Charles has paid £1.5m to Camilla’s sister who helped hide his affair:

Charles has paid £1.5m to Camilla’s sister who helped hide his
affair: How interior designer sibling has earnt huge sums from Duchy of
Cornwall for string of revamps in past 11 years 

  • Annabel Elliot’s latest commission is a pub-cum-hotel in Poundbury 
  • Renewed gossip about Mrs Elliot receiving more from sister’s royal table
  • Annual accounts show £1.5m has been paid to Annabel Elliot since 2005 
Right
now the builders are finishing off, leaving interior designer Annabel
Elliot hard at work on her latest, and perhaps largest, interior design
commission from the Duchy of Cornwall.
The
pub-cum-hotel has risen majestically in the centre of Poundbury, Prince
Charles’s model village on the outskirts of Dorchester, and will be
named The Duchess Of Cornwall — after Annabel’s elder sister — when it
opens in October.
Inevitably
there is renewed gossip about Mrs Elliot receiving more sustenance from
her sister’s royal table — annual accounts of the Duchy, which provide
Charles with his multi-millionaire lifestyle, reveal it has paid Annabel
£1.5 million for goods and design services since Camilla, 69, married
the Prince in 2005.
Prince Charles pictured with Annabel Elliot (left) and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (centre). The Prince has paid £1.5m to Mrs Elliot since he married the duchess in 2005

Prince Charles pictured with Annabel
Elliot (left) and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (centre). The Prince has
paid £1.5m to Mrs Elliot since he married the duchess in 2005
But
this time the gossip is edged with amusement. Friends have noticed that
the building, which Charles refers to as Poundbury’s new ‘pub’, bears a
striking resemblance to Mayfair’s imposing Ritz Hotel, a place to which
the Prince has a great sentimental attachment.
It
was at the Ritz in January 1999, at a party celebrating Annabel’s 50th
birthday, that Camilla famously emerged from the shadows to be
photographed with Charles in public for the first time.
Some
in his circle see the similarity in the neoclassical style of the two
buildings as more than just a coincidence — since the new pub will
perhaps always remind Charles of that key moment in his bid for public
acceptance of Mrs Parker Bowles as his official consort.
Annabel
herself, of course, has been the most constant element of all in
Charles and Camilla’s romance (she and businessman husband Simon Elliot
even accompanied the couple on their honeymoon to Balmoral).
Now
she is busily designing the pub’s 20 spacious bedrooms, bestowing on
them her traditional, rather chintzy country-house style.
It’s
the same comfortable decor she has installed in some 25 of the
700-year-old Duchy’s holiday-let cottages in the Scilly Isles, Cornwall
and Wales.
Even
when the royal rump sinks pleasurably into the deep cushioning of a
stripy sofa in Charles’s bolthole cottage, nestling close to the Black
Mountains in the Carmarthenshire village of Myddfai, he is surrounded by
Annabel’s cosy expertise — from the Welsh weavings on the walls to the
medieval-style wrought-iron chandeliers and stone fireplace that, to his
delight, features his own heraldic badge above it: the Prince of Wales
feathers.
Prince Charles greeting Annabel Elliot, the sister of Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, at the Integrated Health Care centre

Prince Charles greeting Annabel Elliot, the sister of Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, at the Integrated Health Care centre
Mrs
Elliot always tries to mirror the taste of her clients. This is why
there’s a duck-egg blue scheme in the Welsh hideaway — it is one of
Camilla’s favourite colours.
When
Annabel was doing up some cottages in Wales for the Duchy, she
travelled the country looking for special items including antique quilts
and glazed earthenware. She also commissioned carpets, rugs and fabrics
from local suppliers.
But
wouldn’t it have been wiser for the Prince of Wales to ensure his Duchy
employed someone other than his sister-in-law — perhaps someone Welsh —
to do up at least a few of the cottages?
Now comes the major Poundbury project. And once again, it is Mrs Elliot who gets the lucrative nod.
At
67, Annabel is not letting up. In The Duchess Of Cornwall pub she has a
big project, especially for someone who runs her business, Annabel
Elliot Ltd, from her country house in the Dorset village of Stourpaine,
where she and Simon have lived for years.
This
house, too, has played its part in the ultimate happy ending of the
Prince and his duchess. For through those awkward years when Charles and
Mrs Parker Bowles were secret lovers, it was their favourite meeting
place for discreet weekends.
And
who was it at the wheel of the car that whisked Camilla away from her
home, surrounded by paparazzi and TV crews, as John Major was announcing
in the Commons the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales?
Annabel.
She
even figured in one of the most notorious episodes in the war of the
Waleses, when, at the Ham Common home of Lady Annabel Goldsmith, Diana
confronted Camilla over her relationship with Charles. The occasion was
Mrs Elliot’s 40th birthday party.
Prince
Charles has always been grateful for the help and comfort he and
Camilla received from Annabel, and from Simon. He is not without his
critics, but he is a man of great loyalty towards people who have shown
him kindness.
Mrs Elliot always tries to mirror the taste of her clients. This is why there¿s a duck-egg blue scheme in the Welsh hideaway. Here, Mrs Elliott is pictured with the Duke and Duchess at the funeral of Bruce Shand

Mrs Elliot always tries to mirror the
taste of her clients. This is why there’s a duck-egg blue scheme in the
Welsh hideaway. Here, Mrs Elliott is pictured with the Duke and Duchess
at the funeral of Bruce Shand
But is it right over so many years for Annabel Elliot to be routinely commissioned by the Duchy?
The
organisation has not put the interior design work out for tender. It
says the Prince is ‘very happy with Mrs Elliot’s work’, adding that work
doesn’t have to be put out for tender because the Duchy is a private
estate.
Some
might think this description of the estate as ‘private’ — with its
135,000 acres across 23 counties, but mainly in Devon and Cornwall, and
encompassing such national landmarks as South London’s Oval cricket
ground — is stretching it just a bit.
When
William becomes Prince of Wales, he will benefit from the estate’s vast
income, which provided his father with £20 million last year.
But
could Annabel’s work for Charles have rekindled the old spirit of
one-upmanship that existed between the sisters when they were growing
up?
Certainly,
that is the view of some old family friends. ‘They adore each other and
are really close, all the more since their brother Mark died two years
ago,’ says one.
‘But
one can sense that some rivalry is still there. After all, Camilla used
to be married merely to an Army officer. Annabel is very conscious
these days that her sister is now Her Royal Highness.’
As young women, Annabel was the prettier one while Camilla was ‘sexier’, and men inevitably found her the more attractive.
Camilla
loved the party round on the debutante circuit. Annabel was rather more
serious and preferred a quieter life — ‘not the kind of girl to throw
her knickers on the table’.
One debs’ delight of the day recalls feeling that Annabel was rather envious of the fun Camilla was having.
Reminiscing
about those days, Annabel has said that Camilla, who was a debutante a
year ahead of her, ‘was a great success, but I certainly wasn’t. I
probably wasn’t quite as confident as her.’
In
fact, Annabel had the better figure, as Camilla was a trifle plumper.
The elder sister was also the more athletic one who loved horses and
riding. Annabel never shared her sister’s enthusiasm for hunting.
At
the same time, Annabel was seen as the more intelligent, if less
worldly sister, a judgment that friends still make. She was also the one
considered to have ‘taste’, who eschewed the London party scene and
went to Florence to study art.
Annabel and her businessman husband Simon Elliot even accompanied Charles and Camilla on their honeymoon to Balmoral (pictured)

Annabel and her businessman husband Simon Elliot even accompanied Charles and Camilla on their honeymoon to Balmoral (pictured)

One
friend asserts that Annabel, ‘with her style and good taste, is the one
who should have been a duchess’. She adds: ‘She’d have been perfect, but
would never want to change places. As for Camilla, she pulls it off, in
her own way.’
One
key difference was that Camilla had lots of admirers, but Annabel
married her first real boyfriend at 23 — Simon, whose late father Sir
William was an Air Chief Marshal of the RAF. They have three children
and remain happily married after 44 years.
Despite
these differences, the sisters have clung to and confided in each
other. So it would have been surprising, having married the Prince of
Wales, if Camilla had not asked Charles to call on the talents of the
sister who shared so much of her own drama.
But
in fact, we understand it wasn’t the Duchess who suggested Annabel
create the kind of stylish interiors in Duchy properties that would
please the aesthetic tastes of her famously fastidious husband. It was
Charles.
‘He adores artistic people,’ explains an aide. ‘In some ways, Annabel has more in common with him than Camilla does.’
The sisters, meanwhile, speak daily by phone and Camilla often includes Annabel and Simon in royal occasions.
The other month, Annabel spoke of her admiration for Camilla and said that their parents ‘would have been so proud’.
So one can imagine her pleasure in accepting the lucrative commission to design the 20 bedrooms in The Duchess Of Cornwall pub.
And
there it will stand, the classic centrepiece of Poundbury’s Queen
Mother Square, together with a giant, 9ft 6in cast-iron statue of the
Queen Mother herself.
But
one is entitled to ask: Who would have thought, when Prince Charles
embarked 23 years ago on his model town in Dorset, that his social
experiment would be so closely bound up in the stormy saga of his own
family? 

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