Constitution altered 'à la carte' by Prince

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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales has been accused by a Labour MP of changing the constitution by stealth "under the smokescreen of the general election" with his forthcoming marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Independent has learnt that before the Prince publicly announced his marriage plans, ministers privately discussed legislation to allow a morganatic marriage - the marriage of a person of royal blood to a person of inferior rank, under which the latter would not receive the royal rank nor would the children inherit royal titles or property.

A ministerial source said a Bill would be rushed through to stop Mrs Parker Bowles becoming Queen, but not before the Prince of Wales inherited the Crown.

Ministers have been keen to avoid being dragged into a constitutional row over the marriage, insisting that the wedding by itself raises no overriding constitutional issues.

Andrew MacKinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock, broke ranks yesterday by calling on Tony Blair to hold a constitutional conference. "Under the smokescreen of a general election, Prince Charles is changing the constitution à la carte," said Mr MacKinlay. "He is entitled to marry who he likes but the custodians of the constitution are here," he told Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons.

He said Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister at the time of the abdication in 1936, said there was no provision in the British system for a morganatic marriage. "Perhaps you should legislate for that, because if you don't, Camilla will become Queen."

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