It’s not easy to write about your husband,” she said in the film. “I’ve bitten through several pencils.”

The milestone birthday 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 move through her twilight years, other members of the royal family take on new roles with more responsibilities.

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 those words, Elizabeth tried once and for all to answer questions about the status of Camilla, who was initially shunned by fans of the late Princess Diana, Charles’s 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 a waiting consort. Once blamed for the marriage breakup, the public has come to accept her in the years since she married Charles in 2005.

She has held positions at more than 100 charities, focusing on a wide variety of topics, including promoting literacy, supporting victims of domestic violence and people with osteoporosis. Known for her mischievous sense of humor, she has softened Charles’s stuffy image and made the heir apparent less remote and more approachable.

“I think there has been an amazing transformation in terms of her public personality. She is certainly taken care of. … She can even look a little glamorous at times,” said Pauline Maclaran, author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.” ‘She’s always very cleverly designed, but appropriate for her age. 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 sea bass lunch sponsored by The Oldie magazine in honor of 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 tribute to him and promised to follow his example.

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

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