Last week–just in time for Valentine’s Day–it was announced that the Prince of Wales (gawky fellow, next in line for throne) and Camilla Parker-Bowles (gawky gal, on other end of the line on the phone) would finally marry after an affair that lasted decades. Those decades include the years both were married to other people.
Isn’t it romantic? Depends on your point of view and what you can compare it with. Not quite as romantic as Charles’s first wedding. When I was 19, I got up early with my sister and watched the wedding of Charles and Diana along with everyone else in America and thought that was romantic, or at least magical and neat. We wondered why we weren’t marrying–or at least dating–princes at roughly the same age as Lady Di.
Later on, we all thought Charles was a rotter for keeping Parker-Bowles around while his nice young wife was bearing his children and growing miserable in that drafty old castle. Then the dirty laundry came out and we discovered that everyone involved was behaving far from royally.
My mom could have told me that. She’d lived in London in the 50s and 60s and followed the royals. She felt sorry for Princess Margaret when the queen’s sister fell hard for dashing Group Captain Peter Townsend but had to renounce him under family pressure because he’d been married. Divorced people couldn’t sit in the royal box at Ascot, don’t you know. Margaret went on to marry another and get divorced and have messy public affairs.
Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, has led an orderly life befitting her role. It’s not easy being queen, but for the most part she has done her duty for Mother England. She sacrificed plenty to step up when her uncle abdicated for love of an American divorcee, suddenly making her dad the king. A few years later her father died and she suddenly became queen. Sure, there are plenty of perks–big house, you can always get a good table without a reservation, they put your picture on all the money–but still, it’s a lot of responsibility for a young woman to take on for life.
Perhaps her eldest son wasn’t quite cut out for this job, a job he might never have. Elizabeth has those Queen Mum genes–she could live to be 200. Prince Charles could actually pre-decease his mother. He could crack his skull falling off a horse (or falling off Camilla for that matter). But you could say Charles did try to do his royal duty all those years ago when he reluctantly married the beautiful young royal instead of Camilla, the ultimate Desperate Housewife.
Charles and Camilla romantic? Hard to judge when you have only your own experiences to compare it to. But what the heck. Let’s compare it to my big love affair.
Charles could have passed on his place in line to the throne back in the 1970s if he truly wanted to marry this woman. It apparently wasn’t done so he abided by the rules (though not the ones about fidelity) and in turn made a young girl’s life a royal mess by keeping his old flame as a mistress.
My husband started talking about marriage and kids on our third date and took out his little black book in front of me and obliterated every girl’s phone number with indelible ink.
Obviously Charles never lost Camilla’s number. Disturbingly, we have the transcripts to prove it.
Charles gave Camilla some old ugly heirloom ring that probably didn’t cost him a cent.
My husband took every cent he had earned and went to a place called “The Fancy Jewelry Company” (really) and bought me the sweetest diamond ring and proposed to me under the tree in Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve.
Charles probably turned to Camilla in the paddock and said, “Do you think my wife’s been dead long enough?”
Okay, so maybe no one in our particular marriage is in line for any monarchy jobs in the near or distant future but every family has its pressures and every society has its expectations. It’s not always easy making it work with your one true love.
But my funny prince has always put me first–except today because he has a cold and is acting like he’s dying, shuffling around the house in a bathrobe, strewing used tissues in his wake, moaning and complaining and whining and generally getting on everyone’s nerves. But, I digress. Today aside, he’s always there for me and I’m there for him and I’m glad that we’ve been married with a whole bunch of kids and having an affair with each other for almost 14years now.
And never once have we discussed feminine hygeine products in any context whatsoever. Now, that’s romance!
–Susan Konig, a journalist, has just written a book, Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (And Other Lies I Tell My Children), which will be published in Spring 2005.