Queen Camilla, Once Shunned By British Public, Comes To The Rescue As Charles Is Treated For Cancer

FILE  - Britain's Queen Camilla meets with the public during her visit to Deacon & Son Jewellers in Swindon, western England, Monday Jan. 22, 2024, as the company celebrates 175 years of trading. Queen Camilla, once seen as the scourge of the House of Windsor, the woman at the heart of King Charles III’s doomed marriage to the late Princess Diana, has emerged as one of the monarchy’s most prominent emissaries. (Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - Britain's Queen Camilla meets with the public during her visit to Deacon & Son Jewellers in Swindon, western England, Monday Jan. 22, 2024, as the company celebrates 175 years of trading. Queen Camilla, once seen as the scourge of the House of Windsor, the woman at the heart of King Charles III’s doomed marriage to the late Princess Diana, has emerged as one of the monarchy’s most prominent emissaries. (Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP, File)
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LONDON (AP) — What a difference a few decades can make.

Queen Camilla, once seen as the scourge of the House of Windsor, the woman at the heart of King Charles III’s doomed marriage to the late Princess Diana, has emerged as one of the monarchy’s most prominent emissaries.

With Charles and Kate, the Princess of Wales, sidelined by illness, Camilla has stepped lightly into the void, increasing her schedule of appearances and taking on the all-important role of keeping the royal family in the public eye.

“It’s been a remarkable transformation,” said longtime royal commentator and former BBC correspondent Michael Cole. “And, I think, Camilla, Queen Camilla, has certainly earned the respect that she’s receiving. … She has done a remarkably good job.”

That has been especially important in recent weeks as three of the royal family's most senior members were forced to take time off work.

The king has canceled his public engagements indefinitely after revealing that he is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer. The news comes as the royals are missing the energetic presence of Kate, who is recovering from abdominal surgery. Prince William also took time off to support his wife, though he is now back at work.

Camilla has helped pick up the slack, demonstrating the importance of her rehabilitation to Charles and the royal family.

It took years for many in Britain to forgive Camilla, whose extramarital affair with Charles torpedoed his marriage to Diana, known as “the People’s Princess.” The glamorous young mother of Princes William and Harry died in a Paris car crash in 1997, five years after her messy, public split from Charles.

But the public mood has softened since Charles married the woman then known as Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.

Camilla, 76, has taken on roles at more than 100 charities, championing issues that range from promoting literacy to supporting victims of domestic violence and helping the elderly.

With a down-to-Earth style and self-deprecating sense of humor, she eventually won over many Britons.

In a speech at the Foreign Press Association’s annual awards dinner in November, Camilla even won over a room full of reporters when she made a wry reference to her sometimes tense relationship with the media.

“There are journalists in my family, and I have even been the subject of one or two stories myself over the years,” she said to laughter from the crowd.

But perhaps more important, Camilla’s presence seems to have made the king less distant, more human.

Unlike earlier generations of royals who skulked in and out of the hospital alone, Charles left his recent treatment with Camilla by his side, providing the support most people would expect from their spouses. Of course she would visit, why not?

She was at a concert a few days later, stopping to talk with well-wishers and let them know that the king was doing “extremely well.”

“She deserves a lot of credit,″ said Sally Bedell Smith, author of “Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life,’’ published in 2017, five years before Charles became king. “After leading a sort of very traditional upper-class life, stepping into really the first job she has ever had and doing it exceedingly well.”

But not everyone is a fan.

Prince Harry alleged in his memoir, “Spare,’’ that Camilla burnished her reputation at his expense.

Harry accused members of the royal family of getting “into bed with the devil,” providing reporters with information about him to gain more favorable coverage for themselves. He singled out Camilla’s efforts to rehabilitate her image with the British people after her affair with Charles.

“That made her dangerous because of the connections that she was forging within the British press,” Harry told CBS at the time of the book’s publication. “There was open willingness on both sides to trade information. And with a family built on hierarchy, and with her on the way to being queen consort, there was gonna be people or bodies left in the street.”

Regardless of how she achieved her newfound status, Camilla has proved an invaluable asset for the royal family during the king’s hiatus.

On Valentine’s Day, she visited Kindred Studios, a creative space that encourages arts, crafts and community cohesion in the Shepherd’s Bush area of London. She finished that task by early afternoon. There were hours to go before her day was done.

“His absence is putting a lot of pressure on the other members of the royal family, who are certainly up to it,'' Smith said. “William and (Prince) Edward, Camilla, obviously. I mean, Camilla has taken the lead in all of this and has performed admirably.”

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Full AP coverage of Britain's royal family at https://apnews.com/hub/royalty