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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Camilla on first solo engagement
The Duchess of Cornwall arrives at Southampton General Hospital
The duchess is president of the National Osteoporosis Society
The Duchess of Cornwall has carried out her first solo engagement as a member of the Royal Family.

Camilla, who married the Prince of Wales last month, visited Southampton General Hospital for a tour of the osteoporosis unit.

She became president of the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) after her mother died from the bone disease.

The visit was postponed in April because it was considered inappropriate in the run-up to the general election.

It was the duchess' first official appearance without the Prince of Wales since their wedding in Windsor on 9 April.

He was visiting a Royal Air Force base in Anglesey, north Wales, in his capacity as Honorary Air Commodore.

During her trip the duchess met staff working on an award-winning study which compares the bones of medieval women with those from modern times.

Clinical technologist Alison Chumley told the duchess that medieval hip bones found in North Yorkshire were stronger than their modern counterparts.

Duchess of Cornwall at Southampton hospital
The duchess opened a new medical research centre

This could be due to people having more calcium in the diet in the past, doing more physical activity or the absence of tobacco, she said.

The duchess also opened the Hampshire hospital's Medical Research Council Epidemiology Resource Centre.

She unveiled a plaque and was presented with a painting by the centre's director, Professor Cyrus Cooper.

He told the duchess: "Your circumstances have changed somewhat since April 9 and we would very much like to give you a token of our appreciation and wish you many happy years with his Royal Highness."

Clarence House said the duchess had been keen that her first official solo engagement be one where she had a particular personal interest.

Her mother, Rosalind Shand, suffered from osteoporosis before her death in 1994, and her grandmother also died from the disease.

'Unbearable suffering'

In 2002, the duchess described to an international summit on osteoporosis how she had "watched in horror" as her mother "shrank before our eyes".

"She lost about eight inches in height and became so bent that she was unable to digest her food properly, leaving her with no appetite at all," she said.

"In her latter years, she could not breathe without oxygen or even totter round her beloved garden on her Zimmer frame.

"I believe that the quality of her life became so dismal and her suffering so unbearable that she just gave up the fight and lost the will to live."

One in three women and one in 12 men in the UK develops osteoporosis - thinning of the bones - during their lifetime.

See Camilla make her first solo engagement

Prince Charles visits RAF airbase
23 May 05 |  North West Wales


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