Magazine article The Spectator

It Is a Constitutional Absurdity That Camilla Should Not Be Queen

Magazine article The Spectator

It Is a Constitutional Absurdity That Camilla Should Not Be Queen

Article excerpt

I wonder whether our Prime Minister is historically minded enough to have compared himself lately with Stanley Baldwin? When Mr Blair was told that the Prince of Wales intended to marry Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, would his first thought have been of what starchy old Stan went through in 1936, when a King of England wanted to marry his divorced mistress? Would he have recalled that, then, such a thing was deemed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and respectable society to be impossible? Would he have considered advising the Queen that, like Edward VIII, Prince Charles could not be crowned King if he chose to many? I doubt it.

Or, Mr Blair might have seen Baldwin as an aberration, and himself as moving in the best traditions of the English constitution in advising the Queen to approve the marriage. Even if the Church of England had a serious primate (which it manifestly does not), he could comfortably be told to go to hell were he to raise any objections about the intentions of his future Supreme Governor. After all, the Church of England was invented to allow a divorced king to many his mistress: if that isn't a precedent, what is? Moreover, the people of England are usually not in a periodic fit of morality; it has subsequently been shown that Baldwin and Archbishop Lang's interpretation of public opinion was either wilfully or accidentally wrong. Letters released in 2003 showed an overwhelming clamour from the public for Edward to have been allowed to many Mrs Simpson. Indeed, there was not really any constitutional bar to it, merely a bar formed by prejudice.

That, too, was what had held back the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles. The public's prejudice about her is preposterous, hypocritical and canting. While many of them desert the mothers or fathers of their children, break up other people's marriages and generally make a mockery of their own, they revile the Duke and future Duchess of Cornwall for similar misconduct. They do this, of course, because of their hysterical attachment to the memoiy of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, whose sainthood cannot be long postponed. No: none of the impediments to the marriage was constitutional, but merely concerned with that most unconstitutional of forces, public opinion. And, since the question hinged upon public opinion in its most bigoted, ignorant and deranged state, no doubt it was felt that the time had come when a risk could justifiably be taken.

Indeed, the only bending of the constitution came in the Prime Minister's agreement -or, for all we know, suggestion - of the titles by which Mrs Parker Bowles is to be known after her marriage. Legally, she will be Princess of Wales, and it is to be hoped that sticklers for propriety and intellectual rigour will refer to her as that. The morganatic marriage remains, after all, alien to our law. The Duchess of Cornwall nonsense - which I revealed to Spectator readers three years ago as her likely handle after a marriage - is purely to appease a public for whom there can only ever be one Princess of Wales. Mr Blair himself presumably couldn't give a stuff what a member of what he regards as an increasingly irrelevant royal family is to be called. But he will be glad to have helped the Windsors through a difficult passage (as he so memorably did in 1997) and will be even gladder that, at no cost to himself, he has once more put them in his debt. …

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