More importantly, this was the not-so-bright reflection of someone who could hardly be trusted to be a pillar of international diplomacy, not to mention interpersonal tact. What kind of newly engaged man doesn’t realize there’s only one acceptable answer to, Do you love your fiancee? An irresponsible prince gives this answer. A smart sovereign doesn’t, and this is the moment when some royal observers began to wonder if the crown should skip a generation.
The problem, of course, was that Charles knew what it meant to be in love, he just felt it for someone else: an unadorned horse lover named Camilla Parker Bowles, whom he met at a polo match in the 1970s and who supposedly loved him. cheated with this phrase: “My great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather’s lover. I feel like we have something in common.”
But she also married someone else and in doing so launched a love triangle from hell.
Perspective: Queen Elizabeth II did her job on the throne
Shortly before Diana’s wedding to Charles, the princess-to-be found engraved jewelry that she had bought for Camilla. Years later, the prince was caught on a recorded phone call fantasizing about being reincarnated as one of Camilla’s tampons. “There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Diana once said in an interview. Even after their divorce in 1996, Diana’s heartbreaking death in 1997, and Charles’s long wait to formalize his relationship with Camilla (the couple didn’t marry until 2005), Charles’s new wife would always be seen as his former mistress.
When Queen Elizabeth II died last week and Charles ascended the throne, the development showed how little some of us had gotten beyond the love triangle. “To all the girls on the side: just believe,” read a popular meme in block letters below a slightly sinister-looking image of Camilla in a tiara.
The idea was that she had bided her time, lurked, hung on, and now she had the title (“queen consort”) and the boy, even if the boy was a drip whose idea of sexy conversation involved the feminine. hygiene products. Britain is only enmeshed in this particular royal bloodline because eight decades ago, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne. He wanted to marry an American divorcee, and when he was forced to choose between the crown and love, he chose love. And now here we have King Charles III, a divorced man who married a divorced woman after a decades-long affair, and somehow he and his queen got to choose it all.
Perspective: Rest In Peace, Prince Philip, Original Wife
One imagines that public opinion of Camilla might have been different if Diana had lived, if she, too, had been given the opportunity to remarry, settled into a middle-aged life of fundraising galas or appearances as a guest judge on “Britain’s Got Talent.” .” Instead, she is forever 36, attractive, and deeply, deeply aggrieved.
She had just entered high school when Diana died. I woke up after a friend’s birthday sleepover to the news. The rest of the morning turned into six or seven dramatic teenagers glued to the television, wondering if Prince William was okay and if he needed six or seven dramatic teenagers to comfort him. It was all Charlie’s fault. We knew it even then. Charles and Camilla, breaking the heart of the people’s princess, leaving her to fend for herself against the salivating paparazzi.
After Elizabeth died, I went back and saw some old footage of Diana and Charles, including the original TV interview from 1981, which was recorded even before I was born. It was surprising to realize that Charles, the wily older man in my recollection of the events, was, in that interview, younger than I am now.
“Whatever ‘in love’ means,” he had said. In hindsight, perhaps this young man was still catching on. He was old enough to know better, sure, but a lot of 32-year-olds don’t know better. And now, well, he’s unmistakably aged. Saggy eyes, thinning hair and completely white. The crown didn’t skip a generation, but at 73, Charles is already older than most monarchs.
The power of the British monarchy is not in the way it governs—for all intents and purposes it doesn’t—but in its stories. What mythology can give us? What archetypes? What happily ever after? With your romantic life, Charles always seemed to have failed in his only real duty: to tell us a bloody fairy tale.
But as I’ve seen this week, him and Camilla, making their way to Parliament and waving to well-wishers and arriving at the palaces, their whole narrative has started to take a different shape. Think of it as a Nancy Meyers movie. Imagine something with fabulous scenery and postmenopausal ennui. A rich and famous boy meets a scruffy and simple girl. When he leaves to join the Navy, she marries someone else, and eventually he does too, someone younger and prettier, and by all traditional measures a better match.
Years go by: children, divorces, death. Finally, with the blessings of her equally rich and famous sons, the rich and famous man reconnects with the scruffy girl and asks her to marry him. He had never stopped loving her, you see. No matter how much pain or embarrassment she caused him, or how much he was supposed to want in her place the beautiful young princess the world wanted him to want. He had pined for the frumpy girl for decades.
Who knows if Charles will be a “good king”, whatever that means. As a young husband, he was certainly not a prince. But if Nancy Meyers made this movie, you would see it. In the world of modern fairy tales, you would know which love story you were supposed to support.
An earlier version of this story said that King Edward VII abdicated the throne. It was actually King Edward VIII. The story has been corrected.