'Wonderful blue eyes' - Camilla's praise for Queen Elizabeth II

Kindness, smile and her early days as a monarch in a male dominated world praised by queen consort

Queen Consort Camilla, pictured in 2013, said she would never forget Queen Elizabeth's smile. PA
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Queen Consort Camilla has spoken movingly of Queen Elizabeth II's “wonderful blue eyes” and her ability to carve a role in a “male-dominated world” when she came to the throne.

In a personal tribute to her mother-in-law, the wife of King Charles III also described the queen’s smile that would instantly lift people’s spirits.

Her words came a day before the queen will be laid to rest following Britain’s biggest state funeral, with a million people expected to line the streets of London and Windsor.

The queen consort was four years old when Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1952, at a time when there were very few women in senior roles in public life.

“There weren't women prime ministers or presidents,” she told the BBC. “She was the only one, so I think she carved her own role.”

Queen Elizabeth, who was 25 when she ascended the throne, had the strength of character to rise above the “difficult position” of being a “solitary woman” in a male-dominated world.

Queen Elizabeth II's funeral: five facts you may not know

Queen Elizabeth II's funeral: five facts you may not know

For the vast majority of her subjects, the queen, having reigned for 70 years, “has been part of our lives forever”, Camilla said. “I'm 75 now and I can't remember anybody except the queen being there.”

The queen consort, who has been part of the royal family since she married the former Prince of Wales in 2005, had got to know her mother-in-law well during the past two decades.

She described the queen’s “wonderful blue eyes” and how “when she smiles they light up her whole face”. She added: “I will always remember that smile.”

She also recalled a private conversation that they had before the platinum jubilee celebrations in June when Queen Elizabeth said it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla should become queen consort when her husband ascended the throne.

This helped resolve a difficult issue following King Charles’ divorce from the late Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1996.

In a tribute to his wife in his first speech as monarch, the king said she would bring “steadfast devotion to duty” in her new role, an ability “I have come to rely so much”.

In other emotional words of praise, the queen’s granddaughters Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice wrote of the “tears and laughter and hugs” as well as their “collective loss for you, our beloved Queen and our beloved Grannie”.

In a highly personal statement released by Buckingham Palace, the two daughters of Prince Andrew gave an insight into their relationship.

“You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world,” they said. “You taught us so much. Thank you for making us laugh, for including us, for picking heather and raspberries, for marching soldiers, for our teas, for comfort, for joy.

“We all miss you terribly.”

They said that while the world mourned her passing “the tributes would really make you smile”.

The BBC interview with Camilla will be broadcast just before Britain holds a minute's silence at 8pm BST on Sunday.

Updated: September 18, 2022, 9:50 PM