Within the realm of propriety?

July 01, 1994|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON — London-- For Prince Charles, the heir to the throne whose unflappable British reserve never wavers whether he's admitting adultery or driving an airplane off the runway, today marks the 25th anniversary of his investiture as Prince of Wales.

His Royal Highness, as he is known to his friends, planned a Welsh weekend, including an anniversary garden party at Caernarvon Castle, where he was invested July 1, 1969.

He'll visit a Welsh language center, a Welsh rugby team, several Welsh schools and hospitals and listen to a Welsh orchestra and Welsh singers in a new Welsh theater.

He's the 21st Prince of Wales. The first, Edward II, was born in Caernarvon and invested in 1301. Charles was not quite 10 when his mother, the Queen, announced she would make him Prince of Wales. He was a bit short of 21 when he was invested. He's 45 now.

The anniversary celebrations end a week of saturation publicity for the prince, most of it dealing with his thoughts on the separation of the monarchy from the Church of England and his separation from his wife, Diana, the Princess of Wales.

The Princess decidedly will not be in Wales over the weekend.

In a 2 1/2 -hour program one critic called TV-to-iron-by, the Prince said he had been unfaithful in his fashion.

"Did you try to be faithful and honorable to your wife when you took the vows of marriage?" asked the somewhat tepid BBC interviewer Jonathan Dimbleby during the document aired Wednesday.

"Yes, absolutely," said the Prince.

"And you were?" asked Mr. Dimbleby.

"Yes, until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried."

Headline writers for the tabloid Daily Mirror, who practice one of the last great literary folk arts in Britain, immediately proclaimed him: "Unfit to Reign."

The Mirror had taken a poll before the broadcast and found that "one in three Britons think Prince Charles is not fit to be king." Actually, more than 60 percent said that even though he had admitted adultery, they thought he was "fit" to be king.

More than half of those polled shrugged their shoulders and said it didn't make any difference for the monarchy that Charles had "opened his heart on prime-time TV." A majority said he was right to admit having an affair.

These are not very surprising results in a country where one marriage in three ends in divorce and 30 percent of the children are born to parents who aren't married at all.

The Prince wouldn't say if he was planning a divorce. But he said he didn't think divorce would be an impediment to his becoming king.

About half those polled by the Mirror thought Diana should divorce him.

She spent Wednesday evening at a gala benefit for the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, an avant-garde hangout where a recent art exhibit included a lamb preserved in formaldehyde.

The Princess looked brilliant in a Valentino dress -- ink-blue, low-cut, off-the-shoulder and cut on the bias about mid-thigh. She wore a seven-strand pearl choker and a wide smile as she arrived to the cheers of her fans.

Prince Charles said during the documentary that he expected to become king "in the ordinary course of events." He found suggestions he might prefer to abdicate "extraordinary."

Some royal watchers have suggested he might want to take off like his late great-uncle, the Duke of Windsor, one-time Edward VIII and the last Prince of Wales.

The Duke abdicated in 1936 to marry, he said, "the woman I love," Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson, a sometime Baltimorean. Charles' romantic entanglement is sometimes said to resemble the Duke's.

The woman Charles is said to love is "Camilla And Only Camilla," according to last night's Evening Standard. "Camilla" is Camilla Parker Bowles, the forty-something wife of an army officer.

"Mrs. Parker Bowles is a great friend of mine," the Prince told Mr. Dimbleby. "And I have a large number of friends."

When marriages break down, he said, "it is your friends who are the most important and helpful and understanding and encouraging, otherwise you would go stark raving mad."

Few think adultery would be an impediment to crowning Charles king. Many believe infidelity in marriage is virtually a tradition of the monarchy. According to an aide, even the Archbishop of Canterbury's view "is that everybody sins. If you confess and repent, you will be forgiven."

Somewhat more interesting to the Anglican clergy than Charles' separation from Diana was his suggestion that he did not feel a special allegiance to the Church of England. As king, he would be Supreme Governor of the Church of England and its sworn protector.

"I personally would rather see it as Defender of Faith, not the Faith, because it means just one particular interpretation of faith," he said.

He said he regarded Catholic, Islamic, Hindu or Zoroastrian subjects equally as important as the Anglicans. So the tabloids immediately asked, does "Charles Really Want To Be King of The Zoroastrians?"

The "ordinary course of events" in which Charles expects to become king might take some time. Queen Elizabeth is just 68, her mother, also Elizabeth, will be 94 in a month. King Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria, was Prince of Wales 60 years.

Prince Charles literally started Wednesday with a bang. He was landing the Queen's plane at an airport on a Scottish island when it blew three tires and swerved off the runway.

He's said to be an above-average pilot who's been flying since he was 19. But experts suggested pilot error. No one was hurt, and the prince emerged looking smashing in kilts, no mean feat even for a man who would be king.

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