Prince could marry in Scotland

Archbishop of Canterbury could allow second marriage to be blessed in C hurch of England ceremony. Stephen Ward reports
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The Independent Online
The Prince of Wales believes he could remarry in a Scottish church to circumvent the ban on remarriage in Anglican churches, and has apparently been advised that the Archbishop of Canterbury could allow his second marriage to be blessed in a Chur ch of England ceremony.

Ultimately, though, Prince Charles believes the most important constitutional consideration is public approval, as such a marriage would raise questions about his suitability to become head of the Anglican Church.

The Prince's views took on added significance when the woman he tacitly admitted has been his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, announced that she and her husband, Andrew, were to divorce on the grounds that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. The Palace said yesterday that there was no intention for the Prince and Princess of Wales to divorce.

As heir to the throne, Prince Charles could not act to end his marriage, or to remarry, without carefully considering the constitutional consequences. Before he announced his separation from the Princess more than two years ago, he consulted the Prime Minister, John Major, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.

Prince Charles illustrated how carefully he had considered the constitution when he briefed his biographer, David Dimbleby, whose final, approved version explained the position as the Prince sees it: "In statutory terms, nothing stands in the way of a divorcee inheriting the Crown, but the constitution is as much a matter of convention as of statute."

The task of establishing public opinion would fall to the Church of England in the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with others including the Prime Minister, who together would decide how much dissent or controversy the move would cause, and whether it would threaten the role of the monarch as a force for national unity. If the Prince wanted to remarry, a similar procedure would apply, but the Prince recognises that the judgement would be even more difficult. Under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, and the Act of Settlement of 1701, he needs the consent of the Queen, and he cannot marry a Catholic. (Mrs Parker Bowles has never been a Catholic.)

"Assuming these conditions were to be satisfied, a senior member of the Royal Family would normally apply to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a marriage licence." This is only granted in exceptional circumstances to a divorcee whose first wife is still living, and the Prince recognises he could not do this while it was forbidden to other Anglicans, although he believes the Church of England may shift its attitude.

"Otherwise," the book says, "the Prince of Wales could follow his sister's example and marry in a Scottish church. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the Archbishop of Canterbury would wish to withhold the offer of a service of blessing in an English church following such a consecration."

The impending divorce of Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles shows what happens when traditional aristocratic values come up against the democratising effect of a late 20th Century media. Even 25 years ago, it was virtually unknown for the Royal Family to give interviews beyond the blandest comment or a Christmas message. But recently members of the Royal Family have tried to adapt and use the media to strengthen itself, and yesterday's announcement shows again it has been a high-risk strategy.

Over the centuries it has not been uncommon for upper class husbands and wives to take lovers once they have produced an heir by their spouses, with the governing rule that the affair should be relatively discreet, and the new partner socially suitable. What has changed, even in the years since 1938, when Edward wanted to marry Wallis Simpson is that all this behaviour, probably unacceptable to the rest of the population, went on unknown to those outside the small, homogeneous class where it went on. Whatever was suspected beyond that, there would not be open discussion in every newspaper. But since last year it has been public knowledge, on the admission of the Prince of Wales himself, that he had an affair with another man's wife.

He had given an interview on television and an authorised biography to the journalist David Dimbleby. According to his friends, Andrew Parker Bowles, who had apparently been prepared to continue a sham marriage, felt he had been publicly humiliated.