Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Prince Charles and Camilla broke up in 1973, only to rekindle their relationship years laterChris Jackson/Getty Images

Today, Camilla is described as the 'down to earth' second wife of Prince Charles, and the next in line to be the Queen. But the path to public acceptance has not been an easy one for the Duchess of Cornwall, whose decade-long secret romance with the Prince of Wales became a royal scandal.

She looks back at that time in the early 1990s when news of her affair with Charles hit the papers as one of the darkest periods of her life. "It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn't want to put my worst enemy through it," she said in an in-depth interview with The Mail on Sunday's You magazine. "I couldn't have survived it without my family."

Camilla was married to British Army officer Andrew Parker-Bowles and her affair with Charles is believed to have started in the 1970s.

Charles went on to marry Diana Spencer in 1981, but he and Camilla rekindled their romance that same decade. With the release of Diana: Her True Story in 1992 followed by the Camillagate scandal in 1993, Camilla, then in her mid-40s, was dragged into the public eye and became one of the most hated women in the country. Her 70th birthday is on 17 July.

"I couldn't really go anywhere. But the children came and went as normal — they just got on with it, and so did great friends," she described of the time.

"The paparazzi used to follow us everywhere and lurk around like spooks," her son Tom added. "We used to keep binoculars in my mother's bathroom, and one of us would look out every morning to see how many paparazzi were hiding in the bushes. We could tell by the flash of sun on their camera lenses. At the peak, there would be half a dozen hiding outside. It seemed entirely normal."

Camilla went on to marry Charles in 2005 (after their respective divorces and eight years after Diana's death), and has been helping him with his official duties alongside her own work as patron, president and member of numerous charities and organisations. Despite her age, she attends over 200 engagements a year and seems to have no plans to slow down.

"Am I not young? Is that what you are saying?" she teased a reporter when asked about her stamina. "They're going to have to invent a jab of some sort to keep me going."