Duchess of Cornwall 'can't wait to hug' her grandchildren

By Helen Thomas
BBC Radio 5 Live

  • Published
Media caption,
The Duchess of Cornwall says the “worst bit” of lockdown has been not seeing her family

The Duchess of Cornwall says she "can't wait to hug her grandchildren" after only seeing them on internet calls and at a social distance since the start of lockdown.

The duchess said missing her grandchildren was "the worst" and she had needed to resist her instinct to give them a hug when she saw them for the first time in more than three months.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live's Emma Barnett, Camilla also talked about her husband Prince Charles' recovery from Covid-19.

The Prince of Wales contracted coronavirus in March, experiencing mild symptoms. He has since said he "got away with it quite lightly".

The duchess, 72, who tested negative for the virus, said Prince Charles did suffer from a loss of taste and smell, from which she said he has "nearly" recovered.

"It sort of comes and goes a bit," she added.

Camilla's conversation at the royal couple's official residence, Clarence House in London, will be broadcast as part of The Emma Barnett show being guest edited by the duchess on BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday 7 July, starting at 10:00 BST.

She has been involved in the process of organising the show, helping to frame it with her perspective on issues that matter to her.

Getting to grips with Zoom

Camilla spoke about something which will be very familiar to families across the UK - the use of video calls to keep in touch.

She said that before lockdown, she "really hated the internet... I didn't understand it, and I thought what's the point of this wretched thing?"

However, she said she has been using it to communicate with friends and family, and it's been "brilliant".

She even played a game of Trivial Pursuit with her daughter, Laura Lopes, and grandchildren over the Houseparty app. "And I won," she noted.

The duchess did admit she had not gone so far as to try a Joe Wicks PE class online, for fear of an injury.

"I would put something out straight away," she said.

And she also revealed she has been "very, very happy" wearing her jeans for Zoom calls.

"You get into a way of life, don't you?" she said.

"Lockdown Zoom fashion is very interesting because everybody can look very smart on the top but I think if somebody took a camera underneath, they'd find some very interesting sights."

The duchess said missing her grandchildren was "the worst", and even though she has been able to see them at a social distance, that in itself was hard.

"You eventually get to meet them, you're so excited because you haven't seen them for three-and-a-half months and your first reaction is to run up and hug them, and you have to sort of put up your hands.

"It's a very odd feeling, I shall look forward to the day when I can give them a huge hug again."

Personal insights and big issues

Image caption,
The Duchess of Cornwall will edit the Emma Barnett Show for one day only

By Daniela Relph, BBC royal correspondent

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is using her guest edit of the Emma Barnett Show to highlight the issues she really cares about. The informality of the radio programme means you get something more intimate too.

On the big issues that matter to her the scale of domestic abuse during lockdown is an obvious concern alongside loneliness and literacy levels.

But there are also personal insights.

Before her royal marriage, the Duchess of Cornwall's life was not one of palaces and public engagements and sometimes that more normal experience shows.

She was recently reunited with her grandchildren after three months apart but social distancing rules meant she couldn't give them the huge hug she said she'd missed.

She told Emma Barnett she'd enjoyed not dressing up and living in a pair of jeans during lockdown and she described her husband, the Prince of Wales, as the fittest man of his age that I know.

For the whole Royal Family, usual duties and visits have been replaced by online calls.

But as the lockdown eases, things are getting closer to normal, with Prince Charles and Camilla recently visiting Gloucestershire Royal Hospital to speak to NHS workers.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Duchess of Cornwall carrying out socially-distanced royal duties at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

"I wanted to go up to them and shake their hand and say you've done such a wonderful job," she said. "But it didn't feel quite the same standing in my little circle, don't move left or right - you had to shout 'thank you' and it's very different."

Meetings are not the same when they happen remotely, she said.

"It is about connecting and you know, it's lovely talking to people, I like talking to people and sitting and looking at people's faces, and you can't really on screens. You don't get the animated look that you get looking at a real person."

She revealed that during lockdown she had two calls with a 90-year-old woman, Betty, via the over-65s helpline The Silver Line.

"I saw a picture of her and she looked much younger than me, she looked incredible," she said, adding that the pair spoke about Betty's teenage days working on a farm at the end of World War Two, alongside the Women's Land Army.

The duchess urged any older people who are feeling lonely to call the helpline, adding: "There's so many people out there wanting to talk to you. You're not alone, you're not by yourself."

Ballet classes

The Duchess of Cornwall also talked about staying fit - both before lockdown and during it.

She has recently taken up ballet after a visit to the Royal Academy of Dance, where she is a patron.

Image caption,
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall with their rescue dogs, Beth and Bluebell

She saw a "silver swan" class of older people dancing, and got a group of her friends together - who she called the "creaky crew" - to try it.

She said "they all howled with laughter and said 'you must be joking'" but gave it a go, and it is something she has carried on doing remotely every morning during lockdown.

"I don't do it in front of a mirror, which you should do, because the shock might be too great," she joked.

"I will get the rather creaky crew back together again. I think we'll have to go back to the beginning. We were progressing a bit but no doubt through lockdown we've all gone backwards."

Camilla said Prince Charles had not been tempted to join in, but he will "walk and walk and walk… he's like a mountain goat and leaves everybody miles behind".

She said the prince, who is 71, is "probably the fittest man of his age".

The duchess has two dogs, Beth and Bluebell, who came from Battersea Dogs Home, an animal rescue shelter in London.

"Along I went to Battersea, and Beth appeared and she had just been moved from pillar to post and dumped.

"We thought it would be nice for her to have a friend. They found [Bluebell] two or three weeks later wandering about in woods, no hair on her, covered in sores, virtually dead.

"And they nursed her back to life and her hair grew again. She's very sweet, but a tiny bit neurotic, shall we say."

She said both of the dogs love children, and while they are allowed "nearly everywhere" including the sofa, they are "not allowed to sleep on the bed".

Brought to tears

In February, the duchess hosted an event for the charity SafeLives at Clarence House in London, and domestic violence is one of the issues she discusses with Emma Barnett in the programme.

Camilla said she was inspired to get involved after an earlier meeting where people shared their own experiences, and one person told a story about a woman who had been killed in front of her children as a result of domestic violence.

"I don't think any of us could believe what we were hearing," the duchess said. "I could feel the tears starting to drip down my face and I looked left or right and everyone was trying to cover their faces or blow their noses.

"It was so moving and so horrific."

Image source, Eamonn McCormack/PA Wire
Image caption,
The duchess held a reception in Clarence House to celebrate the 15th anniversary of SafeLives

Camilla said she was worried about the impact the coronavirus lockdown would have had on domestic violence victims.

"You can't run out of your house and go to your neighbours because you're on lockdown and nobody's allowed in and it's a lot more difficult to get to the SafeLives or the refuges and all the wonderful charities that help.

"I've said I think we've just seen the tip of the iceberg. I think after lockdown the numbers are going to be so horrific."

You can hear the full programme with the Duchess of Cornwall on BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday 7 July from 10:00 BST or catch up on BBC Sounds.

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by domestic abuse or violence, the following organisations may be able to help.