Dump Camilla and find us a new Queen

After this week's television poll on the future of the monarchy, Jack O'Sullivan plots a career strategy for the would-be Charles III, while James Cusick considers pretenders to the Scottish throne
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The public image of the Prince of Wales is apparently to be given a facelift. We are told that a five-year strategy is being developed, aimed at restoring his reputation in time for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002. By then, the Palace (that talking building) hopes that the Prince's divorce from Diana will be a fading memory, antipathy towards his mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, will have waned and we'll all be cheerfully waiting with the bunting for the succession of King Charles III.

At least that's the plan. And a few new advisers, including Tom Shebbeare, director of the Prince's Trust, have been drafted in to augment existing courtiers, who have so far failed to make Charles popular. The effort to improve the Prince's public standing now involves many people from beyond traditional royal circles, including Jonathan Porritt, the environmental campaigner, and Jonathan Dimbleby, the broadcaster.

But they have a tough job, promoting a man whom the public has come to regard, to coin a phrase Charles once used, as a monstrous carbuncle. The Prince's poor standing was demonstrated yet again this week when the audience of Carlton's TV's great debate on the monarchy said they would prefer Princess Anne to succeed to the throne.

So can the PR initiative make Charles loveable? I doubt it. For one thing, the Prince finds it impossible to listen to any advice for long. He has run through a lengthy list of private secretaries, from Edward Adeane, who moved on after Charles set aside royal etiquette and started criticising the nation's architects, to Richard Aylard, who left recently after being blamed when Charles's confession of adultery proved a PR failure.

It is also clear that at 48, the Prince is incorrigible. His long-standing relationship with Mrs Parker-Bowles, so damaging to public opinion, is, we are told, "not negotiable". Nor does he wish to change his lifestyle. The group will instead focus on remarketing what the Prince does already, highlighting his charitable work for the Prince's Trust, his campaigns against ugly architecture and his belief in conservation.

Yet even the cleverest marketing will not save Charles. Forget the polo matches, the flying, the action man poses. They may be what matters to Prince Charles as proof that he is man enough to be king. But they are not what the rest of us consider when reckoning up the balance sheet. What we remember is that when Prince William ended up in hospital after cracking his skull with a golf club, Prince Charles went off to the opera. Can any of us recall seeing the Prince of Wales, would-be father of the nation, ever holding or touching his or any other child?

He is a weak man who let his father bully him into marrying Diana and then proceeded to ruin his wife's life by neither supporting her properly against the pressures of royalty nor staying faithful to her. He must bear some responsibility for the fact that she went off her head for long periods of their marriage. In an age when deference is dead, how can he expect us to look up to him?

The answer that the Prince's new advisers are likely to give is: "Look at all he does". But that is no answer to the public perception of what he is - a distant father and an unloving husband.

A further, more fundamental problem is that the activist image of monarchy so favoured by Charles is not what we want. We like the Queen because she presides almost transcendentally over British society. We like her for being there, rather than doing anything in particular. Most people neither know nor wish to know what she thinks on any particular issue.

The truth is that women are more adept than men at being modern British monarchs, because they are better at just being. Men want to be kings - to do things - but they haven't woken up to the fact that this model of monarchy is dead. The history of the last few generations is that we have been prepared to tolerate inadequate men close to the throne as long as there was a woman around to do the job properly. So we have put up with the ridiculous Prince Philip because his wife is in charge. And the rather inadequate George VI got by because Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, kept the show on the road. His brother, the short-reigning Edward VIII, would have been no good because the twice-divorced American, Mrs Simpson, was not our idea of a matriarch.

As for Charles, his quirky, eccentric, occasionally misanthropic outbursts were tolerated because at least his wife, Diana, seemed in touch with real life and would be Queen. In short, we were not waiting for a new king. We were waiting for another matriarch to replace the present Queen.

That possibility has been destroyed. Instead, we are being offered an ageing, crusty twit, who helped to destroy the matriarch-to-be. Is it any wonder that we don't have much time for him? And who is he offering as a replacement matriarch? The very woman whose activities destroyed the hopes of the favoured Diana.

Charles must realise that the task of the modern king is not to govern well, not to perform wonderful tasks, but to marry the right woman, who can then perform the symbolic tasks of which he seems incapable. If he fails to do so, he should not be surprised that people want Princess Anne as Queen.

It is easy to see why she is attractive. She came from the same dysfunctional family, but she has found a clear role for herself, done sterling, unsung work for Save the Children and been an Olympic champion. She has managed to divorce her first husband without acrimony, then marry a man she loves and still keep her children out of the public eye. Not bad for a royal who is not overly intelligent.

Anne cannot succeed to the throne, but there is another way the nation can get a matriarch into Buckingham Palace. Charles could be pressured into waiving his succession in favour of Prince William. Thus Diana would be restored to the central role of Queen Mother.

All of this points to the advice that Prince Charles's counsellors should be giving him. "Dump Camilla, find a new wife everyone likes and give us the matriarch we need." But they will not be offering that advice. And Charles has made clear, for very understandable personal reasons, that he would not, in any case, listen to them.

King Franz of Scotland?

Bonnie Prince Franz. Sounds a bit odd, but to some Scots, the present Duke of Bavaria, senior member of the German Wittelsbach family, is the man who should be at the centre of the monarchy debate, not Charles Windsor.

While the Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond, appears overjoyed that Tuesday's ITV gladiatorial circus left monarchists in Scotland rushing for bandages as the debate opened up old wounds, he is still pathetically clinging to a contradiction; and privately, he knows it.

In this week's admittedly unrepresentative telephone poll, 56 per cent of Scots voted against a monarchy. Thus the SNP were gifted a political window to throw out their weak and confusing policy which says that a House of Windsor monarch could remain as head of state in an independent Scotland. "Television," Mr Salmond said, "is acting as a substitute because the main parties are running away from the issue." But he is guilty himself of running away from the main issue.

Following the debate, Mr Salmond claimed that the British royal family had been discredited, because they are viewed by Scots as being an integral part of the English establishment. So why does his party cling to the idea that an independent Scotland should retain the Windsors (or more accurately, the Saxe-Coburgs) as head of state? Is the SNP frightened to ditch the system that ditched the Stuarts to replace them by the Hanoverians and subsequently the descendants of the German duchy of Saxe-Gotha and Gotha?

Are the Scots trapped in history? Or are they frightened of the future? Try as you may, it is difficult to go through the few days of the SNP's annual conference without witnessing tears, genuine tears (shed, usually through a haze of malt whisky) for the failed Jacobite cause. The romance of their songs is usually Bonnie Prince Charlie. But the real problem was James II.

In 1685, James, a Catholic convert, succeeded to the throne of Scotland, England and Ireland and embarked on a series of pro-Catholic policies. Anxiety for the future of Protestantism intensified. By 1688, with a Catholic heir already born, seven prominent subjects invited William of Orange to lead an army to England. James II fled to Ireland, and the reign of his sister Mary and her husband, William, began.

To ensure that future sovereigns were members of the Church of England, the Act of Settlement was passed. It stipulated that if William and his sister-in-law Anne died without heirs, the throne would pass to Mary's distant cousin Sophia, electress of Hanover, or to her Protestant descendants. In 1714, on the death of Queen Anne, George I of Hanover succeeded to the thrones of Great Britain.

The ruling dynasty of Scotland dating back to 1371, the Stewarts (Stuart is the French form of the name), had gone. Or has it?

Last July, His Royal Highness Duke Albrecht of Bavaria died at Schloss Berg near Munich. He was 91. He was the lineal representative of the Royal House of Stuart and was succeeded by his elder son, Franz, a 63-year-old international trade diplomat.

If Alex Salmond is serious about wanting a modern, slimmed-down "European- style" monarch restricted to a minor role in an independent Scotland, one without links to the English establishment, Prince Franz would initially seem an ideal king candidate.

Mr Salmond, although an economist, claims he knows as much of Scotland's history as anyone. He should therefore know that the Scots from the 14th century have never been too concerned with their monarchs having God-given rights. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, a letter sent to Pope John XXII to argue for Scotland's outright independence and for recognition of Robert Bruce as their Stuart king, crucially stated that the Scottish people had agreed to make Bruce king. But they reserved the right to throw him out "and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King".

Contracts should appeal to politicians, especially with the millennium approaching. So why not a contract for Prince Franz? He does a good job, he stays. He does a bad job, and on the power of the Arbroath declaration, the Scots simply get someone else.

A German Roman Catholic on the throne of Scotland? Surely the resident Protestant population of Scotland, especially the more militant members of the Orange Order, would object. I'm sure they would. But if you have thrown out the Hanoverian impostors, and you want the real royal McCoy (or at least the real Stuart), Franz the First it will have to be.

After James II's failed attempt, beginning in 1689, to regain the crown, he died in 1701. His son was James Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender. And his son, Charles Edward Stuart, became the Young Pretender, fondly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. After his failures to regain the thrones (the 1745 clan rising), the Young Pretender went back to France and later to Italy.

He died childless in Rome in 1788, and his younger brother Henry (called Henry IX by faithful Jacobites) succeeded him. Henry, a Roman Catholic cardinal, died in 1807.

In his will, the cardinal passed the Stuart claim to the former king of Sardinia, Charles Emmanuel IV. The right derives from Charles's great- great-grandfather, who was married to Henrietta Stuart, James II's sister.

From Charles Emmanuel, a member of the Italian House of Savoy, the Stuart claim passed to his brother Victor, through his daughter Mary Beatrice, to the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Mary Beatrice's granddaughter married a prince of the Wittelsbach family, then rulers of Bavaria. Although all royal power ended when Bavaria became a republic at the end of World War One, the title is still used by the family.

According to Count Christophe Preysing, president of the Administration of the Dukes of Bavaria, "the family does not like talking about this matter of the Jacobite title. The prince does not want to mix himself into British royal problems." Here is clear evidence for the nationalists that this is a sensible man.

But if Bonnie Prince Franz is frightened off, deciding (sensibly) to remain in Munich, there is still no royal crisis. If the majority of Scots want to be "citizens, not subjects", the Republic of Scotland it will have to be. And the race for the presidency will be on.

Favourites? Surely, only one man stands out. He has already been a king, and a leader of men - at least on film. He has shown the true nature of his Scottish genes by spending plenty of time abroad playing golf. I give you President Sean Connery. Arise, King Sean I.