It was a fairy tale when we still wanted to believe in fairy tales. The bored and lonely prince after so many years had finally found a young, beautiful, virginal princess. And on their wedding day, his mother was so happy her difficult son had finally found the perfect bride that she danced a jig. And they lived happily ever after. For about a week and a half.
Of course, we didn’t know at the time that the prince in question was a total sulk who had been getting it on with one of the ugly stepsisters for years. (I guess we just thought he was being stiff-upper-lip British when he couldn’t even pretend to the BBC that he felt any real affection for his pretty bride-to-be.) What’s more, to the amazement of everyone, including his father–who, it was rumored had done a bit of dallying himself–this dolt actually preferred the ugly stepsister–adored her, seemingly oblivious to her overbite, her pack-and-a-half-a-day habit, and her husband and kids.
Meanwhile, we were to discover by way of 100,000 headlines, 10,000 magazine cover stories, a couple dozen books, and one carefully calculated, sympathetically produced prime-time interview that the young and photogenic princess not only had the looks and P.R. smarts of a superstar but the accompanying eating disorders and neuroses as well.
Now all these years later, Charles the Unfaithful and Camilla the Ever-Ready, a week away from their wedding, are reaping the nuclear fall-out of their decidedly un-fairy-tale relationship. The British tabloids have been on the attack for weeks. Not only is Charles being trashed–Charles is always being trashed–but every detail of their peculiar, low-key wedding day is being mocked and sneered at. First of all, the queen, who doesn’t have a jig left in her, will not be in attendance at the official tying of the knot.
That’s taking place at a somewhat down-on-the-heels registrar’s office which, the press has reported, has chipped paint and a battery of unsightly electrical-junction boxes. There is even a sign on the wall that reads: “Help conserve energy. Please turn off the lights.” Not a bit like the magnificent St. Paul’s, the site of his previous wedding.
The queen has reluctantly agreed to attend a blessing of the couple on the same day and a very simple buffet lunch. Dad will try to make it but only if he is back in time from a “private visit” to Germany. He’s booked to return the very same morning and may be counting on not having fair weather over the Channel so he can miss the low-keyed but highly controversial doings.
Issues, big and small, keep popping up to be chewed over and spat out on the front pages. Small issue: A souvenir bone-china mug decorated with intertwining Cs and the date of the wedding has been designed and will be sold at the Buckingham Palace website. As any Diana devotee knows, Charles on his honeymoon insisted on wearing cuff links, a gift from Camilla, which had a very similar motif of intertwining Cs. That so upset his jealous bride that it increased her bouts of bulimia. A close friend of Diana’s told the Daily Mail that the decision to sell them was “typically insensitive.”
Big issue: Will Camilla be queen if Charles ever becomes king? Camilla has said she doesn’t want to be queen and is quite happy just to be known as HRH Duchess of Cornwall. But royal experts last week declared that, like it or not, she was going to have to be queen if Charles ascends to the thrown. And the public doesn’t much like that.
To make matters even worse, on Sunday the bishop of Salisbury, the Church of England’s principal authority on the rules of worship, said that Charles must apologize to Camilla’s ex-husband for having an affair with her while she was still his wife. Only then can the couple take part in the church service that is supposed to bless their union. Meanwhile the police are preparing for protestors at the wedding as well as the crowds that are expected to turn up at Kensington Palace to show their unceasing devotion to Diana.
Now one might say, Isn’t it better that two people who have been devoted to each other for years are finally making it official? One might also observe that Charles, both indecisive and selfish, and Camilla, so casually immoral, are no different from a lot of couples today. As Mark Twain once said, “Kings is kings, and you got to make allowances…they’re a mighty ornery lot. It’s the way they’re raised.”
But that’s the problem. Nowadays, “the firm,” as the queen calls her family, cost the public a packet, and the tabloids are always on their tail, sniffing out misdeeds and scandals. To make it work, the Royals really need to be more shrewd and sensible or more spectacular than the rest of us. Unfortunately Charles and Camilla are a lot more common than most commoners. And that just won’t do.
–Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.