Then-Prince Charles and Camilla on HMSQE for the 40th anniversary of Falklands War events.
Then-Prince Charles and Camilla on HMSQE for the 40th anniversary of Falklands War events.
Royals

Camilla: The Queen Consort and the military

Then-Prince Charles and Camilla on HMSQE for the 40th anniversary of Falklands War events.
Then-Prince Charles and Camilla on HMSQE for the 40th anniversary of Falklands War events.

Camilla is the Queen Consort and the wife of King Charles III – the military's new Commander-in-Chief.

In the spring of 2020, Camilla took up the role of Colonel in Chief of The Rifles after the title was passed over to her from her father-in-law, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, who had steadily retired from his many honorary positions.

Her role with The Rifles is just one aspect of Camilla's close relationship and bond with the British Armed Forces – a closeness that goes beyond her membership in the Royal Family.

Here, we explore the ins and outs of the Queen Consort's close ties to the Armed Forces, which include honorary roles in each of the three services.

Watch: Then-Duchess of Cornwall tells Rifles personnel how they impress and inspire her.

Camilla's father

The Queen Consort's father, Bruce Shand, was a highly decorated soldier of the Second World War.

After completing training at Sandhurst in 1937, he commissioned into the 12th Lancers and, at the outbreak of war, was deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

Lieutenant Shand was present for the Dunkirk evacuation and was awarded a Military Cross in the process.

A year-and-a-half later while serving in North Africa, Lt Shand again saw action, resulting in him being awarded a bar to his Military Cross.

At El Alamein in November 1942, Lt Shand was injured in battle and captured. He was transferred to a Prisoner of War camp in mainland Germany where he remained until liberation in 1945.

Camilla visits 5 Rifles for first time as Colonel-in-Chief.
The then-Duchess visits 5 Rifles for the first time as Colonel-in-Chief.

After the war, Bruce Shand was promoted to major but was retired from service as he was unable to fully recover from the injuries he sustained in El Alamein.

He married the Honourable Rosalind Maud Cubitt in 1946 and the couple had three children, the eldest of whom was Camilla.

For the rest of his life, Bruce was the military book reviewer for Country Life magazine and, in 1990, authored his war time memoirs, Previous Engagements. He died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 89.

Andrew Parker Bowles

Camilla was married to Major Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. At the time, Parker Bowles was a squadron leader in the Household Cavalry.

From 1981 to 1983, Camilla and Andrew lived in Hyde Park Barracks in Knightsbridge, London, where he was the Commanding Officer of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

Camilla, then-Duchess of Rothesay with Commander David Crosby at HMNB Clyde (Picture: Royal Navy).
Camilla, then-Duchess of Rothesay, with Commander David Crosby at HMNB Clyde (Picture: Royal Navy).

During this time, the regiment went through a difficult period which included an IRA attack on mounted guards at Hyde Park who were on their way to the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Horse Guards Parade.

The terrorist attack claimed the lives of four members of the Blues and Royals Squadron and seven of the regiment's horses.

Parker Bowles himself was cap badged Blues and Royals and reportedly ran out of the barracks' gates and to the scene immediately after the bombing.  

In 2018, Brigadier Parker Bowles revealed in comments given to the author Robert Hardman for the book, Queen of the World, that the Queen spoke to him directly in the days following the attack and described the event as "the most ghastly day of my life".

Camilla and Andrew's relationship came to an end in 1995 when the couple divorced.

The Rifles' General Sir Patrick Sanders presents Camilla Duchess of Cornwall with brooch (Picture: Clarence House).
The Rifles' General Sir Patrick Sanders presents Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall, with a brooch in 2020 (Picture: Clarence House).

HRH Duchess Of Cornwall

Camilla married Prince Charles in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall on 9 April 2005, which was then followed by a blessing at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Upon marriage, she became the Duchess of Cornwall, a rank that afforded her the status of being the second highest woman in the United Kingdom order of precedence – second only to Her Majesty the Queen.

Since then, the Duchess has steadily grown the number of military titles afforded to her across the three armed services.

Most recent to the list of military honours held by the Queen Consort is Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles – a position passed to her by a retiring Duke of Edinburgh in 2020.

In November 2021, the then-Duchess of Cornwall told Rifles' personnel how they have "impressed and inspired" her.

She added: "I would certainly not wish to face any of you on the battlefield!"

The Duchess joined veterans, personnel and other members of the Royal Family at the Rifles' Awards Dinner at London's Guildhall. 

Watch: 4 Rifles personnel receive medals from their Royal Colonel.

Other military titles held by Camilla

As well as being Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles, the Queen Consort also holds the following military honours:

Colonel-in-Chief, Special Reconnaissance Regiment

Lady Sponsor, HMS Astute

Commodore in Chief, Naval Chaplaincy Service

Commodore in Chief, Naval Medical Services

Honorary Air Commodore, RAF Leeming

Honorary Air Commodore, RAF Halton

Colonel-in-Chief, Royal Australian Corps of Military Police

Colonel-in-Chief, Queen's Own Rifles of Canada

As well as her formal ties to the Armed Forces, the Queen Consort has regularly visited different parts of the military, including the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment – the unit her ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles once commanded.

While visiting the London-based regiment in 2010, Camilla handed out a number of presentations and promotions to members of the ceremonial unit. One such soldier was Dan Hughes, who on the day of the Royal visit was promoted to lance corporal.

Ten years on, Dan told BFBS he has vivid memories of the day the Duchess of Cornwall came to his base and gave him his stripes.

He said: "I remember it being a very formal visit from Camilla, with myself and another Trooper having to be in immaculate Combat 95 kit ready to receive our promotions... the rest of the regiment was in Number 2 dress and coveralls."

Duchess of Cornwall and Dan Hughes. Credit: Daniel Hughes
Dan Hughes, second from left, was presented his Lance Corporal rank by HRH Duchess of Cornwall in November 2010 (Picture: Daniel Hughes).

Dan, 31, who has since run his own physical training business in Guildford, Surrey, recalled that Camilla was very engaging in the short conversation he was able to have with her.

He said: "I was very nervous. The other Trooper and I had very little time to practise our drill ready to greet Camilla.

"We both marched up to Camilla and halted out of time, but I don't think Camilla noticed. 

"The conversation was brief but she was very engaging. She asked me how I was and what my job role was within the regiment. It was brief but something I will always be proud of.

"I have the picture hung up at home and it's always a great conversation starter whenever I have friends over," he added.

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