Happy ending for embattled prince, bride

April 04, 2005|By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON - I am not, by genealogy or nationality, a follower of the British royal family. The last monarch who mattered to Americans was George III, and God knows he made a mess of things.

Nevertheless, I find myself hooked on the thoroughly un-fairy tale wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles scheduled for Friday. I am not quite so besotted that I'm buying the coffee cup, suitable for microwaving, bearing the congratulatory message. But I do have my eye on the refrigerator magnet.

I owe my fanfare to the uncommon couple in large measure to the British press. These Brits, at their beastly best, managed to transform Ms. Parker Bowles from the "other woman" to the "older woman."

Yes, I know, many Diana lovers will never forgive Ms. Parker Bowles for Prince Charles' affection. At the height of the annus horibilis she was the femina horibila. There are those who threw buns at her at a supermarket, and there are those who will picket at her wedding.

But when Prince Charles allegedly got down on bended knee and proposed, the press description of his fiancM-ie made Princess Diana's pet name for her - "the Rottweiler" - seem complimentary. Scrutinized from her hair to her teeth to her waistline to her wardrobe, she was declared "frumpy," "dowdy" and the "jellied eel" to Princess Diana's "lobster thermidor."

She was even age-profiled and found guilty of wearing-jeans-while-57. One columnist wagged: "The advice must be: Don't try this at home. Or maybe: Do try it at home, but for goodness sake stay there, with the curtains drawn."

On our side of the pond, Ms. Parker Bowles was dubbed "the Botox generation's nightmare" and the "frumpy consort of his dreams."

It was as if Prince Charles had upset the natural order of things, whereby every Donald Trump must have his trophy wife. It was if the Prince Charming had chosen the ugly stepsister as his second wife. What woman of a certain age couldn't side with the un-bowed and un-Botoxed object of his affection?

Mind you, Prince Charles is not much of a trophy himself. At 56, the bridegroom has been heir to the throne since he was 3 years old. He's royalty in a country where his basic economic role is to support the twin pillars of tourism and tabloidism.

Ms. Parker Bowles is at least credited with all the all-time pickup line. Upon meeting the prince, she said, "My great-great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress, so how about it?" Prince Charles, on the other hand, is discredited for uttering the all-time put-down line. Asked upon his first engagement whether he and Princess Diana were in love, he quipped, "Whatever `in love' means."

Whatever dignity he could muster was lost in the cell phone exposM-i when he was caught telling Ms. Parker Bowles he wanted to be reincarnated as her personal hygiene product. As his mother once told her first daughter-in-law, "Charles is hopeless."

The Daily Star headlined its announcement, "Boring Old Gits to Wed." An Australian writer said Prince Charles and Ms. Parker Bowles raised "the ewww factor ... it's like catching your parents pashing." What they forgot is the grit in the gits and the undeniable passion in the pashers.

In just the past few weeks, this couple has been subject to polls taken on whether they should marry or whether Ms. Parker Bowles should be called queen. A bishop actually told Prince Charles to make a public apology to Ms. Parker Bowles' husband.

The couple who have endured it call each other "devoted old bags." The devotion of the old bags has managed to overwhelm the burden of the old baggage. Not bad.

Second marriages are not fairy tales. Very few get there without baggage - some of it damaged. This couple carries two broken marriages, one death, many regrets and a second chance.

In the Jewish, not Anglican, tradition, you break a glass at the wedding to symbolize the end of an old life. But in the ecumenical tradition of second marriages, you take the past along with you. You take the good stuff, like the kids. You are also forced to carry the bad stuff, the glass shards that stick in your sole.

So a touch of bubbly to the folks tying the Windsor knot. They already have friendship and love and do not ask "whatever `love' is." Finally, the old gits got it right.

Ellen Goodman is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Her column appears Mondays and Thursdays in The Sun.

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