LONDON - That charmingly buoyant Brit you might glimpse glad-handing his way through Philadelphia this weekend wasn't always that way.
Prince Charles, of a tense and sometimes petulant mien when his wife was named Diana, is more relaxed and contented than he has ever been as he fulfills his ceremonial duties around the world, according to those who make a small industry of watching the royals.
And much of the credit is going to his wife, Camilla, who, lore has it, was once filleted by Queen Elizabeth as "that wicked woman" for her adulterous affair with the queen's son.
While Camilla, 59, will never have the star power that the late Diana possessed, the Duchess of Cornwall, as she is now titled, has grown on the British public for her easy and natural manner and the obvious affection she and Charles share.
"Charles and Camilla are doing fantastically well," says Arthur Edwards, a longtime royals photographer. "Ever since they married, Charles has been incredibly happy and much more enthusiastic about his role in life."
For the public and those whose job it is to watch the royal family, the turning point was the couple's marriage, in April 2005. The lead-up, however, boded badly for righting the fortunes of the scandal-tossed monarchy.
From the moment their engagement was announced that February, the couple were "hounded by the press, and there was an enormous amount of hostility," said Hugo Vickers, who wrote a biography of the late Queen Mother and is a frequent commentator on the royal family.
Then the announcement of the wedding location was botched. If it was to be held as desired in Windsor Palace, the family discovered, then anyone else could be married there as well. The timing then became entangled with the deaths of Pope John Paul II and Prince Rainier. By the Monday before their Saturday wedding at Windsor Guildhall, "they were looking pretty battered," Vickers said. "People actually felt sorry for them by then."
"After the wedding, all changed," Vickers said, including the negative coverage.
"It shows the power the royal family has over the press. If they [the royals] are upset, then the press doesn't get access to William and Harry."
And it is Charles' two sons, their romances and soldiering that the public seems most interested in these days when it comes to the royals.
"I don't think the public care anymore [about the Charles and Camilla controversy]; they're just not that bothered," said David Brayshaw, a self-described royalist, who, in a morning suit, waits on the wealthy clientele that patronizes the ancient Mayfair store Thomas Goode. "The public is far more interested in the two princes, particularly Prince William."
Brayshaw said he thought it was important that Camilla was seen in public interacting with the boys. "It sent the message if they can put up with her then they [the public] can, too. And now the public does seem to be warming to her."
The cattier side of the British press makes much of Camilla's so-called laziness, that the hardworking Princess Anne remains chilly toward her, and that Prince Edward is put out because Camilla supposedly looks down her nose on his wife, Sophie, for her relatively common background.
But when Camilla does make appearances with Charles, the pleasure they take in each other's company is obvious, royal followers say. He fanned her with his hand in heatstrokingly hot India. She playfully hid pens from him during signing ceremonies. He refers to her as "my darling wife," a description Diana hoped he would use with her but never did.
The duchess performs her ceremonies with natural grace, observers say. She went to her knees as she prayed at the gravesites of two soldiers who died during the pivotal World War II battle at El Alamein in Egypt. Her father, who recently died and whom she adored, fought there as well.
"No one throws rotten tomatoes when she appears in public," said Alan Hamilton, the royals correspondent for the Times of London. "She has got quite good at it; she smiles and makes all the inane comments she is supposed to make."
The photographer Arthur Edwards recalled that during the couple's last trip to the United States, Camilla was touring an organic market in Marin County, Calif. She was offered an apple and without hesitation she bit into it.
"Diana would never have done that," Edwards recalled, "because it would have messed up her lipstick."
Camilla does make relatively few public appearances. Of the 12 royals who make such appearances, she was third from the bottom in total number (162) last year. Princess Anne made the most (491), followed by Charles and the 80-year-old queen.
While all seems to be going swimmingly for the moment for the royal family, there remains unresolved the matter of whether Camilla will ever become queen after Charles becomes king. For royal watchers, this is a subject of endless speculation.
For now, she will assume the rarely used title of Princess Consort.
The queen, ever tight-lipped on her personal opinions, has given little indication what she thinks these days of Camilla. But Vickers says a careful reading of ancient tea leaves shows Camilla still has a way to go to win full favor.
She ranks relatively low in the Queen's Order of Precedence (a sort of royal pecking order used to determine placements for state occasions), she is not mentioned specifically in the prayers for the royal family, and she is yet to be given the little yellow bow worn by certain royal females as a sign of membership in a royal order.
But for whatever tension exists inside the royal family over Charles and Camilla, the public has seen contentment and a good match.
"I think they are doing OK, actually, now that they have married and he has made a respectable woman of her," said Marie Michelle Naraina, a government worker in London.
While declining to give her age, Naraina said that what she liked was that "Charles didn't go and marry some 24-year-old bimbo but a woman of his age. It was good for older women."