You may have noticed that HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall have been on a tour of Europe over the past week. You may also have NOT noticed, since the press they have received has not been exactly fulsome.
Regardless of their geographical destination, I think it is fair to say that every news story I have read or photo-call I’ve seen has shown the heir to the throne and his wife in great form – laughing, sharing banter, looking completely at ease. It makes me think about how we got here – how THEY got here – and makes me wonder what might have been, if things had been different. The Charles we see these days – rosy cheeked, giggling, approachable – seems so different from the days when we saw him with Diana – serious, stand-offish, antiquated. I sometimes wonder if the very people-friendly nature of Diana somewhat eclipsed that element of Charles’ personality, in a way that she would not have wanted nor expected.
It is certainly pleasant to see Charles looking so relaxed and content, so at ease in his role. He has been a long-waiting prince, with a mother whose long reign has been much-lauded and much-loved. He has very large shoes to step in to as monarch. Elizabeth II may have occasionally taken a back seat in domestic affairs that ought to have concerned her more, but her non-action, keep-the-peace mentality has meant stability and consistency for many decades. Her ability to remain apolitical is at odds with her heir, whose willingness to voice opinion on current affairs has certainly plunged him in to hot water in the past.
Charles seems willing to accept the modern world in all its diversity of religion, colour and creed. He embraces minorities, wants to get involved in helping the needy. His work in setting up The Prince’s Trust underlines this. The determination to improve the world strikes me as a quality which would be commendable in a King. However, the hurdles he needs to jump are those which are self-created. When his ex-wife, Diana, lost her life suddenly in 1997, Charles’ circle (or confidantes or whichever label we choose to use) continued to use Diana’s absence to denigrate her reputation. This inability to reward the good elements of his first wife’s character, and the mother of his sons, has continued to cause dismay in those who valued and loved Diana.
When Charles and Camilla knelt together in a marital blessing in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in 2005, they took part in the strongest act of penitance from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer they could choose, acknowledging sin and asking for forgiveness. They did this to show awareness that they knew the nation objected to the adultery which had taken place and to start afresh as man and wife. While this act, and the union itself, has taken a long time to be accepted in the hearts of the nation, I think it fair to say that there is now an acceptance that Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall has proved her worth as a member of the royal family.
It merely remains for Charles, and the powers that be, to also recognise the worthiness of a previous lady he brought in to ‘The Firm’. A lady who bore him two boys, who worked hard to do good and whose easy charm won the hearts of his future subjects – Diana.
Her rehabilitation holds the key to his.