Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies is a savvy businesswoman, philanthropist, and mother of two. She studied Business at New York University and is the head of her family’s company. During a beautiful ceremony in Monaco, she married Prince Charles of Bourbon in 1998. Princess Camilla’s passion for humanitarianism is exemplified through her work with UNICEF, Amade, «Monaco Against Autism» association, the Princess Grace Foundation and many other charitable associations. She is especially involved as an advocate for women’s rights, and in 2017, she received the prestigious Humanitarian Award from the UN Women for Peace Association for her social and charitable work.
HelloMonaco had the honour of conducting its first royal interview with the Princess, where she discussed raising two daughters as princesses, the love that keeps her marriage strong, how her mother became her role-model and the historical responsibility of belonging to the Bourbon Two Sicilies Royal Family.
HelloMonaco: Every girl dreams about being a princess. Did you used to dream about becoming a princess?
Princess Camilla: In fairy tales, you always have a beautiful prince on a horse carrying a gorgeous princess. This is the story of Cinderella. Who hasn’t seen the Walt Disney version of the story. So I do believe that it’s a dream to meet, someone admirable whether a prince or a businessman. The most important thing is meeting somebody that one loves. I, of course, had the luck of meeting my husband, who was introduced to me by Prince Albert of Monaco 22 years ago. What’s incredible is that my husband and I have a lot of things in common. Marrying a Prince is not only marrying a man one loves, but it’s also marrying history; with many traditions, and with a profound background.
HM: The Two Sicilies Royal House is an ancient dynasty in Europe which ruled Southern Italy from 1734–1861, it’s a big responsibility.
Princess Camilla: Yes, it is indeed, because any decision one takes today, we have to be aware that it is part of a distinguished history with an important responsibility that we carry into the future. I have a lot of respect for the history of my husband’s family. The Bourbon family, overall, have reigned over half of Europe. Our cousins are still reigning in Spain. And then we have the Italian branch and the whole history of Louis XIV in France. So it’s a family that has had a very important impact on art, culture and history. The Bourbon of the Two Sicilies, in southern Italy, have made incredible museums. The Palace of Caserta, is one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, maybe in the world, is even bigger than the Palace of Versailles. It’s an hour away from Naples and it’s where the Bourbons once lived. It’s a family that has left a lot of tangible traces and incredible architecture, for example Teatro San Carlo. They were also very foreseeing, making the first hospital for psychiatry in Italy.
HM: Was there a difficult period of being accepted into the Royal Family?
Princess Camilla: It was difficult in my time because when I married my husband, 20 years ago, it was not usual for a commoner to marry a royal. Today we have a lot of examples: In the British Royal Family there are women who became Princesses. Also in Monaco Prince Albert and the wonderful Princess Charlene, who I love very dearly. But, 20 years ago, it was not like this. In fact, I come from an Italian family, with an international background, but with no nobility at all, no «blue blood» as they call it. I think there were a lot of people who were criticizing me and who were saying, «She’s a business lady and she doesn’t know how to behave in those situations». But my husband knows and he was a great example for me. When he makes a decision, he is the head of the Royal Family and he’s also the Head of a very important dynastic order called the Constantinian Order of Saint George, which has offices all over the world. The Order engages in charity work, organizes cultural events, provides a lot of help for needy people; and I think he knows that when he makes a decision, it has an historical impact.
HM: What helped you overcome those difficult situations when you first married your husband? Was it your internal strength?
Princess Camilla: Yes, my internal strength and definitely the education I received including the ability to speak five languages, and the experience from travelling a lot. I unfortunately lost my father when I was 9, but my mother has stayed so close to me and has been such a loving woman, a strong business woman, a very caring mother, always present; she never re-married, she was really very dedicated to me. I think that helped me a lot, to give me a sense of security in myself. And also my husband and his parents have been a huge help because they took me by the hand and brought me slowly into Royal life, from the big ceremonies, the foundations, the public events, the galas, the funerals and involved me in helping needy people. Step-by-step, they made me feel comfortable. They taught me how to address people, who was who, which name was what, how to dress, how to behave, how to learn the history of my family and to be able to speak about it to the press. I think they’ve been very patient and that was a big help for me.
HM: How do you overcome difficult moments?
Princess Camilla: First of all, I try not to panic. But there are moments when I’m very saddened. I’ve had the death of my father and then, when I left New York in my teenage years after 15 years, it was terrible for me. In my head it was terrible, so I didn’t eat anymore. I had a little bit of anorexia. Then, unfortunately, there have been a few years where I have not talked to my sister, we were very close and our relationship has broken apart. So there are very sad parts of my life…. You overcome them slowly, step-by-step. But if you have the support of your family, I think that’s the only thing that can really make you feel better… And a little bit of philosophy, «Who doesn’t have a problem?» I always say that to myself because everybody has problems.
HM: You are not just a mother and wife, you are also a businesswoman. Tell us about your company.
Princess Camilla: I took over my family company 10 years ago; we do high-tech satellites as a business in Italy, with offices in different parts of the world and tracking stations for civil and military purposes. It’s a very specific business, but a very important business in the sense that it’s technology, which is important in today’s world. I know that when you have 2,000 employees or more, every decision you make can affect the lives of these employees and these people who are your collaborators. So I think I have something in common with my husband, the fact that we both know that decisions have to be taken calmly, taken with heart and taken very carefully.
HM: You have two beautiful daughters, it seems like you are very close to them.
Princess Camilla: I like to be as close to my children as my mother was to me. I think that’s basic, to give love, so the child will be more secure in life. Especially when you have teenagers in today’s world; it’s not easy with the internet and social media. Unfortunately, there are many people that are 12 or 13, who are bored all day surfing the web. My husband and I tried to pass onto our children what our values are, what they have to conquer, with small steps. They have to do well in their studies, do well in sports, do well in acting if they want to be actors, or modelling or painting or whatever interests them. The idea is to give them the will and the happiness to do something and feel good about themselves, which are universal values.
HM: I see that you are very close to your husband. Is he very supportive?
Princess Camilla: My husband never gets angry, he’s a wonderful man. But he has a strong personality; you wouldn’t necessarily realize it but he has a very strong personality. He is very attentive to people; he’s attentive to feelings. He’s very sensitive to the feelings of other people and that’s wonderful because if I’m happy, he’s happy, if I’m sad, if I have a problem, we try to resolve it. He’s not a selfish person at all. And I am also very giving.
HM: What is the secret to your happy marriage?
Princess Camilla: I’ve been very lucky these last 22 years. Unfortunately, marriages don’t last in today’s world, I understand and I respect that it is like this. It’s so easy to break apart; it’s so easy because of impatience. And maybe one of the clues to my marriage to my husband is that we’re not in a routine, we don’t like routine. We always try to invent things, try to give a little gift to each other, a little word, a little atmosphere, a little travelling, even by car, just going around, but not create a routine, a boring routine.
HM: Is it important for you to find harmony with yourself and with the outside world?
Princess Camilla: I think it’s very important to feel good within yourself, to feel harmonious, to feel stable and to feel at ease with yourself… In my opinion, it might not be like this for everyone, but I find it very easy to be able to give love, to give attention to other people and to move forward with projects… I was very honoured to become part of the United Nations Women for Peace Association, a huge event in the United Nations. As an ambassador there, it is such an honour for me to be able to do some concrete projects to stop violence against women. It’s not just violence in Africa, it’s not just violence in Syria, it’s violence here, where we are today. Because men sometimes treat women badly… There are some projects that I care a lot about. To give food to the homeless, for example, is something that I’ve always been very sensitive to. How come some people can be in a beautiful hotel, in a beautiful bed and other people don’t have food or sleep in the streets in the same world? Monaco is a Principality of galas and in Nice you have people sleeping in the streets with nothing. I try to help and bring them food.
HM: If you had the power to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Princess Camilla: I really think it would be the image of women, still today. Of course, you have exceptions, you have more and more women who are moving up. Like Margaret Thatcher was an incredible example. But I still think that the idea of the role of a woman in today’s world remains a role that is far different from a man’s role. I think that’s something that should definitely change. Not only because I have two daughters but because I don’t think that it’s fair. In so many countries, we are still beaten up, we are still unable to speak up, we are still obliged to get married, still today. A lot of times in Italy, women are paid less than men for doing the same job. Why? It’s like different colours of skin. What difference does it make? So, if I could do something, I would really concentrate on this aspect. I don’t know if it will ever change; I think we are in a good world, but it will take many years, I believe. And that is really what I want to concentrate on: violence against women. If I was a woman president, that’s what I would concentrate on.
HM: Have you ever had a role model and do you believe one should have a role model?
Princess Camilla: Role models are people that have been extraordinary. In Monaco (for example) because your magazine is about Monaco, who would say that Grace Kelly has not been an incredible role model. Monaco is Monaco today because of her, and of course Prince Albert. What an incredible son, what incredible children she’s had, an incredible woman. Others are Margaret Thatcher as I told you, the Pope, Mother Theresa of Calcutta… But also, the first person to walk on the moon, for me, that’s impressive. My role model, I would say, is my mother. Because she started from nothing. My parents did not have an easy life. My mother was born in Trieste; she started as a small actress just to survive. My father, also, was in Rome but had no money, not even to study. I think that when you create something from nothing, it has to be respected with enormous admiration. I admire my mother, she’s been a woman who has really been able to create her own little financial empire, but also a good family where she’s been a stable woman, who has not made so many mistakes… I think that it’s nice to have your own mother as a role model. It’s the most important person in your life.
HM: Talking about your girls, do you have a certain protocol concerning how to raise an heiress of the Royal House of Bourbon? In terms of education, culture, social development and political skills.
Princess Camilla: The protocol is to teach them their past, to tell them that they have to respect the history. My husband used to bring them to official ceremonies, teach them to be quiet, teach them to be smiling, never tired, never screaming. And the people in Italy, especially in the south of Italy, have a lot of love for the Bourbon of the Two Sicilies family. For my daughters, they have been taught that when people come up to them, they have to understand that it’s more than caring, they see a history, a past life in them. This is important for them to be able to understand that they have to be attentive, they have to be smiling, they have to know how to speak to people. They feel very privileged that people like them, that people want to talk to them, that they can do interviews, that they can be ambassadors for projects. They are ambassadors for five or six important projects all over the world. They are youth ambassadors for «Passion Sea», for example, which is wonderful for the environment. Then there is UNICEF and the Red Cross which they represent in Italy.
My daughters have a few obligations, such as studying languages. It takes a lot of time to learn languages and it takes a lot of discipline for the children. Of course, when you start young it’s easier, but it’s not easy. Every day they study 2–3 hours of Russian, other languages, and business classes. They have 17 exams this year. They are aware that you need the languages to be able to travel, you will need the languages to be able to find yourself a good job, you will need the languages to be able to communicate with different cultures.
HM: Is it important for you to be in love?
Princess Camilla: Yes, I think it’s really the most important thing, to be in love. Love is very different from passion, passion is a different story. But love, I would say, is the basis of everything. You have to love your family, you have to love your parents, you have to love the people that you help, you have to love your job. Love is the most important thing, but it’s not a given. You have to be lucky to find love and you have to keep it, a little bit like a growing baby. You can have it, but you can also lose it very easily because love is also about the relationship between people; and a relationship between people can very easily fall apart. When you meet at the beginning, being in love, you’re completely crazy, but that’s passion not love. My husband and I have grown together in 22 years as people. We have grown together as far as what our hobbies are, what our ideas are, how we create stability in our family life, because having children can cause turbulence in a couple’s relationship , we also focus on what our goals in business are, to try to also be successful in some domain. Now we want to start a new business together, which would be in the coffee industry. So we are now involved in this project.
HM: Do you believe that you can’t love anyone else if you don’t love yourself?
Princess Camilla: Absolutely. If you feel bad about yourself, it’s useless, you cannot give love, you cannot give attention, you can’t give good vibes, positive vibes.
HM: Do you accept yourself unconditionally?
Princess Camilla: I have a very strong personality and I get very enthusiastic too easily and sometimes I make mistakes. I’m an Aries, so I’m full of energy, but sometimes I move too fast in making decisions. I’m actually very dependent, quite jealous. So I have a few defects and physically also, who would not change something about one’s body? Maybe a beautiful model need not, of course. But I would change a few things about myself; so, unconditionally, no. But I have my own age, I have my own background and my own past. I’m not a 20-year-old anymore, and would not want to be a 20-year-old anymore, because experience has helped me become who I am today.