Paul O'Grady leads tributes to Camilla ahead of 70th birthday

Royal visit to Battersea Dogs Home

The Duchess of Cornwall will celebrate her 70th birthday on Monday and has been receiving plaudits ahead of the big day.

TV presenter Paul O'Grady has praised his friend Camilla for embracing her position as a member of the royal family late in life.

Later on Saturday, a birthday party for the Duchess will be staged at the Prince's Highgrove home in Gloucestershire, with a large gathering expected at the private event.

It is thought family members - from her son Tom Parker Bowles and daughter Laura Lopes to the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who are playing polo in Gloucestershire - are likely to be among the guests.

When asked about the Duchess becoming a member of the monarchy late in life, O'Grady, speaking during a Clarence House birthday garden party on Thursday, replied: ''It's taken a lot of guts, you know, it really has.''

He added, laughing: ''She could have sat there watching daytime telly.''

The Blind Date presenter said: ''But it's like she's embraced it, that's it, she's really embraced it and gone for it and all her charity work.''

O'Grady went on to say: ''I'm very fond of her, the first time I met her I was the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the car broke down so they had to stop the show and producer Michael Rose said 'quick get up to the green room and say hello'.

''And I'm dressed as the child catcher with the nose and the ears and the chin.

''She's so easy to talk to and she's passionate about animals which is something else I really respect.''

Over the years, friends of Camilla have spoken of her dry wit, her love of her family and her devotion to husband Charles who she married in 2005.

An affectionate grandmother with five grandchildren, she is also an avid reader, and loves food, TV, films and listening to the radio - especially The Archers.

She enjoys gardening and walking with Charles, as well as apparently bee-keeping.

Both she and the Prince paint and draw. Horse racing is also a passion, as are animals, and she has two terriers - Jack Russells, adopted from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, called Beth and Bluebell.

Her love of the countryside is well known and she used to hunt. Pre-royal days, she was once photographed sitting on a horse puffing a cigarette, but no longer smokes.

She endured scathing criticism for being the long-term love of the heir to the throne, but friends said she laughed off unflattering photographs, using her humour as a buffer.

Now as she approaches her seventh decade, she continues to be adept at switching from glamorous high profile royal occasions, like the recent state banquet for the King of Spain, and kicking off her high heels for her much loved wellies.