Another Royal Wedding, a King without a Queen, and some polite enquiries
So he is going to make an honest woman of her, after all. I have been proved wrong in my suspicion that the whole question of Charles and Camilla – will they or won’t they? – had been put in the Too Difficult tray, despite the danger that if it stayed there until Charles inherited the throne, any solution would become exponentially more embarrassing.
We’re cosily reassured by all concerned – Clarence House, Downing Street, the Archbishop of Canterbury (ruminating spiritually into that magnificent Old Testament beard) – that the decision raises absolutely no constitutional or political problems. Abracadabra! Potential difficulties over the supposed hostility of the sweaty mob, led by the yellow press, to the idea of Camilla becoming Queen when Charles becomes King, supplanting the beloved ghost of Diana in that role, are magically swept away by the announcement that there won’t be a Queen Camilla, just a Princess Consort, echoing with appropriate gender adjustment the dear departed Albert of Hall and Memorial fame. Similarly, because there can only be one Princess of Wales (now resident in the people’s Hearts), the soon-to-be wife of the Prince of Wales, although she will inescapably be the Princess of Wales, will unconvincingly disguise herself as HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. No need for the beloved ghost to worry.
And yet… Can these matters really be adjusted that casually by the prime minister’s bland announcement? Royal marriages and the royal succession have a huge historical resonance. It was a decision of the whole Cabinet and other opposition to his intended marriage to an American divorcée that forced the King to abdicate in 1936: “Concern about Edward’s private life grew in the Cabinet, opposition parties and the Dominions, when Mrs Simpson obtained a divorce in 1936 and it was clear that Edward was determined to marry her”, as one history of the event puts it. And there’s no need to be reminded of the turbulent married life of Henry VIII, who created the Church of England to facilitate it. Of course there’s little risk of a succession issue arising now, Camilla being past child-bearing age (although it would be interesting to speculate about the question of the succession if King Charles and Unqueen Camilla were to adopt a son and William and Harry then went under a bus). But can the long established convention that the wife of a reigning King is entitled to be, indeed automatically is, the Queen, be quite so easily dismissed by a statement from Downing Street? Is no legislation required for this? (At least one television commentator asserts that the legal advice within No. 10 believes it is: has the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown been obtained, and if so what is it?) Can Tony Blair deliver the nation’s approval of what’s proposed off his own bat without even consulting the cabinet, still less Parliament?
Even more controversial is the apparent failure to consult any of the governments of the other 15 independent countries of which the Queen is head of state and the Prince of Wales heir to the throne. The Murdoch Australian newspaper The Australian had this from its Europe correspondent:
‘Charles’s spokesmen were quick to claim that no legislation would be required in the UK, Australia and other Commonwealth countries to ensure Camilla did not become queen but several legal experts disagreed and by late yesterday royal aides conceded that such legislation may indeed be required.
‘The threat that Commonwealth members may once again take a hard line, as they did with Edward VIII in 1936, cannot be discounted.
‘Basil O’Brien, high commissioner in London for the Bahamas, yesterday warned the BBC there could be trouble ahead. "At this stage it is a completely private matter between the prince and Mrs Parker Bowles," he said. "When and if he ascends the throne there is a different dimension and at that stage Commonwealth countries will have to assess their formal positions. I have some personal issues with them remarrying." ‘
The Toronto Globe and Mail (Canada) was more outspoken (doncha love that “regrettably”?):
‘Regrettably, the Justice Department decided yesterday that the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada does not need to approve the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, thus depriving the nation of Conrad Black and Ed Broadbent debating the nuptial proprieties of the country’s future sovereign.
‘Ticket sales to the event might have erased the national debt.
‘Lord Black of Crossharbour, the beleaguered capitalist who gave up his Canadian citizenship for the title he loves, and Mr. Broadbent, former federal leader of the New Democratic Party, who is not known as a monarchist, are both members of the Privy Council, which constitutionally advises the Governor-General on government matters.
‘It met to approve the marriages of then-princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947, and Prince Charles and Diana in 1981. That was because their children would be in line to become Canada’s head of state.
‘In this case, a Justice spokesman said, Ms. Parker Bowles will not ascend the throne and there will be no impact on the line of succession, a blunt but diplomatic judgment call that, at 57, she is not going to have children.
‘Thus no need for the Privy Council to meet. The Prime Minister issued a statement wishing the couple happiness. The Governor-General, the Queen’s representative, said nothing.’
So far few media commentators seem to have picked up the points about the possible need for legislation to ensure that Camilla doesn’t become Queen automatically when Charles becomes King, and whether the governments of the Queen’s other 15 Realms were consulted beforehand, whether they were asked for their consent, and if so whether they gave it. One commentator who did ask these questions was the irrepressible Simon Jenkins in The Times, although his answers to them were so idiosyncratic as to be hard to interpret.
One last intriguing thought. What role will be devised for Camilla at Good King Charles’s Coronation? Fortunately, perhaps, that assigned to the then young Prince Philip at the present Queen’s coronation may provide a precedent, since the husband of a reigning Queen doesn’t automatically become King (an inconvenient bit of sexism if ever there was one, and a possible problem if ever there’s a serious attempt to eliminate sexual discrimination from the royal marriages and succession laws).
Footnote: Youth accosted by television reporter last night in busy market square for his opinion on the romantic royal news: “I don’t give a monkey’s.” Probably a more representative view than the media, with their royal rat-pack in full cry, dare to believe.
 Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, The Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom. Yes, he’s Heir to the Throne of the lot.