A spot of bother with the in-laws

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The Independent Online

I am very pleased to announce the start of a new advice column in this space, called Dear Camilla. Yes, that's right. Camilla. That Camilla.

I am very pleased to announce the start of a new advice column in this space, called Dear Camilla. Yes, that's right. Camilla. That Camilla.

You write in with your problems. Camilla gives you her advice. And she should know. She's had problems! Anyway, she says we ought to get started, before the Palace steps in and puts the kibosh on the whole thing!

I'll drink to that.

Dear Camilla,

I am getting married quite soon, to a man who is perfect in every way, except that he has a title. It's only a knighthood, but it's a title. His name is - let's say - Sir Ernest Buttle. That's not his real name. But it's his real title. He really is Sir. And he expects me to become Lady Ernest Buttle. Or whatever. But I don't want to be called Lady anything. He rather likes being a knight, and he thinks I will enjoy being a lady. "People marry for money all the time," he once told me, "but they would much rather marry for a title if they had the chance." Not me, mate! I want to get married to the man I love, not the knight I love! I want to be Mrs Ernest Buttle. What do you think?

Camilla writes: It is extraordinary, isn't it, the way men often get their hands on a title and then will never let go? And do you know what I think is behind it all? Their mothers! I honestly believe that when men hanker after titles, it's their mothers they are desperately trying to please. But they are grown-ups! I hear you say. Why would a grown-up man go on trying to impress Mummy?! Ah - well may you ask! While a man's mother is still alive, and while he is still trying to please her, he has not yet grown up. If you look into it, I think you will find that Sir Ernest's mum is at the back of all this! She's the one you've got to get on your side, not him. Believe me.

Dear Camilla,

I am going to be married later this year, and am horrified by the expense that a wedding involves these days. I know that everyone says that it is the happiest day of your life, and all that, but is it really worth paying all that money for one day? What do you think?

Camilla writes: I know. Weird, isn't it? If you want my real opinion, just go to the register office for a cheapo ceremony and splash out a bit on the party afterwards. The happiest day of my life? That was the day I met my present fiancé! Admittedly I got married to someone else afterwards, but everything gets sorted out eventually.

Dear Camilla,

I have got a big family function coming up and my husband is going mad trying to work out a seating arrangement for the dinner. It's the old story of the members of the family not always getting on. You know, he says we can't put her there because she doesn't get on with him, and he is bound to have a fight with those, that sort of thing. So should he invite everyone and let them fight it out? Or try to avert disaster with a selective guest list?

Camilla writes: Oh, for heaven's sake, don't let him organise it! Just push him out of the driver's seat and take over. A woman knows what to do, you know.

Dear Camilla,

I am shortly going to be married to a man who has been married before. His first wife is now dead, but I sense that her shadow still comes between us - people say she was so wonderful that I fear I shall never be able to live up to her memory. I do love him but it is going to be so very difficult. What do you suggest?

Camilla writes: This sounds familiar. I am sure I have heard this story before. It's uncannily like - yes! I've got it! It's the plot of "Rebecca" all over again, isn't it? Well, I think Daphne du Maurier had the right solution. The previous wife was a terror, and Mrs Danvers must be fired immediately.

Dear Camilla,

Do you know any good mother-in-law jokes?

Camilla writes: No. But I have got some very good father-in-law jokes.

Camilla will be back again soon. Keep those problems rolling in!

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