Learning to set a princely example

The pictures showed the Prince of Wales and his lover outside a secluded house deep in the Welsh countryside.

The newspaper which published them said it was tipped off that there would be no problem using them, that they would be seen as a way of familiarising the public with the lover, Camilla Parker Bowles, in company with Prince Charles now his divorce to the Princess of Wales has gone through. He also has made it clear that there is no immediate prospect of him marrying the woman.

Nonetheless it is clear that he wants to secure public acceptance for his liaison with her - most likely with the long-term aim of making her his Queen.

How do we know this? Well the prince has been inviting selected senior journalists and media folk to his country house in Gloucestershire to partake of a spot of lunch this summer making it clear in the process that he would like Britain's hostile press to start supporting the monarchy again and his view of the way forward - a way forward that includes the presence of divorcee Mrs Parker Bowles.

The trouble is that public opinion polls among the public and the clergy have made two things very clear.

First they do not want to see him marry Mrs Parker Bowles.


Second they would not want him to become the monarch if he did.

He, apparently, is oblivious to this. As one royal adviser said recently: 'You don't understand, it's a choice between Camilla or his sanity'.

But the prince's advisers are undoubtedly sycophants. You do not get into the exalted inner circle of royalty by telling him he is wrong.

Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth is more sensible, and Prime Minister John Major is likely to tell her of the devastating effect on the monarchy of a marriage to a woman disliked by so many.


The signs are there to see for all concerned that he intends to carry on in his relationship with Mrs Parker Bowles despite the image problems this has entailed.

Now it would appear he is incapable of denying his feelings towards her, no matter what the continuing effect upon the monarchy.


He fails to understand that a country which invested a considerable degree of emotional energy in the idea that his former wife, Princess Diana, would be Queen, will not accept Mrs Parker Bowles as a substitute.

For example, can you imagine how Hong Kong might react if Prince Charles were to stand with Chris Patten on one side and Mrs Parker Bowles on the other, at the ceremony handing over the territory to China next year? If a monarchy is to have any worth in a modern world then it has to be as an institution which sets a stable and solid example, especially in a nation which already has the worst divorce record in Europe.

We can feel sorry for the man, we can feel anguish at his personal loneliness, but if an institution like a major world monarchy is to survive, it needs a degree of warmth to sustain it - something it will not receive in the current climate.


The prince might hope that in time public indifference to his situation will allow him to freely walk in public with Mrs Parker Bowles. But the monarchy needs more than indifference to survive.

In 1936, the then prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, made clear that Britain as a nation would not tolerate Edward VIII marrying a divorcee. Thus, he abdicated.

Attitudes to divorce have changed in the intervening years, but so has esteem for the royal family.


Prince Charles would deserve more public sympathy if he were to forego his title and let Prince William become king. Then we might be able to give him the chance to live with the woman he loves.