She was born Camilla Rosemary Shand in London. Her parents were the Hon. Rosalind Cubitt, a daughter of the 3rd Baron Ashcombe, and her husband, Major Bruce Shand, an British Army officer turned wine merchant.
Ironically, Mrs. Parker Bowles is related to two other favourites of the British royal family. She is a great-granddaughter of famed royal mistress Alice Keppel (Mrs. George Keppel, née Edmonstone), who was the last love of Prince Charles's great-great-grandfather, Edward VII. She is also related to Arnold Joost van Keppel, 1st Earl of Albemarle, a love of William III. She is also a great-niece of Violet Trefusis, a noted socialite who caused an international scandal in the 1920s by eloping with fellow writer Vita Sackville-West; both ladies were married at the time.
The relationship between the former Mrs Parker Bowles and Charles, Prince of Wales began in 1972, before either of them was married, but ended a year later, reportedly after the prince delayed proposing marriage. Camilla Shand was married in 1973 to Andrew Parker Bowles, an Army officer who was a friend of Prince Charles and a godson of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother; they divorced in 1995. The couple had two children: Tom (born 1974, a food columnist for Tatler who is a godson of the Prince of Wales) and Laura (born 1979).
Charles and Camilla's friendship continued. The Parker Bowles marriage became shaky, and Andrew Parker Bowles took a long-term mistress who later became his second wife. Camilla and Charles did not now have the option of a public romance, and Charles looked elsewhere for a wife.
Publicly, the enduring relationship of Charles and Camilla was blamed by the late Diana, Princess of Wales for the break-up of the Waleses' marriage; privately, the princess referred to Mrs Parker Bowles, with whom she had originally been on affable terms, as "the Rottweiler". Diana reported that Camilla had known before she did that Charles was going to propose to her. Charles and Camilla bought one another presents and used the pet nicknames of "Fred" and "Gladys" to one another. The prince's supporters maintained that Diana's "paranoid fixation" over his friendship with Camilla broke up their marriage.
The continuing relationship between Charles and Camilla was kept secret until the early 1990s, when the rift between Charles and Diana became public knowledge. It was the "Camillagate" scandal -- tape recordings of a private telephone conversation between Charles and Camilla -- that brought it to the surface. It has been claimed by royal "insiders," though denied by both the couple and their friends, that their affair had been conducted throughout Charles's engagement. The affair publicly resumed after he made the decision to separate from his wife. However, it was his public admission, in a television interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, that he had committed adultery that caused Mr and Mrs Parker Bowles to announce their own divorce. Andrew Parker Bowles soon remarried.
Camilla Parker Bowles now lives openly with the Prince of Wales at Highgrove House and appears with him at social events. She also lives at Clarence House, the former residence of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, which is now the Prince of Wales's official London residence. He spent his childhood in the house, which was the first residence of his newlywed parents, Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip.