They have paid their dues. This wedding is a triumph of love

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According to some press reports, the announcement of Prince Charles's engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles was originally scheduled for St Valentine's Day, but got pre-empted by leaks. I think I speak for the nation when I say I would have relished a traditional Valentine declaration of passion along the lines of: "Earnest jug-eared tampon loves foxy fag-ash Milla." (Presumably the only thing this pair would do with a fluffy bunnykins is shoot it.) Even so, the engagement strikes me as being a warm-up for the much-maligned festival of lurve.

According to some press reports, the announcement of Prince Charles's engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles was originally scheduled for St Valentine's Day, but got pre-empted by leaks. I think I speak for the nation when I say I would have relished a traditional Valentine declaration of passion along the lines of: "Earnest jug-eared tampon loves foxy fag-ash Milla." (Presumably the only thing this pair would do with a fluffy bunnykins is shoot it.) Even so, the engagement strikes me as being a warm-up for the much-maligned festival of lurve.

In recent years cynics have sprayed Cupid's feast with manure. They cite rip-off roses at a tenner a stem and Black Magic boxes panic-bought from local garages. Then there's 10-course menus in pompous restaurants where bleak rows of couples shudder down oysters in silent despair. Yes, true. But admit the real reason for your disdain: on 14 February 1974 you sent a Valentine's card to every classmate in 3A and never received a single token in return. Time to act like a grown-up: post hate mail on Friends Reunited and pretend you're now married to a rock star. Just don't pour acid rain on our parade - losers! We romantics need a date for love. There are quite enough days for cancer, poverty, poetry, brain rot and fresh fruit. And in Charles and Camilla, we foot soldiers find champions for romance.

They may not be love's young dream but they are love's mature actuality, with all its messy inconvenience and chequered history. There have been untruths, interruptions, indiscretions, exposures, humiliation, rancour and vitriol. There has been constitutional, familial and public resistance to their union. Despite, and because of, these barriers to love's smooth path, the couple still represent passion's most elusive and sought-after reward: enduring love. In a world where most unions fail, the question is not "Will I love?" but "Will love last?" This is why most women rate Persuasion as the most profound of Jane Austen's works. And in Charles and Camilla, as in Austen, we find the satisfying answer: "Maybe. And against all odds."

Furthermore, Camilla is the role model for jolies laides everywhere, proving an ounce of wit and willingness is worth several tons of beauty and bulimia. The Botox brigade should note that this hard-riding, chain-smoking, sunbathing matron didn't let a bit of deep-vein weathering stand between her and her prince. It's true that poor Diana was horrendously wronged in the process. But the princess's answer was to dish the same abuse to a string of other wives. Will Julia Carling feel that Prince Charles's second marriage defiles the sacred memory of St Diana?

This is why mature love should be cherished and celebrated - it leaves all that vengeful nonsense behind. I went to see the film Closer, with its wearying procession of sexual shenanigans between four dislikeable metropolitans. The film shows with tedious accuracy and predictability how sex overrides love at immature periods of people's lives.

Only the young can make love so pretentious and lacking in humour. At one point Natalie Portman's character wails at her errant partner, "Why isn't love enough?" You only wonder that she doesn't ask why love can't cure leprosy. When you have children and pass 35, you stop expecting to find simple answers to impossible questions. And anyone with an ounce of human decency stops assuming that their right to love overrides anybody else's right to the same goal. The Prince of Wales and his mistress would surely have liked to have tied the knot aeons ago; but for all their errant ways, they paid grudging respect to that tedious bunch of moralists who constitute public opinion and still bay for "public repentance" - as though published transcripts of your phone sex weren't penitence enough.

Charles and Camilla have paid their dues and deserve their fairy-tale ending just like any other prince and his consort. The masses and I won't stand tearfully waving a flag as we once did for radiant Diana. But this is precisely why this wedding will be a triumph of love rather than a public charade.

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