Leading Article: A Favourable Answer to the Camilla Question
Should we care about Camilla? It is now plain as day that she and the Prince of Wales want to get married and are running a massive public relations operation to try to influence opinion in her favour. This is not, perhaps, as important for the future of the British Constitution as yesterday's decision by the Cabinet to hold the 1999 European elections on a proportional system. If two divorcees want to marry, it is difficult to follow the train of connections which make any difference to the lives of the rest of us, whereas the lapping of the tide of fair voting around the Gothic pillars of the Palace of Westminster could presage a democratic revolution. But the two issues are connected. This is not to argue, as some Conservatives do, that the Constitution is a finely balanced and complex structure that will collapse if any part of it is tampered with. Nor is it right to argue, as republicans do, that our archaic status as "subjects" rather than "citizens" inhibits democracy, and that electing a head of state would automatically free the people from the yoke of ancient superstition.
Part of the significance of the Camilla Campaign is that it reveals the extent to which we now have a democratic monarchy. Prince Charles realises that he can only get what he wants if the British public allow him to. This is an imperfect democratisation, to be sure, with the main tests of public opinion being newspaper polls, but it is no bad thing that he is forced to take his case to the people.
If Charles is to win sympathy and support, however, he will have to go further and, to borrow from the language of the new government, offer us a "people's monarchy". He has already convened a modern-day witan to advise him on the options. The manifesto it came up with included a cut in the list of official royals, allowing daughters to succeed to the throne on the same terms as sons, and cutting the link with the Church of England. These three proposals are welcome, although only the first can be acted on while the present Queen is alive. The issue the witan dodged was money - taxpayers' money, to be more precise. A scheme was floated by the Prince's spin doctors for him to be given a chunk of land and property from the Crown Estate. The scaled-down Royal Family could then be supported on the income it generated, rather than having to go cap-in-hand to an increasingly resentful House of Commons every 10 years. This would be unsatisfactory, simply reversing the original transfer of the Crown Estate in return for the Civil List. And it would be a step in the wrong direction, because a people's monarchy should be more, not less, accountable to the people through their elected representatives. If the monarch needs a public subsidy, the …
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Publication information: Article title: Leading Article: A Favourable Answer to the Camilla Question. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: July 18, 1997. Page number: 19. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.