As Charles comes to terms with the reality of becoming King he is being supported through the turbulent first days of his reign by his “darling” Camilla.
She joined him in rushing to Balmoral Castle in the north of Scotland when serious concerns were first raised about the Queen’s health, and has been by his side almost all the time since, in the full glare of the public eye.
The ex-royal mistress who went on to become a duchess is now a Queen and will be crowned alongside her husband.
The public’s perception of the former Mrs Parker Bowles appears to have softened in the 25 years since the death of the Princess of Wales.
Once the object of scathing criticism for being the other woman in Charles and Diana’s marriage, Camilla has been eased into a more public role since she married him in 2005.
And her dutiful support for her 73-year-old husband in these bewildering first days will not have gone unnoticed by the people.
For years she has been Charles’s solid support, staying one step behind him on royal engagements, and he has always maintained that her role alongside him when he stepped up from being Prince of Wales was non-negotiable.
Anita Atkinson, a royal expert and memorabilia collector, told the PA news agency: “Historians in the future who look back on this time will realise that it was Camilla who saved the monarchy, because she saved the King.”
Those who know her have always spoken of her witty, warm, down-to-earth attitude and her fruity laugh.
Over these last days, the King will have leant on her good humour as he deals with the grief of losing his mother, as well as a tight schedule of formal public appearances in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and, later, Cardiff.
It was during a signing in Belfast that a TV camera caught the strain Charles must be feeling as a leaky pen caused him to exclaim “I can’t bear this bloody thing” and Camilla calmly took it from him and passed it to an aide.
Charles used his first speech as King to praise his wife.
“I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla,” he said.
“In recognition of her own loyal public service since our marriage 17 years ago, she becomes my Queen Consort.
“I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much.”
There had previously been controversy over whether Camilla would become Queen Consort but Elizabeth II delivered a masterstroke on the eve of her Platinum Jubilee in February 2022 by endorsing it.
Smoothing the transition when the time came, the Queen said it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla would take the title, and called on the public to back her son and his wife.
And the public appear to have accepted the new Queen in her first week.
Royal watchers say her relatively low-key public profile until later in her life will make Camilla, 75, a useful sounding board for the King as she has a strong perception of ordinary life.
Since her marriage to Charles, she has gradually taken on more prominent royal roles, attending the State Opening of Parliament and riding next to the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee carriage procession.
She has undertaken charity work highlighting the problems of domestic abuse and sexual violence, as well as championing literacy and becoming patron of the National Osteoporosis Society – the condition which affected her mother and grandmother.
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