The Duchess of Cornwall spent her early youth in the village of Plumpton, Sussex, where her family home was opposite Plumpton Racecourse. She was said to be "an uncomplicated, outgoing, cheerful ‘girl’ with a lust for life".
Broderick Munro Wilson, someone who knew Camilla as a child, said of her “Camilla was very easygoing. She was into boys much quicker than other girls of her age. There was this daredevil element in her. She would make the running. She is a girl who has probably always known what she wanted and gone for it.” Someone (it is not clear who) once noted that Annabel, Camilla’s sister, was “not the sort to throw her knickers on the table”. The implication being that Camilla was the sort who did.
The Duchess of Cornwall was first educated at Dumbrells School, a co-educational school in Sussex, where she went at the age of 5. Ice-cold morning baths were the order of the day.
Aged 10, Camilla started at the fashionable Queen’s Gate School in South Kensington, which aimed to “provide wives for the Foreign Office and most of the nobility”. There they were taught such essential skills for upper class girls as, flower arranging, cookery and how to write cheques. The young Miss Shand left school with one O-level (interestingly 1 more than Princess Diana), but nobody appears to have recorded what subject this O Level was in.
Her contemporaries recall her climbing on to the roof for cigarettes, and add that she wasn’t particularly pretty or fashionable but that she was popular. Lynn Ripley (the pop singer Twinkle in later life) recalls that she “ started to wear way-out clothes, but Milla never got out of her twinsets and tweed skirts. She didn’t seem to mind being different to the others. Girls can be cruel but there was an inner something in Milla that others recognised as stronger.”
At 16, she transferred to finishing schools in Switzerland and France. Mon Fertile finishing school in Switzerland and the Institut Britannique in Paris. In Switzerland, friends say that she lost weight, and learnt how to kiss boys, a pastime she described as “quite deliciously wonderful”. Camilla was known for for being raunchy and randy. “When a boy hove into view she could turn on the headlights — and how!”
In 1965 after spending six months in Europe, she moved to London. She worked part-time as a secretary, devoting the rest of her time to a full social diary of country-house weekends and events like hunt balls as a debutante. And went through a number of boyfriends. They included Kevin Burke, son of Sir Aubrey Burke, the deputy chairman of the Hawker Siddeley Group, the aircraft manufacturer. His comment on their relationship was “Every night we went to two or three cocktail parties and then a dance. It was the best time and I had the best partner you could wish for. She was never bad-tempered. She knew how to have fun. I remained with Camilla all that year. I suppose we were in love . . . Then she ditched me.”
She hosted a coming-out cocktail party at Number 30, Pavilion Road, Knightsbridge at this time. She was described as "neither pretty nor intellectual, but she was outgoing with a good sense of humour".
She worked for a year at the London decorators Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler.
Soon after breaking with Kevin Burke, Camilla went out with Rupert Hambro, of the Hambro banking family. Then the handsome and aristocratic Andrew Parker Bowles arrived on her scene and Camilla and he became an item, with her spending much time at his flat in the Portobello Road.
She was in love with him but he was playing the field. This could perhaps be why she chatted up Prince Charles at a polo match in the summer of 1970. Whatever really happened will probably never be known, but in July 1973 she did marry Andrew Parker Bowles, and not Prince Charles.
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