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Here's What Camilla Really Thinks of Kate and Meghan

The old guard has a lot to say about the new.

It's been a big year for the royal family, with the arrival of a new baby, a royal wedding, and a landmark 70th birthday for Prince Charles. While a lion's share of the attention has been on Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, there is one person who has been intimately involved in every important event. No, it's not Queen Elizabeth. It's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Camilla, who was once the most hated women in Britain for her role as the "third person" in the disastrous marriage of Charles and Princess Diana, has firmly established herself as one of the most influential women in the royal family. She is the highest ranking royal woman (second only to the Queen), so the influence she wields behind the scenes is considerable—and her step-daughters-in-law know it.

"Camilla, through her devotion to Charles and patience, has managed to win over the royal family," one royal insider told me. "The Queen has grown fond of her and realizes how good she has been for her son. William and Harry adore her and because of that, she is very important to Catherine and Meghan."

Both royal daughters-in-law have wisely forged their own relationships with Camilla—with very different results.

"Kate was aware that Camilla didn't originally think the Middleton family was posh enough to join the royal ranks. Camilla thought William should marry a girl from an aristocratic family," revealed my source. "But Kate knew she had the support of the Queen and Prince Charles. She made a point of winning Camilla over, and she did."

So much so that Camilla famously invited Kate for lunch at Koffman's in the Berkeley Hotel before her wedding to Prince William where where they were joined by Pippa Middleton and Camilla's daughter, Laura Lopes. The bride-to-be was spotted jotting down suggestions Camilla made in a Smythson notebook. The women also made pre-wedding trip to the ballet.

After the wedding, Camilla reportedly gave the bride a gold link charm bracelet which featured a disc engraved with both of their monograms—"C" for Catherine and a coronet on one side, and "C" for Camilla and a crown on the other. The bracelet quickly became a favorite of Kate's, who was first spotted wearing the bracelet in June 2011, two months after her royal wedding and again days later at Wimbledon.

In recent years, the women have shared a carriage at important events like Trooping the Colour (the Queen's official birthday celebration) as they did this past summer. But, there remains hints of a strain between them that occasionally surfaces as evidenced by the shade Kate threw at Camilla during Harry and Meghan's wedding that sent the Twittersphere into overdrive. The two women were spotted having an intense conversation while seated in St. George's Chapel waiting for the ceremony to begin. When Camilla was caught on camera muttering and laughing to herself at Reverend Michael Curry's fiery sermon, caught Kate giving Camilla some serious side eye.

"Kate is much more reserved than Camilla; it was clear she thought Camilla was being a tad disrespectful in that moment," said my source. "Camilla and Kate will both be queen some day and that puts them on somewhat equal footing for now, but there has been times when Camilla gets annoyed when she thinks William and Kate overshadow Charles. She has always felt that Charles has not gotten his due for all that he has done as Prince of Wales. Camilla and Catherine has friendly, but not close. Catherine has her mother and sister. The relationship between Camilla and Catherine will take on a different dynamic when Charles becomes King."

Camilla liked Meghan from the very start. When news of her engagement to Harry broke, Camilla enthusiastically told one reporter she and Charles were thrilled adding, "America's loss is our gain."

In fact, my sources told me Camilla was intent on taking Meghan under her wing because she liked the former actress' informality and her commitment to helping women in need (Camilla has been working under the radar with survivors of sexual assault for years). "The duchess saw a bit of herself in Meghan and she clearly knew what it was to be an outsider joining the family, so she made a special effort to get to know Meghan and now they get on famously. Both she and Charles adore her."

In May, shortly after Meghan and Harry's wedding, Camilla was interviewed by 5 News in London and revealed days leading up to the big day, the royal family was greatly concerned for the bride-to-be when her father, Thomas Markle, famously backed out at the last minute. "We all wondered whatever would happen next," she remarked."Then everything went right." Looking back on the wedding she said, "It's nice to have something that is uplifting rather than depressing. Everything was just perfect, including the weather, which couldn't have been better. It was a beautiful day."

Meghan and Camilla's friendship was clearly evident at her first official appearance as a member of the family three days at Charles' 70th birthday garden party where she and Camilla were spotted holding hands at one point.

"Harry has said that had Diana lived, she and Meghan would be 'thick as thieves,'" said my source. "Just as Camilla has taken Diana's place in Charles' life, she has assumed her role of mother-in-law as well. It's quite bittersweet." And for more on Camilla's relationship with the newly minted duchess, Here's Why Meghan Markle Is So Grateful to Camilla.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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