Camilla could be the saving of the royals

Expectation of any of the Royal Family saying something profound or witty will be reduced
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It will be difficult over the next couple of days not to compare two significant ceremonies that are taking place in the south and the north of Europe. In Rome, the head of a great global church will be mourned amid scenes of pomp, stateliness and high emotions. The great and the mighty will be in respectful attendance. A life of power and humility, and a death seen by many as dignified and heroic, will be commemorated. Millions of his flock all over the world will experience feelings of devastating loss.

It will be difficult over the next couple of days not to compare two significant ceremonies that are taking place in the south and the north of Europe. In Rome, the head of a great global church will be mourned amid scenes of pomp, stateliness and high emotions. The great and the mighty will be in respectful attendance. A life of power and humility, and a death seen by many as dignified and heroic, will be commemorated. Millions of his flock all over the world will experience feelings of devastating loss.

In Windsor, a man who will one day be head of a great national church will wed his mistress in a register office. By the overblown standards of past royal events, it will be a scruffy affair, less a ceremony than a furtive scuttle towards formalising an unsatisfactory arrangement. The groom's parents will not be present. Commentators are likely to go easy on the love and romance stuff, dwelling instead on adultery, jealousy and controversy.

How will the Prince's flock, or at least the millions of Britons still mesmerised by royalty, react? If the past is anything to go by, there will be unkind jokes, mutterings about betrayal of the people's princess and remarkably few tears of emotion. It will be the antithesis of those two great orgasms of pomp and feeling, the Diana wedding and funeral. For many, it will be little more than a mildly diverting warm-up for the main event of the day, the Grand National.

This unprecedented coolness towards a royal wedding can be partly explained by a residual sense of disappointment that Charles's first marriage, like all marriages, turned out not to be a fairytale after all. But another important element is the background, looks and, above all, the personality of the woman who will be the next Princess of Wales.

For the simpering sadists in the royal press corps and for those members of the public who gain emotional or voyeuristic sustenance from the Windsor soap opera, Camilla Parker Bowles is that most catastrophic of things, an anti-celebrity.

Just as her predecessor in the royal bed blossomed in the limelight, she clearly would not give a stuff if Nicholas Witchell and his palace-watching pals fell off a convenient cliff at Klosters. She is scandalously relaxed about the way she looks and dresses. She shows no sign of wishing to compete for publicity with her future husband and would clearly rather die than, for instance, dance with Wayne Sleep in front of the cameras.

She is, in other words, normal. Unfortunately for her, we live in freakish times and normality in what is known as a "personality" is assumed to be deeply suspect. As a result, Mrs Parker Bowles has been the butt of more sneers and sustained unkindness than almost anyone else in public life.

When she is the subject of a discussion, the most basic standards of fairness and decency are abandoned. It is just fine for even the most right-on comedian to make lazy, feeble jokes based on her looks, her age, her family and her gender. In the tabloid press, she has been portrayed as a ruthless and voracious man-eater. No one, it seems, has a good word to say about her.

So how about this? She might just be the last, best hope for the British monarchy. The shoulders of members of the Windsor family have visibly been buckling of late under the burden of bearing state responsibilities while also being required to play the part of glitzy celebrities. The Diana effect has been disastrous for them: these goofy, good-natured toffs are now expected to love the cameras, come up with cute soundbites and wear the thick skin of the battle-hardened public personality.

It is conceivable that the Camilla effect will, in the nick of time, reverse the process. Normality and naturalness can be contagious. Deprived of even the mild spice of a Prince living in sin with a divorcée, the media vultures who have battened off Charles and his love life for so long will gaze at the heir to the throne and his new wife and see nothing more exciting than an affectionate, ageing, slightly eccentric but essentially ordinary middle-aged couple.

The change to the royal image will be radical and welcome. There will be less grandeur and stuffiness. Expectation of any member of the Royal Family saying something witty or profound will be severely reduced.

Fewer copies of certain newspapers will be sold but there will be a beneficial effect on the national psyche. Frankly, all that Diana business merely flustered us: too young, too glamorous, too ditsy, too much. The mirror which the new Princess of Wales will hold up to the nation will be altogether more recognisable.

Instead of a fairytale, what is on offer tomorrow is an everyday story that all but the youngest or the most celebrity-addled will understand. A young love affair which misfired out of bad timing: a marriage that turned back; infidelity; family rows; setbacks; and, in the end, a sort of weary, embattled resolution to it all. The story has the romantic heroism of real life.

Parts of the press may sneer but the rest of us, republicans and royalists alike, might just find it in our hearts to wish the royal couple luck, and welcome the advent of the Camilla effect.

terblacker@aol.com

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