Who was Camilla's father? The WWII soldier who was a POW in Germany and inspired her love of reading

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·7 min read

Watch: Duchess of Cornwall explains how her father inspired her love of reading

The Duchess of Cornwall has spoken about her father and how he inspired her love for reading.

Camilla’s father, who died in 2006, was Major Bruce Shand, a decorated war hero who was captured and held as a prisoner of war during the Second World War.

The duchess opened up about her father’s impact on her, revealing it was his influence that led to her love of reading.

She launched her reading room on Instagram in January after turning to books under lockdown in 2020, when she gave her own recommendations to fellow readers.

In a new video shared for the project, she said of her love of reading: “I think it certainly came from my father, he was probably the best-read man I’ve come across, anywhere. I mean, he devoured books.

“And so he read to us, as children. He chose the books and we listened.

“And I think… the love of books was ingrained in us, because, you know, it was there from such an early age.”

She’s previously said he was a “brilliant storyteller” who “read to us each night and transported us into different worlds”.

EMBARGOED TO 1300 WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 3 File photo dated 2/6/2003 of Camilla Parker Bowles and her father Bruce Shand leaving Westminster Abbey, London, after the service to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II Coronation. The Duchess of Cornwall has told how her love of books was inspired by her father. Camilla, in a video recorded for her online book club The Duchess of Cornwall's Reading Room, said Major Bruce Shand "devoured books" and was "the best read man I've come across, anywhere'. The duchess said being read to in her early childhood sparked her lifelong love of reading. Issue date: Wednesday February 3, 2021.
Camilla and her father Bruce Shand leaving Westminster Abbey, London, in 2003. (PA Images)

Who was Major Bruce Shand?

Major Bruce Shand was born in 1917 in London, where his parents had moved to from Scotland. They divorced when he was three years old, and he did not see his father again until he was 18.

He stayed with his mother Edith Harrington, who went on to marry golf course designer Herbert Tippet, and they moved to New York. It’s said it was intended for him to live permanently in the US when he was six, but he was educated in the UK.

By 1927 his parents had moved back to the UK.

He went to private school in Rugby, and was sent to France to learn French. He then went to train for the military at Sandhurst.

He first served as a second lieutenant in 12th Royal Lancers but was promoted during the war to lieutenant, in 1940.

Major Shand met Winston Churchill in 1942 as the prime minister toured North Africa.

He was taken prisoner by Germany after his troops came under fire.

4th July 1973:  Camilla Shand arrives at the Guard's Chapel for her wedding to Andrew Parker-Bowles, on the arm of her father Major Bruce Shand.  (Photo by Frank Barratt/Keystone/Getty Images)
Camilla Shand outside Guard's Chapel before her wedding to Andrew Parker-Bowles, on the arm of her father Major Bruce Shand in 1973. (Frank Barratt/Keystone/Getty Images)
British army officer Major Bruce Shand (1917 - 2006) of the 12th Royal Lancers, marries Rosalind Cubitt, daughter of Roland Cubitt, 3rd Baron Ashcombe, at St Paul's Church in Knightsbridge, London, 2nd January 1946. The couple are the parents of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British army officer Major Bruce Shand (1917-2006) of the 12th Royal Lancers marries Rosalind Cubitt in 1946. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Recalling the moment in his autobiography, he said: “Something like a whiplash stung my cheek and Sergeant Francis beside me slumped to the bottom of the car with a large hole in his chest, killed instantly.”

He was hit a second time and said he did not remember hitting the ground, but: “A buzz of German voices greeted my return to consciousness.”

A short biography on Major Shand from Clarence House explains: “In November 1942, following an order to advance towards Kalda, south of Mersa Matruh, Egypt, Shand encountered a German column whereupon his vehicle was surrounded and destroyed.

“His two crewmen were killed, and Major Shand was wounded and taken to Germany as a prisoner of war. Major Shand returned to Britain after escaping capture in 1945 eventually retiring from the Army in 1947.”

Camilla relayed one of Major Shand’s stories of wartime experiences in 2015 during a speech, saying: “But on a lighter note, when I asked him about his worst wartime experience, he told me that when billeted in a French farmhouse before the evacuation of Dunkirk, the pregnant French wife of the owner (who was away fighting) went into labour; with no one else on hand, my father's helpful contribution was an encouraging cry of "Poussez Madame"! ... thankfully history doesn't relate what happened next!”

Major Shand was promoted while he was a POW, going up to the rank of captain. He was given the honorary title of Major before he retired.

Major Shand was also awarded two military crosses for his service during the war. The first was given to him in 1940, and the second in 1942.

What did Major Shand do after the war?

Major Shand married Rosalind Cubitt in 1946 and they had two children: Camilla and Mark.

Cubitt’s father was Lord Ashcombe, whose family had built large parts of Belgravia and Pimlico in London. She died in 1994.

He became a partner in a wine firm, and reviewed military books for Country Life magazine.

Major Shand wrote his autobiography in 1990.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 02:  Camilla Parker-bowles With Her Father, Major Bruce Shand,  Attending A Special Service To Commemorate The 50th Anniversary Of The Coronation At Westminster Abbey.at Right Behind Them Is The Lord Chancellor,lord Irvine.  (Photo by Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images)
Camilla with her father Major Bruce Shand, at Westminster Abbey in 2003. (Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND- APRIL 09:  (L-R) Laura Parker Bowles, Major Bruce Shand and Tom Parker Bowles depart the Civil Ceremony following the marriage between HRH Prince Charles & Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, at The Guildhall, Windsor on April 9, 2005 in Berkshire, England.  (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
Laura Parker Bowles, Major Bruce Shand and Tom Parker Bowles after the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, in 2005. (Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

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He is said to have been discreet in public but frank in private when it came to his daughter’s relationship with the Prince of Wales.

According to The Guardian: “Shand reportedly reproached Charles for ruining his daughter's life, reducing the prince to tears.”

Major Shand was present at their wedding when they were eventually married in 2005, decades after meeting.

He was also vice lord lieutenant of East Sussex, a deputy lieutenant of the former county of Sussex and joint master of the Southdown fox hounds.

According to the BBC, he moved into an apartment in Clarence House in 2003 because he had osteoporosis, and was a widower.

He died in Dorset in 2006 aged 89.

What has Camilla said about her father?

In 2006, Camilla and Charles visited Egypt and laid flowers on the grave of her father’s crewmen, who had been killed in the 1942 attack.

In 2015, the duchess gave a speech at a reception for the 9th/12th Lancers, the regiment he served in.

She said: “As the proud daughter of a 12th Lancer, Major Bruce Shand, who fought with the regiment in France and North Africa alongside the Desert Rats and was awarded the Military Cross in both campaigns, I grew up with the history and traditions of the 12th and subsequently the 9th/12th Lancers and have always felt a deep affinity to the regiment, which is hardly surprising as you are, after all, the 'Prince of Wales's own'.

The Prince of Wales and his new bride Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with their families (L-R) back row Prince Harry, Prince William, Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Parker Bowles (L-R front row) Duke of Edinburgh, HM The Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla's father Major Bruce Shand, in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle Saturday April 9 2005, after their wedding ceremony. (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
Charles and Camilla with their families after their wedding in 2005. L-R: back row Prince Harry, Prince William, Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Parker Bowles, front row the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II and Major Bruce Shand. (Anwar Hussein Collection/WireImage)
LONDON - NOVEMBER 3: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME)  (L-R) Tom Parker-Bowles, Major Bruce Shand and Ben Elliot attend the party celebrating the launch of Tom Parker-Bowles new book " E Is For Eating" at Kensington Place on November 3, 2004 in London. Subtitled "An Alphabet Of Greed", book focuses on unusual subjects including "c is for cannibalism" and "i is for insects". (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Tom Parker-Bowles with his grandfather Major Bruce Shand and Ben Elliot in 2004 in London. (Dave Benett/Getty Images)

"I know that wherever my (papa) is tonight he will be drinking a toast to the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, a regiment in which he was so proud to have served.

“I feel very proud of my connection to this regimental family, and it is with enormous pride that I put on my 9/12th Lancers brooch, which I intend to wear for many years to come.”

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Camilla has previously said her father rarely spoke to her and her brother about his experiences in the war, but her children’s arrival helped him open up.

She said: “But when the grandchildren came along, he started talking about it and we got him to write a small book about it. I think it was a huge load off his mind to be able to tell people about it.”

She read extracts from his book in 2020 for the VE Day memorial events.

Watch: Duchess of Cornwall launches her first season of the Reading Room