The people's Prince

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Some of our readers, we know, feel some affinity with the news values of the Daily Star, which reported the pending nuptials of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles under the headline "Boring old gits to wed". Their only quibble might be that it was on the front page rather than in a "news in brief" column inside. Yet the marriage of the heir to the throne is neither a trivial matter nor a mere comic subplot in a royal soap opera.

Some of our readers, we know, feel some affinity with the news values of the Daily Star, which reported the pending nuptials of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles under the headline "Boring old gits to wed". Their only quibble might be that it was on the front page rather than in a "news in brief" column inside. Yet the marriage of the heir to the throne is neither a trivial matter nor a mere comic subplot in a royal soap opera.

Whether or not the monarchy survives in this country depends less on the merits of the case against the hereditary principle playing a part in government than on the actions and demeanour of the royal family itself. It would be perfectly possible for the Crown to survive as a purely symbolic figurehead, if Prince Charles commanded the respect of the people.

There is the rub. It is not the element of farce in the arrangements for his second wedding that matters, but what they reveal of his attitude towards the people of the kingdom whom he seeks to serve. He seems to regard the matter of his future second wife's title as purely a matter for him. After years of preparation, he and his spin doctors came up with the idea of calling her the Duchess of Cornwall, and seem to have overlooked the legal formality that she will be the Princess of Wales on official documents. Either that or they assumed that people would not mind. That is a serious and rather obvious mistake, given that he is considered to have behaved badly towards his first wife.

It may have been unfair of Gavin Hewitt, the BBC reporter, last weekend to make public seven-year-old private comments by the Prince, but their self-pitying and disdainful tone added little to public perceptions of the man. And that is his problem. The Prince of Wales has done a great deal of good work for disadvantaged young people, and for many other worthwhile causes, but is widely regarded as a selfish and aloof person. Unless he can demonstrate the humility fitting to someone who aspires to public service, he, rather than any republican campaign, may be responsible for bringing down the House of Windsor.

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