Happy 68th Birthday, Camilla! How She Made Prince Charles a 'Happy Man'

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Celebrates 68th Birthday
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Chris Jackson/Getty

07/17/2015 AT 01:25 PM EDT

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As a leading supporter in the U.K. wine trade, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, knows a good tipple when she tastes one.

And Friday, the duchess, who is president of the country's Vineyard Association, will no doubt be raising a glass with husband Prince Charles, 66, as she marks her 68th birthday.

She is "spending it privately," a spokeswoman at her office at Clarence House tells PEOPLE, while preparing to look forward to three days of royal outings alongside Charles in Cornwall next week.



Those days will be another chance for ordinary Britons to experience firsthand the gradual rehabilitation of the woman famously branded by the late Princess Diana as the "third person" in her troubled marriage to Prince Charles.

But, in the decade since her own wedding to Charles, Camilla's popularity has grown slowly and appreciation of her place in his life has increased. The latest poll for YouGov in March found that 31 percent of people have a positive impression of her, up 6 percent from a 2011 poll.

Meanwhile, polls have consistently found there is still skepticism and wariness about her being titled Queen when Charles ascends to the throne. She has said she prefers the title "Princess Consort," but when asked in 2010 whether his wife might take the title of Queen, Charles replied, "We'll see, won't we? That could be."

Long-standing royals writer Judy Wade says the twosome, who playfully enjoy joint engagements, tasting food (and beer!) and visiting rural communities, are "perfectly in tune with each other. She has changed him from being a miserable man into a happy one."



The couple's mutual affection was on display during their annual weeklong tour of Wales last week. One stop saw them hosted at a farm by British TV presenter Kate Humble, who said she was impressed with the royal pair.

"It took the couple away from being figureheads to being really thoroughly lovely human beings who engaged with everyone of every age whoever they were," Humble told PEOPLE.

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Camilla's dry humor not only helps put a smile on Charles' face but likely plays a part in helping people appreciate her more. Her friend, author Kathy Lette, declared on a British talk show Thursday, "She’s a real girl's girl, you know? She loves to get down with the girls and have girl talk. Her sense of humor is drier than an AA clinic."

The duchess's country-loving background underscores a love of horses that she shares with Queen Elizabeth, whom she joined at the Windsor Horse Show in May.

Divorced in 1995 from first husband Andrew Parker Bowles, she dotes on her children (Laura Lopes and food writer Tom Parker Bowles) and grandchildren and loves to spend time with the kids at the home she still has for herself, Ray Mill, about 17 miles from the couple's Gloucestershire mansion, Highgrove.

She spoke about them at a special tea party held for families who use the Ty Hafan hospice for children in Wales. Hosting the gathering, which PEOPLE attended, at the Welsh home she shares with Charles, Camilla warmly chatted with her guests and even encouraged them to take home doggy bags of leftovers.

"She was really down to earth," one mother, Bridget James, told PEOPLE.

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