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The happy couple



Published: Tue, February 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Providence Journal: Just before Valentine's Day, Britain's Prince Charles and his companion, Camilla Parker Bowles, announced their engagement. They plan to marry privately on April 8.

It's been a long time coming. The couple first dated in the '70s. But she went on to marry an army officer, and he married Lady Diana Spencer. Both marriages fell apart, with Princess Diana accusing Parker Bowles of being the other woman in her marriage.

Charles and Parker Bowles have been together since his marriage ended, and from all reports they are very happy. But they have had to be discreet, with Parker Bowles only gradually being allowed to accompany the prince at official functions. With their marriage, the two will finally be able to associate freely. Moreover, their relationship will have the requisite legitimacy should the prince become king.

While many Britons welcomed the engagement, or merely shrugged their shoulders, some expressed displeasure -- especially at the prospect of Parker Bowles's possibly becoming queen. But the question is moot: She will be given the title Duchess of Cornwall, and will, if Charles becomes king, be known as the king's consort -- just as Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, is known as the queen's consort.

Church of England

Protocol has often weighed heavily on the royal family, especially regarding the Church of England's opposition to divorce. In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry the divorced Wallis Simpson. And Queen Elizabeth's late sister, Princess Margaret, would have lost her rights of succession had she married the love of her life, the divorced Peter Townsend. Since then, ironically, three of the queen's four children have had divorces, including Charles.

Despite the change in mores, many Britons, in their continuing love for the late Diana, cannot accept the idea of Charles and Camilla's marrying. They would like, when the time comes, for Charles to step aside, so that his son William could take the throne. For British traditionalists, it seems, protocol trumps happiness.

Perhaps they should take a closer look at their history books. As one Jim Mangles wrote, in a letter to the Times of London, on Feb. 10: "Sir, I am just thankful that the Church of England's founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Catherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to witness this assault on traditional Christian marriage."




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