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Uneasy sits Delhi crown on Camilla

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AMIT ROY London Published 26.10.05, 12:00 AM

London, Oct. 26: Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles, now rebranded the Duchess of Cornwall after her marriage to Prince Charles, last night donned a royal tiara worn at the Delhi Durbar of 1911 by Queen Mary to celebrate the coronation of King George V.

The Delhi Durbar was held on December 12, 1911, to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India. Many maharajas and rajas were invited on that occasion, along with landed gentry.

Last night, Camilla wore the tiara, loaned to her by the Queen, at a banquet held in the ball room of Buckingham Palace in honour of the visiting King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway.

Camilla has struck Indian women who have met her as a down-to-earth person without airs and graces. But to see her wear a tiara with such evocative imperial connections will make some royal watchers wonder whether she is suffering delusions of grandeur. Success in the marriage stakes has gone to her head, a few will say.

So far, she has not found an occasion to wear the green sari sent to her as a wedding gift by Mumbai’s dabbawallahs.

Others will note that giving Camilla such an important family heirloom as the tiara for the evening is a gesture of reconciliation on the part of the Queen, who refused to attend her son’s wedding (although she hosted a party afterwards at Windsor Castle). Some will even remark that this may be an early step towards introducing the idea of a Queen Camilla.

In an interview to mark his 21st birthday, Prince Harry spoke warmly about his stepmother. She is “a wonderful woman and she’s made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing”, he said.

“William and I love her to bits,” Harry added, perhaps exceeding the bounds of duty. “To be honest with you, she’s always been very close to me and William... but no, she’s not the wicked stepmother. I’ll say that right now.”

At last night’s banquet, King Harald sat between the Queen and Camilla, whose lace midnight blue evening dress was by her favourite designers Robinson Valentine, the makers of her wedding outfit. This was Camilla’s first royal banquet. No doubt, many others will follow.

The brilliant-cut diamonds in her tiara, mounted in gold and set in platinum, are arranged in a circle of forget-me-nots and lyres. The historic tiara previously included five of the Cambridge cabochon emeralds and also was occasionally worn with two diamonds from the Cullinan stone. But the emeralds were removed by Queen Mary and made into another tiara now owned by the Queen and the diamonds were kept separately as a brooch.

The tiara was lent to the Queen Mother in 1947 for an official visit to South Africa and remained with her but she is not believed to have worn it subsequently. The Queen has not worn it either.

The Queen wore the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia’s tiara and a white lace beaded dress.

The dinner was also attended by Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and his wife the Crown Princess Mette-Marit who is eight months pregnant. Prince Philip and Prince Charles were also there, as were Tony and Cherie Blair among the 160 guests.

Among the other royals present were the Duke of York (“Randy Andy”), the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Edward and former PR girl Sophie), the Princess Royal (Anne of the horses), the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Royal ladies were required to wear tiaras.

After the Queen’s speech and the Norwegian national anthem, Camilla clinked glasses first with Haakon and then the King.

The Queen said: “Together we share many of the challenges of today’s world ? tackling poverty, protecting human rights, addressing climate change and dealing with the new threat of global terrorism. I was grateful for your message of sympathy and solidarity and for the many other messages from ordinary Norwegians, following the bomb attacks here last July. No country is immune from these dangers and we all need to work together to prevent those who wish to attack our way of life from achieving their aims.”

Guests no doubt pondered problems of world poverty as they tackled last night’s menu: “Delice de Fletan Victoria; Fillet of halibut with lobster and truffle and lobster sauce; Longe de Venaison Balmoral; Loin of venison with glazed shallots and wild mushrooms; Puree de Celeri-rave; Celeriac puree; Beignets de Brocolis; Broccolit beignets; Pommes Confit; Confit potatoes; Salade de Haricots Verts a ’Huile de Noix; French bean salad with walnut oil; Bombe Glacee Nesselrode; Chestnut ice cream. Wines: Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Champs Canet, Domaine Olivier Leflaive 1999; Chateau Cos d’Estournel, 2eme Cru Classe, St Estephe 1990; Bollinger, Grande Annee 1996; Fonseca 1970.”

The King ? Norwegian royals tend to get about by bicycle ? spoke about the popularity of Harry Potter books, the BBC and English football in Norway.

Bringing out royal jewellery with Indian connections can be counter-productive. The Koh-i-Noor diamond, brought out of the Tower of London for the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002, sparkled in the sun and reminded many Indians of its provenance.

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