Camilla Parker Bowles won her man the hard way. She earned him. She overcame the disapproval of relatives, public resentment and the humiliation of seeing her most intimate conversations with Prince Charles become grist for the tabloids, late-night comics and louts in the pubs.
Here was fresh evidence that love, as long as it is fully requited, conquers all, even for the woman once accused not just for breaking up a marriage, but for trashing a fairy tale.
Prince Charles' announcement that he would wed Mrs. Parker Bowles after an off-and-on (and mostly on) courtship of 30 years, was British royalty's Valentine to their subjects. In fact, the announcement was originally scheduled for Valentine's Day, and was moved up four days only after word of it inevitably leaked to a London tabloid.
The announcement was carefully written, and vetted by no less than Queen Elizabeth II; the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury; and several other men wise in the ways of royalty, religion and the law. The queen said she and her consort, Prince Phillip, "have given them our warmest blessings."
The palace and the government want most of all to avoid anything remotely like the controversy that dogged the crown in the wake of the abdication of Edward VIII, who gave up the throne for the hand of Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee from Baltimore. That was in 1936, a time now far behind us in a place now far away; the world has turned over several times since then, with the "liberation" of blacks, women, gays and just about everyone with a legitimate (or sometimes even illegitimate) complaint against society.
The first public reaction surely warmed Camilla's heart; 65 percent of the respondents in a snap poll by the London Daily Telegraph said they thought it was only right for the pair, who had been living together, to marry at last. But only 7 percent said they thought Camilla should ever sit on the throne as the queen.
The announcement from Buckingham Palace attempted to take care of this: She would always be called Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, which had been one of Princess Diana's minor titles. She and the prince would be married not in the Anglican church, of which the reigning monarch is by law the governor of the established state church and "the defender of the faith," but in a private ceremony at Windsor Palace, with a "blessing ceremony" presided over by the archbishop of Canterbury in the castle's St. George Chapel.
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