Now there are signs Charles and Camilla could be questioning their future roles as king and king’s consort – and may even take the shocking decision to step aside!
Instead of taking up this long-anticipated role as ruler, Prince Charles may prefer to see Prince William take his place in the line of succession.
Ironically, if he does step aside to let William become king, Charles will be doing what his late ex-wife Princess Diana hoped for all along.
During her infamous 1995 Panorama interview, journalist Martin Bashir asked if she hoped Prince William would succeed the Queen rather than Charles, and she made it clear that she did, replying, “My wish is that my husband finds peace of mind, and from that follows others things, yes.”
And it appears the Duchess of Cornwall might welcome this dramatic step back from the rigours of public life, too.
Royal biographer Penny Junor previously told Royals Monthly that Camilla has always embraced a low-key life away from all the pomp and ceremony her husband was brought up with and regards as normal.
“She has still hung on to her house [in Wiltshire, near Highgrove House] which she bought after her divorce,” the author of Prince William: The Man Who Will Be King points out.
“Every weekend she goes to see her family there. She’s very devoted to her children and grandchildren. Charles will sometimes go with her.
“They live in a very low-key way. They don’t have any servants there. She just lives life as she used to.”
And perhaps even more significantly, Camilla doesn’t harbour any royal aspirations of her own.
“She has no ambition for herself at all. She isn’t interested in being a great figure. She just wants to do what she can for the causes she cares about. She is quite happy to support Charles,” Penny adds.
But Camilla has also faced the upset of her diminishing popularity in the public eye. Her portrayal in the Netflix drama as Charles’s mistress during his unhappy marriage to Princess Diana has led the Clarence House social media accounts to be inundated by faceless trolls.
Fans of Diana flooded Charles and Camilla’s Twitter account with criticism about their affair, which is portrayed in The Crown as causing the princess deep unhappiness.
Many remarked that Charles shouldn’t be king – as a result of his treatment of the beloved Diana.
The show also depicts the Prince of Wales being jealous of Diana’s popularity, treating her unkindly during their marriage and suggesting that, unlike his wife, he made no effort to mend and address their relationship.
Viewer reaction to the hit show’s version of history led to Prince Charles’s friends rushing to defend him.
A source close to the royal accused the show’s makers of “trolling on a Hollywood budget”, while Penny believed Charles was likely to be “incredibly upset”.
Omid Scobie, author of Finding Freedom, even warned that fallout from the show posed a “major risk” to Prince Charles and Camilla.
He explained on social media: “Prince Charles and Camilla are a couple who have spent decades trying to repair their image, and just at the time when they are gaining popularity in the UK, that all faces major risk.”
But it now appears that even before what the royal family see as The Crown debacle, Charles’s popularity was in fact taking a hit, putting in jeopardy his hopes of ever being a popular monarch.
According to a UK YouGov poll, as reported in The Express newspaper, Charles endured a seven-point popularity drop between last March and November. However, royal commentators were unsure why this happened.
“It’s not clear why there would be a drop for any particular reason,” UK PR guru Richard Fitzwilliams told The Express, adding that he found it surprising as Charles had faced a number of challenges including suffering from COVID, having to self-isolate from his family and then deputising for the Queen on several occasions.
It may be that fans believe he is partly to blame for his son Harry and his wife Meghan stepping down as senior royals in January.
But while there may be a feeling that Charles should’ve done more to make them want to remain in their roles, there’s no doubt the Prince of Wales was as shocked as everyone else by their sudden departure.
A friend of the prince told the Daily Mail at the time that Charles was “massively sad” by the Sussexes’ decision.
“He feels it will be seen as another mess on his doorstep: first the disaster over the mother, now the disaster over the mother’s son,” the insider told the UK newspaper.
While Camilla has faced strong public criticism, too, behind the scenes she has more than proved herself as a working royal.
“The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, over the past 15 years, will have been really pleased with the way Camilla has turned out. She works hard. She has never worked in her life before. At the age of 57 she took on one of the hardest jobs going, and she’s done it really well,” Penny says.
“People admire her and the causes she’s adopted. I think they are very pleased and comforted knowing that Charles will have her by her side. Being a prince or a monarch on your own is a very lonely business.”
And while 2020 was a difficult year for Camilla and Charles, royal psychic Sally Morgan previously warned this new one could also be challenging. She told Royals Monthly the Duchess will face a minor health scare.
“Camilla will have a small health issue – which will be brought to the public interest through weight loss – there will be speculation that she is on a health kick but the weight loss will be to do with a slight health issue.”
It could be the trigger to give Camilla and Charles an excuse to step back from their duties and pass the crown on to the next generation.
After all, there’s been speculation 2021 could be the year the Queen finally gives up the crown. Earlier this year royal biographer Robert Jobson said, “I still firmly believe when the Queen becomes 95, she will step down.”
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