Prince Charles has dramatically abandoned his long-held ambition for his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, to be crowned Queen when he ascends to the throne, the Royalist can reveal.
And he has done so in the most callous fashion - by including an apparenty innocuous entry to that effect on his newly redesigned website's Frequently Asked Questions.
I know. It makes being dumped by text look positively gracious.
The turn around is stunning because for several years, Prince Charles has made no secret of the fact to his trusted inner circle, that he wanted his second wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, to be crowned Queen of England when he finally ascends to the throne.
This, as Charles has pointed out to allies and senior courtiers, would have been entirely in accordance with tradition - and British constitutional law. The wife of the King is always known as ‘Queen Consort’, usually abbreviated to ‘Queen’.
But Camilla has always been a special case, owing not so much to the fact that she is a divorcee as to public affection for Princess Diana, whom, despite her own love affairs, the British public for the most part still perceive as grossly and tragically wronged by the continuance of Charles and Camilla’s relationship after the Royal wedding in 1981. Diana famously described Camilla as the third person in her marriage.
Queen Elizabeth and her husband Philip, who are known to be uncomfortable about how Charles’s extravagance (compared to their own rather frugal lifestyle which features breakfast cereal kept in tupperware boxes) will play when he inherits the throne, were encouraged in no small part to sanction the marriage of Charles and Camilla because at the time of their wedding, Charles’s office announced that when Charles ascended to the throne, Camilla would be known as “HRH Princess Consort”.
But, in recent years, Charles had appeared to be quietly looking to row back on that understanding and for Camilla’s position to be completely regularised upon his ascension, and for her to be crowned Queen.
In November 2010, the gossip reached the ears of NBC’s Brian Williams, who had been lined up for an interview with Charles to mark the engagement of William and Kate. The Royals like giving interviews to the US media because they know they will not risk asking rude questions as many British interviewers might. (NB: The Royalist does not mean to cast aspersions on US interviewers. A foreign interviewer would not ask the President of America the tough questions a domestic interviewer might.)
And indeed, Williams did not exactly grill Charles, but he did guilelessly ask him a reasonable and quite straightforward question: Would the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen if and when he came to the throne?
Charles looked utterly flabbergasted to be confronted with what is likely to be the very first controversy of his reign and stammered a reply: “Er, that’s, that’s, we’ll see, won’t we? But, er, that could be.”
“That could be.” Those three words confirmed what many had suspected all along, that the “Princess Consort” formulation was just a ruse to soften up the British public and get them used to Camilla, and to get the wedding past his parents, but that when the crunch came, Charles would simply go ahead as he had always planned and annoint Camila as his Queen.
Actions sometimes speak as loudly as words, and there can be no mistaking the step-up in Camilla’s public appearances and duties over the past few years. She is, for example, currently on tour with Charles in Australia and New Zealand where she is very much playing the part of Queen in waiting. Then there was the memorable photo of ‘the three Queens’ – Elizabeth, Camilla and Kate – attending an event together without their spouses at a store in central London last year.
But the event most blatantly laden with symbolism was the balcony appearance to close the diamond jubilee celebrations in London this year, which excluded all minor royals and included Camilla at Charles’s side. Charles’s message was unmistakeable: this is the line of succession, and Camilla is very much a part of it, so you’d better get used to it.
There has been assiduous woo-ing of the political establishment too. Camilla has become friendly with British PM David Cameron and his wife Sam, and, whilst declining to give a ‘yes or no’ answer, Cameron even spoke out in Camilla’s support.
When asked by Sky News whether he was "up for Queen Camilla", Mr Cameron replied: "I think the country is getting to know her and getting to see that she is a very warm-hearted person with a big sense of humor and a big heart. But it's too early to talk about these things and I'm sure that it will all be discussed and debated. It's too early for decisions about the question you ask, but am I a big royal fan? Yes. And I'm a big Camilla fan too."
But now, it seems that Charles has given up the idea once and for all.
Rather than make a formal announcement, Charles has instead sneaked out the announcement on his newly redesigned website while he is away on the other side of the world.
The information is to be found tucked away among the Frequently Asked Questions, among other seemingly innocuous and even jokey questions, such as: Does The Prince of Wales have seven boiled eggs cooked for his breakfast but only eat one, as claimed in Jeremy Paxman’s book “On Monarchy”? (“No, he doesn't and never has done, at breakfast or any other time.”)
On page two of these banalities is the biggest constituional question of our time: Will The Duchess become Queen when The Prince becomes King?
The answer reads: “As was explained at the time of their wedding in April 2005, it is intended that The Duchess will be known as HRH The Princess Consort when The Prince of Wales accedes to The Throne.”
Although Queen Camilla fans will note the presence of the weasel word ‘intended’, the bald statement that Camilla will not, in fact, be Queen, for all to see on his official website represents an extraordinary capitulation for Charles.
So why the change of heart from 2010?
At the end of the day, it is because Charles is a realist. He knows there is no appetite for another slew of taxpayer-funded minor royals, so he acted this year and ruthlessly cut out the children of Prince Andrew, Beatrice and Eugenie, who have been ordered to find proper jobs.
And finally, it seems, the reality has dawned on him about Camilla. The public will tolerate her, but there is just no public support for her to be Queen.
It wasn’t all her fault, far from it, but the public just can’t forgive Camilla for what happened to Princess Diana.
Charles may be arrogant, but he is finally turning into the savvy poker player that Kings must be.
And, when it comes to Camilla, he knows better than to gamble the monarchy by forcing the public to show their hand.
UPDATE 13:43 GMT: A statement from Charles and Camilla's spokesperson pings into the Royalist inbox. "Our position has not changed. The intention is that The Duchess will be known as Princess Consort at the time of succession. However, as we’ve always said it is a decision to be taken at the time, whenever in the future that might be."
Read the runes on that yourselves, folks.