- Associated Press - Monday, April 9, 2012

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II has appointed the Duchess of Cornwall to the highest female rank in the Royal Victorian Order, Buckingham Palace said Monday.

The announcement that Camilla, as the duchess is widely known, has been made a dame grand cross comes on the seventh anniversary of her marriage to Prince Charles, the queen’s son.

Awards under the Royal Victorian Order, which was founded in 1896 by Queen Victoria, are given by the queen to people who have served her or the monarchy in a personal way. They are bestowed independently of the prime minister’s office.

Once vilified as the old flame who poisoned Charles’ first marriage to Princess Diana, Camilla has become an integral member of the royal family since she married the prince on April 9, 2005 — eight years after Diana’s death.

Since the couple’s civil ceremony at the Guildhall in Windsor, the British public has warmed to Camilla, and the 64-year-old has carried out hundreds of royal engagements and taken on a wide range of patronages.

She also has traveled extensively with the prince on official visits, including a recent tour of Scandinavia with stops in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo.

Lately, Camilla was seen stepping out with the queen and the Duchess of Cambridge — the former Kate Middleton, who married Prince William a year ago — for an appearance in London.

Buckingham Palace said Camilla will be invested with the insignia of her rank at a later date.

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