It was the shortest of announcements, but for experts in divining shifts and currents in the relationships between royals, it was a huge pronouncement:
The Queen has been pleased to make the following appointment to the Royal Victorian Order:
To be a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
It is an acknowledgement, handed out on the seventh wedding anniversary of Prince Charles and Camilla, that the duchess of Cornwall is no longer seen as “that woman” who broke up Charles and Diana. There was no doubt the Queen had been cool towards Camilla, given the harm her adulterous relationship with Charles had on the monarchy. Elizabeth II, because she’s head of the Church of England, didn’t even attend their 2005 civil wedding. Yet the Queen realized that, for her son, Camilla was a non-negotiable part of his life. So she hosted the wedding reception at Windsor Castle and Camilla got a fittingly prominent role at state visits and other high profile events. And just in February, Camilla and her own daughter-in-law, Kate, joined the Queen on a rare—and colour-coordinated—visit to Fortnum & Mason.
Still, the Royal Victorian Order is an honour that isn’t handed out like candy. As the monarchy’s website explains, “The Royal Victorian Order is given by The Queen to people who have served her or the Monarchy in a personal way. The Order was founded in April 1896 by Queen Victoria as a way of rewarding personal service to her, on her own initiative rather than by ministerial recommendation. The Order was, and is, entirely within the Sovereign’s personal gift.” That might explain why Diana never got one—the Queen had a front-row view of the damage she was inflicting on the house of Windsor.
The Telegraph noted its significance: “Since her marriage, the duchess has carried out hundreds of engagements, with and without her husband, acting both as a model consort and a model spokesman for her chosen charities. Given the uncertainty over how her marriage would be received, it is wonderful to see how she has won the public over.” Fiona Trott of the BBC concurs: “It’s likely that Camilla’s award is in recognition of her many royal engagements at home and abroad over the past seven years and is an indication of her importance within the royal family.”
And in cases like this, being a sovereign can be handy. “One of the advantages of being Queen,” the Telegraph goes on to say, “is the ability to offer rather classier presents than are to be found on the high street.”