The People's Princess and the Fallen Woman

Sometimes the scandal isn’t how the rich behave, but how the public reacts.

A case in point is the forthcoming marriage of Prince Charles to his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles. Everyone seems to find the planned nuptials “icky” or “distasteful”. A cartoonist in The New York Post suggested that Charles was half-blind and his intended indistinguishable from a weimaraner. And worse is said privately. Parker-Bowles is unfavorably contrasted with Charles’ glamorous first wife, Princess Diana, the “people’s princess”.

Nothing, I suspect, could be more wrongheaded. Diana was famously dimwitted. A product of one of England’s richest and most aristocratic families, she chose to skip college. During their wedding ceremony, which was broadcast live around the world, she couldn’t even get her husband’s name right. The years that followed were little better. She was reportedly baffled by Charles’ affection for Brahms, his cello-playing, his belief in organic farming and his interest in re-awakening more humane styles of architecture. She kept her famously slim figure by throwing what she ate up.

Opinions vary about which party in the marriage was unfaithful first. Regardless, Diana’s choice of lovers showed a keen instinct for making both her office and her country look risible. Her first lover was a bodyguard. Then there was a riding instructor. Sometime thereafter she is said to have gone to bed with King Juan Carlos of Spain. Later, there was a heart doctor from abroad and, finally, if reports are to be believed, a coke fiend, the ne’er-do-well son of a well-known retailer. Each of these acts of infidelity was treason under English law, and while the claims that the royal princes are not legitimate heirs appear to be false, it says little for Diana that after she found herself unhappy in marriage, she preferred to keep the title of princess rather than seek a divorce from her spouse.

Charles’ bride-to-be is a mature woman known for her wit. He is attracted to her for who she is as a person and not what she looks like in the pages of Vogue. Given his wealth and station, obviously he could attract a woman who is young and pretty. Feminists have long insisted that men should love women for something other than their suitability for the pages of Playboy.  It is a charge — however small — against Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Magazine crowd that they have not lauded him as a positive example. (Charles is even politically liberal.) Parker-Bowles is the love of his life. If he failed to marry her when they first fell in love, he is at last righting the error. He does so in spite of adverse and mocking comment, and attacks by bluenoses opposed to the novel idea of a king marrying a divorced woman. Are Parker-Bowles detractors so retrograde that they consider her a fallen woman?  

There are some of us who find the marriage rather romantic.



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