Undeterred by public dislike for the idea, Prince Charles has scrubbed a declaration from his website that Camilla Parker Bowles will not be queen. It’s time for the prince to show his hand.
Last year, The Daily Beast received word from a trusted source that Prince Charles firmly intends to unilaterally declare his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, “queen” upon the death of his mother and his own ascension to the throne.
Despite strident denials from the palace, not one single royal commentator I spoke to, either on and off the record, said they had any reason to disbelieve our source.
But insiders at the palace fought back, briefing The Daily Beast that the story was “without foundation” (which, trust me, is about as forceful as the palace gets) and that the protocol announced at the time of Camilla’s marriage to Charles—that she would occupy a newly invented title of princess consort, as opposed to the traditional title for the king’s spouse, queen consort or “queen” for short—still stood.
Loyal courtiers pointed us toward the FAQ section on Prince Charles’ website which declared that Camilla would be “known as HRH The Princess Consort” when Charles accedes.
This declaration goes back to a vow that was extracted out of Charles in 2005 as part of the deal which saw the queen give her blessing for Charles to marry Camilla, his long term lover with whom he conducted an affair while married to Princess Diana who then embarked on her own series of extramarital relationships.
The pledge has served, over the years, to dampen the hostility of traditionalists at court and in the country to Camilla, who still perceive that making her queen would be wildly inappropriate given their adultery, and Charles’ future position as head of the church, which officially condemns extramarital cheating. (Let’s hope for a close up of Charles and Camilla at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May as the Archbishop of Canterbury cautions no man to “put asunder” what “God has joined together.”)
Now, however, this line affirming that Camilla will merely be princess consort has mysteriously disappeared from Charles’ website, as, once again, a new spate of leaks and stories suggest that Charles is a long way from giving up this particular dream.
In fact Charles has spent much of the past decade and a half of married life apparently attempting to backpedal on the promise.
He has only been asked once point-blank on the record if Camilla will or will not be queen, by an American reporter feigning naivety.
Offered the opportunity to say, “No,” Charles stumbled, umming and ah-ing a bit, then added: “We’ll see won’t we? That could be.”
Unluckily for Charles, his latest maneuver in the battle of Queen Camilla, no doubt intended to be a furtive, under-the-radar black op, has come into public view.
Most royal commentators—including this one—smell an all-too-familiar rat.
“It is odd that they would have taken it down if there was any possibility that she was not ever going to be called anything other than Princess Consort,” the royal biographer Penny Junor told The Daily Beast. “My feeling is that he has always wanted her to be Queen.”
The not-very-convincing explanation given in a statement by the palace for the excision of the comment from the website when The Daily Beast asked was: “Our Frequently Asked Questions are updated regularly. This is one question that Clarence House has not been asked by the public for some time, which is why it no longer features.”
Really? When The Daily Beast noted that the FAQ still contained questions asking if the prince drove an Aston Martin (he does, but its powered by bio-ethanol) and what all his staff do (work on the farm and ensure the “smooth running” of his household, since you ask) and asked if these were much-asked-about issues, the claim about people simply not being interested in the issue of Camilla was repeated.
Last year, The Daily Beast was told by an informed source that the mechanism for making Camilla Queen would simply be that when Charles goes before the Accession Council “he will tell them his choice of regal name, and then he will authoritatively make it clear that his wife is to be known as Queen Camilla.”
The Guardian’s Sam Knight wrote about the way Queen Camilla would be announced in a much-admired piece about the plans for the queen’s demise—known as “Operation London Bridge” (sometimes abbreviated to “The Bridge”) saying: “Since she married Charles in 2005, Camilla has been officially known as Princess Consort, a formulation that has no historical or legal meaning.”
“It’s bullshit,” one former courtier told Knight of the title, who wrote that the “fiction” would end with the queen’s death.
The queen is known to be a steadfast opponent of the idea of making Camilla Queen. Her permission for Charles’ marriage to Camilla was granted because he agreed that Camilla would be merely princess consort.
The continued longevity of the queen is undoubtedly the biggest barrier to Charles letting it be known that his wife will be queen after all. But as he accrues more and more of her powers, it’s probably time for Charles to order his courtiers to stop covering for him and admit that, yes, he dearly would like his wife to become queen, as all the spouses of kings have done for the past thousand years, and open up a public debate on the issue.
He might find he has more support than is sometimes imagined.
But if he tries to make Camilla queen by stealth, to magic her onto a destabilized and bamboozled public in the unsteady days after his mother dies, he may find the reaction markedly less than sympathetic.