Rocky road for royals who wed lovers

But Charles and Camilla should find easier path

February 11, 2005|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,SUN STAFF

Eleanor Herman, historian of royal love affairs, couldn't be happier about the news that Prince Charles will soon wed his longtime lover Camilla Parker Bowles.

"They should have gotten married 30 years ago," Herman says. "But she was not a virgin - and the palace was concerned that the former boyfriends might pop up and sell their stories of sex with the future queen to tabloids.

"So they made Charles marry a virgin - who of course caused no public relations problems ever!"

Herman is the Baltimore-born author of Sex With Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry and Revenge, a spicy social history published last June. Already in its seventh printing, the book will be published in Great Britain just weeks before the couple's civil marriage ceremony on April 8.

Sex With Kings sheds light on the relationship of Charles, 56, and Camilla, 57, in context of centuries of monarchs and their mistresses. The decision to marry a lover has often led rulers to misfortune, Herman says. Not to mention some pretty strange behavior.

Take the case of Crown Prince Pedro of Portugal. In 1354, when he married his mistress of 14 years, Inez de Castro, his father was so furious that he sent four knights to stab the new princess as she sat by a fountain.

"When Pedro became king five years later, he dug up Inez's corpse and had her crowned next to him in the cathedral," Herman says. "She was a skeleton at that point. They put new robes on her and a crown. People were horrified, but he was king and they all went along with it."

When King Eric XIV of Sweden married his mistress, Karin Mansdotter in 1560, his brother declared him insane, threw him in jail and had him poisoned.

"People are usually very upset when a king marries his mistress - and some can use that to their political advantage. The king's brother rounded up a faction that was upset about a lot of things and used [the king's] marrying someone who was a commoner and his mistress as proof of his insanity."

In 1880, after Czar Alexander II of Russia married his mistress, Katia Dolgoruky, Russian peasants predicted God would be wrathful.

"Eight months later, the czar was blown to bits by an anarchist," Herman says.

She expects the British public to be more accepting of Camilla, a divorced mother of two.

"It's been seven and a half years since Diana's death. Charles didn't rush things," she says. "They've been living together for a year and a half now in Clarence House - it used to be the queen mother's house - but I think they've handled it beautifully and with great decorum. ... I think most Brits are OK with it. They don't really care."

A poll published in The Times of London last year showed that 32 percent of the respondents supported the notion of Charles' marrying Camilla while 29 percent were opposed. Thirty-eight percent were indifferent.

Doing his duty

Like most monarchs who have married their mistresses, Prince Charles first lived up to public expectations that he marry an aristocratic virgin and produce an heir to the throne. His marriage to Princess Diana produced two: Prince William and Prince Harry.

"It's the second time round for Charles," Herman says. "Now he's doing what he wants to do."

This union should prove less troublesome than that of his great-uncle, Edward VIII, whose first and only marriage was to his mistress.

"I think that's why it was so controversial," Herman says. "He had not done his duty by marrying a royal princess. And people were very angry that as his first wife he picked this twice-divorced commoner from Baltimore, of all places."

He picked Wallis Warfield Simpson and abdicated his throne to marry her. The couple spent their honeymoon in Germany as guests of Adolf Hitler and "for decades wandered about the world attending boring cocktail parties," writes Herman, who now lives in McLean, Va.

A different lady

Parker Bowles has very little in common with Simpson, she says.

"Camilla is already part of that British upper-crust society and will fit in much better than Wallis [did]. She has always maintained herself with great dignity and hasn't gone running to the press with her story the way Diana always did. I think that is why she'll be accepted."

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