Royal wedding doesn't seem like fairy tale

February 15, 2005|By SUSAN REIMER

WELL, THAT stuffy old sourpuss Prince Charles is finally going to make an honest Rottweiler out of Camilla Parker Bowles, and those of us who got up before dawn to watch him marry Diana, our surrogate, are supposed to be down with this love-conquers-all happy ending.

Spare me.

Surely, those two selfish creatures helped drive Diana to her death, even if they weren't behind the wheel of that Mercedes, when they chased her, half-mad, out of the royal family and condemned her to wander Europe forever. I don't care how decent the interval, this couple might deserve "outlasted everybody," but not "happily ever after."

All those years ago Charles, with Camilla bucking him up with admonishments such as "do it for England," scoured the countryside for a virgin and came up with the fragile Diana. The wedding was supposedly in the planning stages before Charles even uttered the words, "whatever `love' means."

Diana was immature and spoiled and scarred by her own remote and divorced parents, but she expected something like a normal marriage. She expected to be loved.

What she discovered was a crowded house, and when she found the gumption to complain publicly about Charles keeping Camilla as a mistress, all the Bridget Joneses and the anti-monarchists flocked to her side.

She became the People's Put-Upon Princess.

All these years -- and all these church-state-monarchy negotiations -- later we are supposed to embrace Charles and Camilla and their enduring love, thwarted as it was 30 years ago because the palace was afraid Camilla's lovers would talk.

(And didn't the royals get more than they bargained for there.)

Now, descriptions of Camilla as a giddy, love-struck teenager breathlessly telling friends that she is "just coming down to earth" after Charles' bended-knee proposal hark back to Diana's coy excitement in 1981, and it is making me feel ill.

I can't quite see the Valentine's Day elements in a romance between a guy who daydreams about being his lover's personal hygiene product and a gal who once signed a love note "your devoted old bag," but they say Hallmark has a card for every occasion.

The buzz out of England is that Charles has decided that he'd better clean up his own loose ends before attempting to preach to young Prince Harry, who is spiraling out of control, what with drinking, pot-smoking and poor costume choices.

I remember news reports from the morning of Diana's death when bloodless Queen Elizabeth dragged the stunned princes very publicly to church just hours after they had learned of their mother's death.

Harry was quoted as asking if it was possible that his mother had not died because no mention of her -- not even a prayer for her troubled soul -- was made from the pulpit.

I can't help but think that if the mother who adored him were still around, Harry wouldn't think it was clever to wear a Nazi costume to a party.

Another theory is that Queen Elizabeth nudged her dithering son to end Camilla's awkward and everlasting status in limbo.

She is living with him, but she doesn't have the papers to ride in his official car or his official airplane, and there were all sorts of family events where she wasn't welcome.

I can see how the prospect of an aging Camilla skulking just beyond the royal rope lines for another 30 years was more than the palace could bear.

But don't ask me to gin up any enthusiasm for the enduring power of the love between Charles and Camilla.

These are not two people who loved each other and lost each other and found each other years later at their 40th high school reunion.

They conspired to circumnavigate an admittedly arcane set of rules governing power, position and marriage, and the fact that Diana Spencer was collateral damage meant not a damn thing to them. Love Among the Ruins, to be sure.

April 8 is set for the modest civil nuptials between Camilla and Charles. No carriage rides, no balcony scenes, no princess bride. And Camilla will not have to search the church pews, as Diana did, for a glimpse of her rival.

But the pure irony is that Charles and Camilla will have a "third party" in their marriage, too.

Hovering above them forever will be the specter of the wronged Diana.

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