THE ANNOUNCEMENT this week was buried by the bigger news of the floods, coronavirus and the ongoing battle between Harry and the rest of the royals. But it was, without doubt, a historic moment – a message from the Prince of Wales to the nation that he’s finally abandoned all hope of being granted his greatest wish, that Camilla should be crowned Queen beside him at his Coronation.
It’s a tragedy we won’t see Queen Camilla – we should (Image: Getty)
A tragedy for him – but for her, perhaps, a welcome escape. It came as a bolt out of the blue. For years, the issue of what Camilla is to be called has been kicked into the long grass in the hope that, as time passed, people would forgive and forget.
But opinion polls have never varied much in the public’s lukewarm response to a Queen Camilla, and the Clarence House statement on Monday finally acknowledged this.
There has been “no change”, it said, in the decision taken at the time of Camilla’s 2005 marriage that she would be known as Princess Consort on Charles’s accession.
That’s Palace-speak for “we’ve reviewed the options and in the current climate, this looks to be the safest one”.
But it’s not quite the whole story.
Will we ever see this couple crowned – as they should be? (Image: Press Association)
During the 15 years they’ve been man and wife there have been several indications from Charles’s side that he desperately wanted Camilla to be his queen.
Indeed, as recently as three years ago, there were strong signals that was the way things were going.
Visiting a London school, Camilla was asked whether she would one day be Queen.
“You never know,” came the swift and intriguing reply.
In 2010 Charles was caught off guard by an NBC reporter, Brian Williams, who asked him the thorny question – would Camilla wear the crown?
Camilla became the ‘non-negotiable’ part of Charles’s life (Image: Chris Jackson/PA)
“Er, that’s, that’s, we’ll see, won’t we?” stammered Charles.
“But, er, that could be.”
Could be, indeed – in March 2018 the prince’s official website took down references to Camilla becoming Princess Consort, prompting speculation that he’d made up his mind to risk public controversy by insisting she is crowned alongside him.
The Princess Consort tag was also removed from her personal biography and from the Buckingham Palace site.
But now we’re back where we were 15 years ago – there’ll be no Queen Camilla.
So, it can be argued, the nay-sayers have won.
Charles has finally backed down.
But are they right?
It’s now almost a quarter of a century since Camilla became the “non-negotiable” part of Charles’s life.
She’s lived under the same roof as the prince for most of that time, while by comparison Diana and Charles were together for only 15 years, a significant part of that time living dramatically separate lives.
After a shaky start, Camilla gradually rose to become one of the Royal Family’s stars – always full of humour and good nature on public appearances, while doing a solid job backstage in supporting her husband.
She’s tackled tricky issues like domestic abuse, literacy, and empowering women, and is always ready to join in the fun – last year, for example, she could be found taking part in an impromptu dance with elderly residents at the Brenner Centre in London’s Stepney.
She’d happily sink a pint, below, rather than sip at it like William.
Unlike her stepson, Camilla will happily sink a pint (Image: PA)
She’s determinedly conquered a fear of flying in order to accompany Charles on his foreign tours, where he is now de facto Sovereign since the Queen’s decision to step away from long-haul trips.
He needs her by his side at such times, both personally and professionally.
She’s hugely popular with the royal press corps, who spend long hours travelling with her and have the advantage of being able to see and talk to her off-duty.
And so, in most informed people’s minds, Camilla has shown herself to be a worthy future consort.
But the sticking point is what to call her.
Charles and Diana was not a match made in Heaven (Image: PA)
When Charles becomes king she’ll automatically become queen – that’s the constitutional position – but dare she use the title?
Camilla’s personal preference, those who know her feel certain, would be not to claim the crown.
After her long-term affair with Charles became known in 1992, after the publication of Andrew Morton’s Diana: Her True Story, she was put under virtual house arrest by a besieging media.
Her life became a torment, and people with less steel to their backbone would have buckled.
Whether or not the story of her being pelted with bread rolls in a Wiltshire supermarket is true, she was certainly seen as Public Enemy No 1 for a long time.
Those threats, that hostility, are not easily forgotten – and when, as the newlywed Duchess of Cornwall, she made her first faltering steps on the public stage, it was with the fear that the rolls would start flying again – and worse.
The public capacity for hatred at that time seemed to know no bounds.
And Camilla, a shrewd and grounded person, read the opinion polls along with everyone else.
In 2017 one poll recorded that just 19 percent of people believed she was fit to carry the title of Queen.
So who, in their right mind, would want to face that level of antipathy on their first day in Buckingham Palace?
Charles, too, has had many long years to consider the matter.
Were he to announce on Day One of his accession that his wife would be Queen, the inevitable controversy could seriously tarnish his necessarily short reign, even triggering calls for him to abdicate in favour of William.
Once he had the heart for that battle.
Now, with this recent announcement, we can see he no longer does.
Reason, of a sort, has prevailed.
In part, Charles’s decision has been arrived at because of events which have little or nothing to do with him.
The Prince Andrew imbroglio has had a global effect on the House of Windsor’s reputation (Image: BBC)
The Prince Andrew imbroglio has had a global effect on the House of Windsor’s reputation for probity and high moral standards.
The departure of Prince Harry for pastures new has, to a large extent, destroyed the concept of duty on which the monarchy traded for the past century.
The royal reputation has taken a hammering and it needs time to recover.
The hue and cry which inevitably followed any “Queen Camilla” statement would have the effect of further injuring the entire family – and it’s fair, therefore, to assume that this is a point which Prince William, as future king-but-one, will have made to his father.
William does not want to inherit a devalued and damaged monarchy, one which he’d have to spend years restoring.
As an aside, what also cannot be ignored is William’s likely feelings on watching Camilla being crowned in Westminster Abbey when, in his mind, it should have been his mother Diana accepting that greatest of all honours.
It is, then, a tragedy for Charles that in the past few days he’s been forced to bow to the inevitable and acknowledge public opinion.
He may take comfort from the fact that the most successful of Britain’s monarchs across history have listened, often without apparently doing so, to the voice of the people.
And to bear in mind the bloody fate of his namesake King Charles I, below, who didn’t.
King Charles I (with Windsor Castle, behind) did not listen to the public (Image: TopFoto/PA)
As for Camilla, it’s a happy escape.
The sad irony is that she’s come, through her dedication to the royal cause over many years, to deserve the title of Queen, and – but for a largely baseless prejudice among some of the population – she could have had it.
It’s our loss.
Source: EXPRESS COUK