Saturday, 11 June 2005

Strange Requests Welcome Here

Things you don’t hear very often – “What do you think of Camilla. I am really fascinated by what people think of Camilla Parker Bowles.”

Now I have many things I want to write about on my blog, but when our wonderful friend Vicki made this strange request, well, who am I to refuse. I am fairly sure Vicki and I see pretty much eye to eye on most things, but you know I have no idea what her views of the monarchy are. So Vicki, just for you, here goes (and no getting upset if its not what you wanted to hear.)

To start this subject, I must share with you my particular passion for the monarchy. I believe in it as an institution. It is not perfect and the individuals may cause eyebrows to rise now and again. But as an institution, its constancy, impartiality, integrity, dignity and sense of duty above personal advancement transcends politics and acts to protect the nation from the possibility of political excess. I firmly believe that the British constitution, unwritten and flexible as it is, has established a breath-taking balance of power between the pillars of state (monarchy, parliament, the judiciary and the military), each one subject to and superior to at least one other.

I state this clearly because at the heart of each of these pillars are fallible humans, yet their fallibility matters not. The brilliance of the system is that it is the institutions themselves which are in control and the people inside them merely set the direction and speed. Parliament and the Judiciary roll constantly from left to right without damaging the supremacy of Parliament (yes, even Blair’s dismissive approach will be reversed) just as the monarchy can roll from madness to majesty without alarm.

It is truly important that I explain this to you first, as it wholly informs my views on the individuals concerned.

So what of Camilla. In its simplest form, her relationship with Charles is as classic a love story as any. Clearly besotted from an early age, they have finally been allowed to consummate their love, and despite the fact that they may not be the most beautiful of people, it is most certainly a beautiful thing. The problem is that public perception places at their door the charge of causing a constitutional crisis, and at her door in particular, the heinous charge of robbing us of the People’s Princess.

But is that really fair? The rules of love do not sit quietly on the Palace steps, and doesn’t every girl’s fantasy see true love win through in the end? It has been messy but they got there. In as much as they are in love and she is now a calm and stable influence on our future King, their marriage is a good thing. In as much as the journey towards it cost them their personal integrity through adultery, that is sad. So it is therefore, that if you seek the real source of this particular problem, you must turn to our Queen.

I can safely say that Elizabeth II, in my opinion, has been a magnificent Queen to the Nation, and the Commonwealth, but equally she has been a hopeless mother to her children. Despite this, however, there is no cause for alarm. History will record a shrewd Queen who wrote a script according to her devotion to her country, a devotion naturally born in that most potent of environments – war. She put the nation first and expected her family to follow. When they didn’t, she took matters into her own hands.

Did she knowingly and willingly subjugate her son’s happiness, through his arranged marriage to Diana, for the future strength of the monarchy? Did she intentionally sacrifice Diana’s happiness and sanity for the sake of the monarchy? We will never know. The irony of it all is, however, that when the public criticise Charles and Camilla, they criticise the Queen, but when they praise William, they praise the Queen.

We are, I sense, largely uninspired by the thought of the reign of Charles III because we cannot relate to him. But we are already looking forward to the reign of William III, because he looks and feels like a strong monarch. Both situations are the result of the intuition of one woman. Fallibility or shrewdness, take your pick.

So my conclusion is this – Camilla, and for that matter any of the lesser Royals and their spouses, is of little or no consequence in the grand scheme of things. If Wallis Simpson and Kathryn of Aragon couldn’t bring down the monarchy, Camilla stands no chance. She, Charles, and our Queen may all be fallible, but it matters not. Kings come and Queens go but the institution of the monarchy rolls on absorbing yet another chapter of history and creating new generations of people, stories and dress selections for our grandchildren to contemplate, criticise and marvel at.

I hope that makes sense, Vicki.

God Save Our Queen.

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