House of Windsor looks increasingly creaky
For public figures, private matters are never fully private. This is certainly the case with Britain's Prince Charles. Whether and whom he marries carries constitutional implications. Any decision in such matters must also meet with the approval of Queen Elizabeth, the prime minister and the Church of England. Little wonder that his engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles is possibly the most carefully orchestrated in British history.
Thanks to detailed planning, the chances of a political or constitutional crisis over the matter are slim. In fact, the impending nuptials could help head off controversy. Mrs Parker Bowles is the prince's long-time companion and is already well known to the British public. But the lack of official status has left her in an uncomfortable limbo - and raised the possibility of even more discomfort when the prince ascends to the throne.
The April wedding, which will also confer on her the title duchess of Cornwall, neatly sidesteps many of the most explosive issues. It has already been agreed that she will never be queen or take the title of princess of Wales: even though it is nearly seven years since her death, Diana, the last princess of Wales, remains too popular for that to happen.
The deal also apparently allows for Charles to become symbolic leader of the Anglican Church when he is crowned.
Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the archbishop of Canterbury have already given their blessings. The remaining obstacles are the views of the public and of rank-and-file clerics. The former should not be a major worry. Those who are in support and those who do not even care are in the majority.
Where the union may face some opposition is with conservative members of the church. Many of them have called for an open debate on whether Charles is morally fit to lead the faith.
Whatever the public's qualms, it is likely they will be overcome. This says much about the public relations coup the royal family has pulled off.
The repackaging of Charles and Camilla included carefully managed joint appearances and the ditching of her country tweeds for designer suits. The engagement announcement was followed by jubilant congratulations from Princes Harry and William, Charles' two sons by Diana.
The contortions and compromises involved in arriving at the arrangements, however, will inevitably raise questions about the monarchy itself. Republicans will be given another chance to argue that the royal family is an anachronism in the modern, democratic age. There are already questions about the royals' inherited privileges, which will not go away.
Britons seem far from ready to see the house of Windsor disbanded. But the complex negotiations surrounding the marriage serves to show how creaky the arrangement has become.