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Published: Saturday, 2/12/2005

The king and the consort

THE world can only join Queen Elizabeth II in offering warmest wishes to Prince Charles and his longtime love, Camilla Parker Bowles, on their impending wedding, scheduled for April 8. Not that the whole affair has been simple in any way.

The ghost of Princess Diana, divorced from Charles allegedly in part because of his continuing affection for Mrs. Parker Bowles, will stalk the heir to the British throne throughout his life. Diana unkindly referred to Camilla as "the Rottweiler" in insinuating darkly that she had been responsible for the breakup of her marriage to Prince Charles.

So will another ghost - that of Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936 because of his desire to marry the American Wallis Warfield Simpson, a divorcee like Mrs. Parker Bowles, whose ex-husband still lived.

Some of the loose ends of those days are tied up this time. Although the civil marriage of Charles and Camilla will be performed by the Registrar of Slough, Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior bishop of the Church of England, will bless their union in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

He has said that he does not see their marriage as precluding Charles' one day becoming the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, when and if he takes the throne.

That raises another question. There appears to be no sign of Queen Elizabeth's abdicating, even as Charles, now 56, moves past middle age as Prince of Wales. There has been and continues to be talk of the succession jumping a generation, to Charles' and Diana's older son, Prince William.

When the wedding date was announced there was also some fuss about what Camilla would be called once she married the heir to the throne. It appears she will never reign as Queen Camilla. She will be Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall until Charles becomes king; then she will be Her Royal Highness the Princess Consort.

It will be the first time in the history of the monarchy that the king of England's wife is not the queen.

There are those British subjects who believe that the royals cost the British taxpayer too much and serve no useful purpose. Is it not a blessing that our founding fathers back in 1776 had the wisdom to subtract the United States from that problem once and for all?

The wedding will be fun and we wish them well. We note that their nuptials will precede a British parliamentary election that is likely to be called for later in the spring. If the intent of choosing April 8 was to foreshorten media discussion of the marriage, the wedding date was well chosen.

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