Ciggies with Clarkson and love of gnomes: TV doc probes fun Camilla

Risque jokes, sneaky ciggies with Jeremy Clarkson (who admires the ‘twinkle in her eye’) and a secret love of gnomes: Camilla reveals her innate sense of fun as never before in ITV show – and dresses her Jack Russells for Country Life’s ‘girls in pearls’

  • Childhood memories of Camilla’s sassiness are one of many surprises in new doc
  • Camilla enjoyed ‘sneaking a crafty fag’ with Clarkson and telling ‘naughty’ jokes
  • And the woman who will one day be crowned Queen has a secret love of gnomes
  • Revealed in rare interview at Highgrove as part of her 75th birthday fanfare

It is a story of childhood vengeance which is yet to be forgotten more than half a century on. As a child, the Duchess of Cornwall, fresh from a row with her younger sister Annabel, stole her teddy bear and buried it under the roses in her grandmother’s garden.

Like the toy, the crime remained covered up for decades, with Camilla only confessing on the eve of Annabel’s wedding.

Today, the sisters born 18 months apart are so close that they speak ‘most days’.

But all is not forgiven.

Camilla is pictured for a photoshoot as part of an ITV documentary series about her fun side

When Annabel, who married Simon Elliot in 1972, is asked if she has forgiven her sister, she says: ‘Certainly not. It still rankles to this day.’

The childhood memory is just one of several surprising anecdotes about the future Queen Consort set to emerge in an ITV documentary this week.

We learn that Camilla used to enjoy ‘sneaking a crafty fag’ with former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson (a vice she gave up ‘decades ago’), is known to tell ‘risqué and naughty jokes’, and loves ‘invigorating’ cold-water swimming along the English coast.

But perhaps one of the most surprising revelations about the woman who will one day be crowned Queen is that she has a secret love of garden gnomes.

‘No place like gnome!’ she says. ‘Actually the Prince does at Highgrove, too – he’s got a gnome hidden away.’

To mark the Duchess of Cornwall’s 75th birthday next Sunday, an ITV film crew shadowed Camilla as she guest-edited Country Life magazine and undertook visits around the country.

The Duchess of Cornwall has guest edited the new issue of Country Life – and had her cover image taken by none other than Kate Middleton

Country Life Magazine of the Duchess of Cornwall’s dogs Bluebell and Beth who appear on the Country Life frontispiece, wearing her pearl necklaces

A rare interview at Highgrove, the home near Tetbury in Gloucestershire she shares with Prince Charles, shows a more relaxed Camilla walking in the grounds with her Jack Russells.

When staff at Country Life enquired as to which photographer Camilla would like to choose for her cover shoot, the answer had them flummoxed at first.

Mark Hedges, Country Life editor, said: ‘When we first met back in January and we were sitting there I said, “Obviously we need a photo for the cover. Do you have any preference for photographers?”

‘She immediately said, “Catherine.” And none of us could think who she meant. And then some light bulbs started going on.’

The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured at a Monmouthshire farm to mark Wales Week, July 6 

CAMILLA meant, of course, the Duchess of Cambridge, who is a keen amateur photographer known for taking official portraits of her own children.

Kate took the pictures of Camilla at Ray Mill, her country retreat in Lacock, Wiltshire.

‘It was very relaxed,’ recalls Camilla. ‘[It was] very kind of the Duchess of Cambridge – [she] came with her camera. She’s an extremely good photographer and it was all very casual, there wasn’t much hair and make-up – it was just done in the garden with a lot of laughs. It was a lovely way of doing it.’

There are lots of laughs to be expected in the forthcoming special edition of Country Life, too, as the Duchess reveals her sense of mischief.

Staff at the 125-year-old publication, which historically featured a full-page photograph of debutante ‘girls in pearls’, quickly got a sense of Camilla’s quick wit when they saw that she had dressed her two female Jack Russells – Beth and Bluebell – in pearl necklaces to stand in as the ‘girls in pearls’.

Camilla promoted the National Literacy Trust’s library alliance campaign in Wales last week

Later in the documentary, when asked if it was true that Camilla was known to tell ‘the odd slightly naughty joke’, Sarah Troughton, one of the Queen’s cousins and a friend of Camilla, not only confirms the rumour but goes one better.

‘Oh, lots of very risqué [jokes], I would say, as well as naughty.’

The documentary reveals the Duchess of Cornwall as we have never seen her before, while simultaneously confirming everything that many people may long have suspected. Camilla shares the Queen’s love for horses and dogs, her husband’s passion for the countryside and gardening, and has been known to have the odd sneaky cigarette.

As she puts it herself, her British sensibility that you must ‘take a deep breath and get on with it’ is one that will endear her to the public.

So while much of her work is about supporting the Prince of Wales in his endeavours, the documentary puts Camilla in the spotlight in her own right.

Charles makes only a small appearance and has very few mentions in the programme, which airs on Wednesday, except to pop up at Clarence House to oversee the proposed pages for Camilla’s edit of Country Life.

She has also written about him for her special edition, saying: ‘It’s not easy writing about your husband, I’ve been through several pencils.’

The decision to allow a documentary crew to shadow the Duchess is part of a PR drive backed by the Palace to establish the Duchess of Cornwall as a deserving future Queen Consort. As well as this week’s documentary, Camilla appeared in Vogue magazine and, as this latest programme shows, guest-edited Country Life.

Camilla (left), pictured aged four in 1952, is pictured with sister Annabel (right), at three

It is a campaign firmly supported by the Queen, who in February used her Accession Day message marking 70 years on the Throne to back Camilla, saying that it was her ‘sincere wish’ for her daughter- in-law to be known as Queen Consort ‘when the time comes’.

As The Mail on Sunday revealed in February, detailed plans are in place for Camilla to be crowned alongside her husband when he becomes King. The pair will also embark on an extensive tour of the UK in the run-up to the Coronation.

Camilla has done much to shrug off the mistress narrative that lingered for years following Charles’s divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales.

While this documentary is largely positive, the controversy is a part of history that cannot be ignored. The film-makers mischievously point out that Alice Keppel, Camilla’s great- grandmother, was the favourite mistress of King Edward VII, Prince Charles’s great- great-grandfather.

The Duchess of Cambridge (right) takes Camila’s cover portrait for the issue of Country Life

And a charity event organiser is seen saying: ‘I’m a divorced woman and I know what that journey is like. I experienced some hostility and some unpleasantness – nothing like that level but I know how hard it is to maintain dignity and that demeanour and that presence over the decades that she has had to.’

Over the years, Camilla has also had to dispel claims of laziness from former Clarence House aide Mark Bolland, who once wrote in a Sunday Times article: ‘I love Camilla dearly, but she is monumentally lazy (in the nicest possible way).’

It would be hard to level such claims against the Duchess today. Camilla recently returned from Rwanda, where she visited the mass grave of genocide victims. Earlier this year she travelled to Canada on a whirlwind trip to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year. And further foreign trips are being planned. After her 2016 promotion to the Privy Council, she will be at Charles’s side when he is declared King. The Queen showed further favour this year when Camilla was made a Royal Lady of the Order of the Garter.

But far aside from any positive press the Palace can muster, sources there say the success for Camilla’s transformation can be put down to her own personality.

As a Royal source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘PR for the Duchess of Cornwall is easy to some extent because the raw material, if I can call it that, is good.

‘She’s clever, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s good for Charles, and when people see that, they can’t help but like her.’

No doubt many within the Palace will be hoping that showing the public more of Camilla’s personality and her background will help to establish the Duchess as a likeable presence.

Her privileged childhood included summer holidays spent ‘rolling down hills’ at her grandparents’ home, Hall Place, a 12-bedroom country estate in the heart of Hampshire.

The magnificent country pile features in the forthcoming Country Life, and the accompanying documentary shows the Duchess returning to the property.

It was here where Annabel’s teddy bear met his doom. So, when the family seat was sold off, the teddy – ‘Tiddy Bar’ – remained.

Camilla’s sister Annabel is seen in the documentary saying: ‘[She] only owned up to me about a month before I got married that actually she’d buried it.’

The Duchess admits: ‘My sister and I had had a bit of an argument so I buried him. It was sibling rivalry – yes, Tiddy Bar. He had a very happy resting ground in the rose garden.’

But not all the stories about Camilla’s early years stand up to scrutiny.

When asked whether there were ponies at her grandmother’s house, the Duchess laughs and says: ‘We never had ponies [at Hall House] although Gyles Brandreth will swear he met me there in my breeches and smoking a Woodbine.’

As the ITV programme shows, some of her fans come from unexpected quarters.

Jeremy Clarkson, the former Top Gear presenter who has taken on a farm in the Cotswolds called Diddly Squat, was chosen by Camilla to be featured.

Camilla says of the presenter, who hosts the series Clarkson’s Farm: ‘He made people realise how difficult farming is. I think some people see farming as cows sitting in a meadow on a beautiful day, and they don’t realise the work and the difficulties that are behind it.’

The Duchess may have second thoughts about his inclusion when she watches the programme, however. For Clarkson reveals of her: ‘I think we get on very well. Um, we used to go… perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but we used to go and sneak a crafty fag round the back of things. But I don’t smoke any more.

‘I think she might still sneak a crafty one in occasionally, but you’d have to ask her.’

The narrator is then quick to point out to viewers that the Duchess has not ‘smoked in decades’.

Along with quitting smoking, Camilla reveals that what keeps her young is keeping her brain active. ‘I think it is quite important as we all get older to keep going,’ she says. ‘You’ve got to keep the grey cells going. There’s always exciting new prospects, there is always something exciting round the next corner you never know what’s going to happen next.’

As Clarkson says: ‘She’s very good with people – she’s got a great twinkle in her eye.

‘There’s no question she obviously came from a privileged background. But not so privileged that the cushions have to be velvet and the blue M&Ms have to be taken out, so you do get the impression that she is one of us.’

It’s this image of Camilla with a twinkle in her eye that many at the Palace, and no doubt the Queen herself, would wish the public to see.

Camilla’s Country Life is on Wednesday, July 1

Camilla’s not aloof, she’s authentic and fun, says MICHAEL WALDMAN, who’s made a warm and revealing TV portrait of the duchess (including her crimes against teddy bears as a child) 

BySarah Oliver For Weekend Magazine 

There’s a dastardly deed with a teddy bear dating back decades, homegrown white peaches, a snifter of vodka, a longing for a handbag big enough to steal a Munnings masterpiece and some serious husband and wife rivalry over who did what best.

This is the outcome of a warm, funny and deeply revealing documentary portrait of the Duchess of Cornwall, who is celebrating her 75th birthday by guest-editing the forthcoming edition of glossy magazine Country Life. In the hands of BAFTA-winning director Michael Waldman, the ITV special was always going to be more than a record of her editorship. 

But few could have predicted how far it would open the window on Camilla’s world as she prepares to become Britain’s Queen Consort. The hour-long programme offers a glimpse into Camilla’s childhood, the spadework that goes into the causes she champions, such as domestic abuse, and depicts a royally happy marriage. 

That said, the duchess has no hesitation in trying to seize the crown for Country Life’s best-ever sales figures from her husband, who last guest-edited the magazine in 2018. ‘She is definitely keen that her magazine outsells his,’ confirms Country Life managing editor Paula Lester.

Camilla, pictured at Highgrove, stars in a film which lifts the lid on her life, following her to locations such as Clarence House and Cornwall 

Above all the film, which follows Camilla from Clarence House to Cornwall, at the Grand National on her 17th wedding anniversary and on a pilgrimage to a former family home, reveals palace protocols haven’t crushed her sense of humour (or, at Aintree, her fancy for a flutter on a 100-1 outsider).

When Michael caught up with her at the Royal Cornwall Show last month, official duties had seen her sampling cider and vodka. ‘I’m still standing, they didn’t fell me,’ she tells him. 

At the same show, the green-fingered duchess spots the orangey-pink rose named in her honour. She appears tickled by its properties – it’s a generously petalled, robust bloom with a lightly spiced scent – telling Michael, deadpan, that the ‘Duchess of Cornwall’ is very ‘disease-resistant, I can recommend it’.

The director also shared a joke with Camilla in an art gallery viewing paintings by equine artist Sir Alfred Munnings. 

‘She loves Munnings, but doesn’t have any of his work. I was bantering with her about whether she’d like to take one home. She looks furtively about and says if she had a large enough handbag, she would try, though she worried security would stop her on the way out.

‘She’s not intending to nick a painting of course, but what comes across is that, despite the life she leads, she’s able to engage in this way. The duchess could have given very formal answers to my questions but she’s not aloof or arrogant, she’s authentic and fun.

‘It’s intriguing, I mean, what a weird world she has entered given the one she grew up in.’ Viewers see this non-royal environment when Camilla and her sister Annabel Elliot return to Hall Place in the South Downs village of West Meon, Hampshire.

The Duchess of Cornwall, pictured looking at magazine proofs, guest-edited the forthcoming edition of the magazine Country Life to celebrate her 75th birthday

Previously the home of their maternal grandmother, it was also, unexpectedly, a crime scene. ‘Annabel is recalling that Camilla buried her teddy bear and did not fess up to it for decades, not until they were adults,’ says Michael.

‘She outs the duchess for it. I could see in Camilla’s eyes a desire not to go into too much detail but eventually she said, with a sort of smirk, ‘Oh yes, Tiddy Bar – he had a very happy resting ground.’ 

Annabel affectionately tells the director, ‘I’ve not forgiven her – it still rankles to this day!’ Given that Camilla arrived in the Royal Family as a divorced mother-of-two, her early life unchronicled compared to that of her husband, it’s illuminating to see this closeness to her younger sister and to knoww that she is so familiar with Hall Place she could ‘still find my way around it with my eyes shut’. 

The 17th-century manor stands on a £15m English estate running to almost 300 acres. The duchess describes happy holidays there, rolling down hills and collecting Cabbage White butterflies in jam jars with Annabel, before tucking up for the night in the nursery.

Camilla and her sister Annabel Elliot, pictured as children, returned to Hall Place in the South Downs village of West Meon, Hampshire, during the programme 

It’s the kind of classic English idyll that began her enduring love affair with the countryside – and also with the magazine which reports on it every week. In print for 125 years, Country Life celebrates, in its own words, ‘country house architecture, fine art, gardens, gardening, food and drink and dogs,’ while digging into the contemporary social, economic and environmental issues facing rural Britain. 

That’s why, when Camilla spotted editor-in-chief Mark Hedges at a reception, she made a beeline for him and asked if she might guest-edit an edition. Clearly the duchess viewed it as a challenge, a pleasure, and as a way of making herself more knowable to the British people.

A staggering 1,589 emails went backwards and forwards between Paula Lester and Clarence House as the duchess commissioned what the magazine describes as a ‘diverse and eclectic’ series of articles on the places and people close to her heart. One of them is the Prince of Wales who she names as a countryside champion. 

‘It’s a bit of nepotism!’ she tells Michael, adding ‘it’s not very easy to write about your husband’ and that she ‘bit through several pencils’ trying to do justice to his countryside crusading.

Michael said that Camilla and Charles clearly understand the countryside and the people who work in it deep in their souls 

Camilla also commissioned an investigation into rural domestic abuse. ‘That,’ says Paula, ‘was the piece which pushed the boundaries of Country Life. It is a gritty, hard-hitting feature, an important addition.’ 

The duchess agrees, telling Michael, ‘The countryside is not all roses, there are darker things happening.’ Speaking to survivors of abuse in Manchester, she meets a male victim and talks about how people think men never suffer from abuse in the home. 

Michael remembers Camilla saying, ‘Men jolly well do,’ keen to draw attention to a subject which is often taboo. Despite the jocular rivalry over their sales figures, Prince Charles is demonstrably proud of his wife and popped in to watch her at work with the Country Life team, tweaking page proofs on the dining table at Clarence House.

 ‘It’s clear they understand the countryside, and the people who work in it, deep in their souls,’ says Paula. Michael concurs. ‘Camilla says she is embedded in the countryside and it’s embedded in her.

‘You can see it is fundamental to her relationship with the Prince of Wales, that shared love.’

He captures the couple in both facets of their life together, public and private. At one point his camera sees them walking down a Clarence House corridor, on their way to May’s State Opening of Parliament where Prince Charles represented his mother for the first time. 

Michael was also privy to the royal couple’s ordinary informality. ‘It is an easy relationship. I am not saying they bicker in front of me, but they are not overly polite to each other when they’re at home. 

Why would they be?’ he says. He was with the duchess on her wedding anniversary, 9 April, when she was at Aintree. 

‘I was told there was a private dinner that evening and that she couldn’t be late. I did not go so far as saying, ‘Are you looking forward to your anniversary dinner with your husband Ma’am?’ but the timings suggested she was determined to get home for a romantic celebration with her prince.

The documentary is full of personal touches such as this. There’s another when the duchess is editing her son’s work – the Mail on Sunday’s food writer Tom Parker Bowles has contributed a piece about peaches to the magazine.

 ‘He said from the beginning he hoped she wouldn’t meddle with his copy,’ says Paula. ‘She didn’t touch the words, but she asked to swap a picture of yellow peaches for white ones because she grows them. She says they’re like the caviar of the fruit world.’

Really, though, it’s a film showing a woman for so long in the background getting ready to take her place in history, a landmark piece of television that will help fill in the outline of our future Queen: Camilla.

Camilla’s Country Life, Wed, 9pm, ITV and ITV Hub. With thanks to Country Life magazine.

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