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Charles and Camilla - what a fiasco!

By Greg Barns - posted Friday, 8 April 2005

The wedding of Charles and Camilla this Saturday is another nail in the coffin of the British monarchy and that’s great news for the millions of Brits, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, and the people of 30 or more other nations of the Commonwealth who still have the Queen as Head of State.

It is not just that the wedding and the marriage itself seems to be a highly distorted, contorted and contrived affair, but the values it represents are hopelessly antiquated and at odds with the contemporary world.

Let’s not forget that Camilla’s curriculum vitae includes the fact that in 1973 she was the Queen’s “Silver Stick-in-Waiting”! Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall title raked in over $A20 million in income in the last financial year, but the Prince didn’t spend one day of the year working for it - it’s an accident of his birth.


The claim of the monarchists in our midst is that the British monarchy provides constitutional stability to countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. But what the shenanigans in the lead-up to Charles’ and Camilla’s wedding lead to is one conclusion -that the opposite is the case.

The British monarchy is too brittle and ritualised an institution to withstand the reality of a marriage between two divorcees. That this should be the case in 2005 is laughable.

To recap, since Charles announced his intention to announce his mistress of 30 years or more, English “constitutional experts” and Church of England bishops have barely had time to catch breath. This is a marriage, which in the real world of a commoner presents no legal or even doctrinal problems, that flies in the face of the established monarchical order and threatens its very essence.

Firstly, there is the anachronistic Royal Marriages Act of 1772 that provides the Queen with the right to ban any of her relatives from getting married! A live issue in this case given there is no love lost between this monarch and Mrs Parker-Bowles.

Then of course, there is the issue of whether or not Camilla will be termed Queen when Charles assumes the monarchy. As the BBC notes in its helpful guide to the labyrinthine rituals and traditions that over lay this wedding, one British MP, Andrew McKinlay says, “Prince Charles has been less than frank with the country", because new legislation would be needed to stop Camilla having the rights of a Queen.

The BBC says, “With Charles as King, Parliament could decide to enshrine in legislation the couple's wish for Camilla to be known as Princess Consort.” But “Charles’ advisors say convention and not law dictate who is known as Queen. There may also be no action if the majority of the population had come to accept the idea of a Queen Camilla,” the BBC notes. In other words, Charles and Camilla are not out of the woods on that issue yet.


And of course, there is the question of Charles’ role as head of the Church of England being undermined by his being a divorcee, marrying another divorcee. This is an issue that has divided bishops and theologians in the UK since Charles and Camilla came out of the bedroom and into the glare of the paparazzi in 1999.

Professor Stephen Haesler, the Chair of the British republican movement, Republic, summed up the Charles-Camilla wedding fiasco this way: "It is absurd that a private matter such as a marriage between two adults can turn into a constitutional crisis. But in a hereditary monarchy that distinguishes so starkly between royalty and other citizens, the legality of the planned civil wedding obviously needs to be cleared up. Britain cannot have a situation in which the future head of state is surrounded by such legal uncertainty about his marriage."

Haesler is right and the monarchists know that his words have the ring of authenticity about them. The Charles-Camilla wedding has exposed the British monarchy as an inflexible, unwieldy and some might say inhumane institution. It is a system that stinks because it is long past its shelf life.

Charles and Camilla have thrown sand in the face of their monarchical supporters who tell us that the constitutional system of the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries provides stability.

As that acute observer of humanity’s foibles Mark Twain observed, “fish go rotten from the head first”. An apt summation of the British monarchy and all who are attached to it in 2005.

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About the Author

Greg Barns is National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

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