Thursday, April 07, 2005


Finally, Prince Charles and Camilla will be tying the knot. Their wedding was postponed for a day, because of the Pope's funeral, but the much-heralded event will take place, it is said, and Camilla will become the Duchess of Cornwall.

Cornwall, a sleepy farmland, hasn't had a Duchess since 1904, but the residents are not too excited about Camilla filling the post. The Duchess of Cornwall doesn't do a darned thing that anyone there knows about, so it is a title in name only, and was summoned forth because Camilla could not become the Princess of Wales, since Diana laid claim to that title and the Britishers would not accept Camilla as a replacement.

Who can forget the beauty of that first marriage, with Diana in that billowing, expensive gown, looking for all the world like a real-life Cinderella? Prince Charles' second marriage will not have that kind of glamor. First, this couple is middle-aged and homely. He looks like a wuss. She looks like a frump. No one can really understand why Charles preferred Camilla to the radiant young Diana, nor understand the intricacies of British royalty.

Back in history, Henry VIII didn't understand the intricacies either, or at least, didn't like them, so he settled the whole thing by having his wives imprisoned and beheaded. But Charles didn't have that kind of clout. His mother would never have allowed it. He had to settle upon divorce, and it must have been irritating to him that the British public idolized Diana, but only tolerated him.

Pity poor Prince Charles, a man with no real purpose in life, other than to wait for his mother to pass on, which would allow him to become the King he has been trained to be for a lifetime. Now, we have another King-in-Waiting, Prince William....and his brother, Harry, who is second-in-line to the throne after his sibling. William will have to select a mate from the meager list tradition allows him, and Heaven help him...and us...if he falls in love with a divorcee or a married woman.

You may ask, why would any American write so extensively about the British Royal family and its scandals? The answer is, I fell in love with a phrase. This sentence came from a citizen of Cornwall, who declared..."That Camilla! Duchess of Cornwall indeed! She's just a bloody strumpet!"

I became intrigued by that pronouncement. I didn't know anyone used those words any longer. Bloody strumpet! In the dictionary, a strumpet is a prostitute. So why don't we use the word? You never read in the paper that "police rounded up several strumpets on the downtown streets", etc. I don't know why. The word has a ring to it, a poetic justice that "prostitute" just doesn't cover.

However, should we label Camilla a strumpet because she fell in love with the Prince? F. Scott Fitzgerald said that "the rich are different than you and me". Perhaps money gives them the freedom to dally with other women's husbands. And perhaps it is a great honor to any man to have his wife favored by a prince, as Camilla's first husband seemed to indicate. Perhaps, in royal circles, it is customary for kings and princes to play around. After all, Diana could have looked the other way and continued to enjoy all the perks of the palace.

Instead, she chose to do charitable works, wear all those gorgeous gowns, take her boys to amusement parks, and date a variety of men. Her untimely death was a shock to everyone, and Americans joined the British in mourning their "People's Princess".

America doesn't have real royalty, but the Kennedy family used to have that quality, a sort of magic about them, all those good-looking brothers and dowdy sisters, all those touch football games, the parties, the guests tossed into the pool. Then there was Jacqueline, haughty, beautiful, ignoring the peccadilloes of her handsome husband. And Marilyn Monroe, for Heaven's sake. Books have been written on Marilyn's affairs with the Kennedys, on her breathless "Happy Birthday" to the President, on her mysterious demise. How can we afford to laugh at the antics of the British Royals when our political royalty behaved like soap opera denizens?

But, let's admit it, it was great fun having our own Faux Royals. Somehow, the Bush family isn't living up to such a legend. George W., with his nine to five existence, his Evangelical bent, his penchance for the Death Penalty and torture do not add up to Camelot. More like Nightmare on Elm Street, or rather, Pennsylvania Avenue. Nor does Karl Rove strike any chord of the imagination. And as for Jeb...well, he looks like everyone's pudgy brother, good-natured and hesitant.

No doubt about it. The Kennedys wore the crown of American royalty. If Charles and Camilla had a little of the Kennedy aura, we might become more excited about their wedding. As it is, here in America, we haven't made up our minds on whether Charles is man or mouse, or whether Camilla is a bloody strumpet or just a middle-aged woman in love.