TODAY the Queen Consort will be crowned beside her husband the King – a symbolic moment that will seal Camilla’s place in the history of the monarchy.

Camilla’s journey from romantic involvement to mistress, royal wife and finally Her Majesty, has been played out over more than five decades, and culminates in her being anointed and crowned as the nation’s Queen.

There had been speculation about what title she would hold when Charles acceded to the throne, but the late Queen Elizabeth II put the rumours to bed on the eve of her Platinum Jubilee when she said it was her “sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort”.

On the coronation invitations and official souvenirs, she is already Queen Camilla – a far cry from the Princess Consort title she “intended” to one day use and announced at the time of her wedding, with royal aides even briefing she did not want to be Queen.

But the wife of a king automatically becomes a queen and only a change in legislation would have prevented her from being so.

“The coronation is an appropriate time to start using Queen Camilla in an official capacity,” a royal source has said, with the official website set to be updated after Camilla is crowned.

Joe Little, of Majesty magazine, said: “It’s amazing what a difference 20 years makes. She’s gone from not quite obscurity to the second highest in the land, so it’s quite an upward trajectory in a relatively short period of time.

“Charles has made it clear in the last few years [that] what he’s doing, he couldn’t possibly have done without her, so I think people have been left in no doubt that she is invaluable to him in the same way Philip was to the Queen.”

Camilla’s public image has been transformed since she was cast as the third person in the marriage of the former Prince and Princess of Wales, and she is now a campaigning member of the monarchy prepared to serve the nation.

Underneath, she was the down-to-earth Sussex girl who grew up with a love of horses and happened to fall in love with Charles.

During the 18 years she has been married to the King, the Queen Consort has grown into the role and is now an assured royal host at receptions at Clarence House or when travelling overseas.

Camilla is patron or supporter of a number of literacy charities, speaks out in support of victims of domestic violence and champions several animal welfare organisations.

Her most significant role is in supporting the King and being the comforting presence that enables him to fulfil his role as head of state.

Mr Little said Camilla was ready after almost two decades working for the Firm and making her mark.

“Slowly, but very clearly, she has proved her worth as her late mother-in-law saw,” he said. “Clearly she is an extremely capable woman, but nevertheless she’s going to be taking on this role at a time when her contemporaries will have been retired for ten or 15 years.”

Charles first met fun, confident Camilla on Windsor Great Park polo field in 1970 when he had just left Cambridge University, a year before he joined the Royal Navy.

Legend has it that she was the one to remind him of a long-standing liaison between her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, and King Edward VII.

“My great-grandmother was your great-great grandfather’s mistress – how about it?” she is supposed to have asked.

No marriage proposal came despite the closeness between them, and in 1971 Charles joined the Navy. The relationship cooled as he dedicated himself to duty and long periods away at sea.

Camilla subsequently married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973, and Charles married the former Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – but at some point in the 1980s, their romance resumed.

In 1994, Charles confessed to adultery in a TV interview with broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, but only after his marriage had “irretrievably broken down”.

The following year Diana said in the BBC Panorama documentary: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” – a reference to Camilla.

After Charles and Camilla both divorced – and Diana died in 1997 – Camilla’s eventual emergence as Charles’ long-term partner was part of a carefully planned PR campaign masterminded by his spin doctor, Mark Bolland.

Their first public appearance together was outside the Ritz hotel in London in 1999, dubbed Operation Ritz, where the mass of waiting photographers had been tipped off.

The culmination of their romance was marriage, and a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall on April 9, 2005, with Camilla becoming an HRH and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Behind closed doors Camilla appears to have provided the King with the love and normal life, away from his public role, that he has always wanted.

Since the Queen’s death, the Queen Consort has faced criticism from her stepson the Duke of Sussex in his controversial memoir Spare. Harry branded Camilla "dangerous" and criticised her attempts to rehabilitate her image at his cost, saying she sacrificed him on “her personal PR altar”.

He did, however, describe her as not an “evil stepmother” and said they were “perfectly pleasant” when they saw one another.

Harry wrote of how he and his brother, the Prince of Wales, endorsed Camilla’s relationship with their father Charles, but begged him not to marry her.

“Shortly after our private summits with her, she began to play the long game. A campaign aimed at marriage, and eventually the Crown, with Pa’s blessing we presumed,” the duke wrote.

But Harry’s stepbrother, Tom Parker Bowles, has hit out at the claims, saying: “I don’t care what anyone says – this wasn’t any sort of end game. She married the person she loved and this is what happened.”