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Published: Sunday, 2/13/2005

Camilla Factor makes it news

I could never figure out those people who forfeited sleep and blearily roll out of bed for the live broadcast of that frothy wedding extravaganza between Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Why bother, since you knew there'd be plenty of ceremonial highlight film to saturate the media for days.

Fast forward 24 years, and it's much the same, especially in the U.K. By yesterday, the BBC News Web site had already donned a hair shirt and published a self-scolding navel gazer under the headline "Royal coverage 'was over the top.' "

"Did the BBC go overboard in its coverage of the Charles and Camilla wedding story? Did the story justify a BBC News Special? Not according to some viewers and listeners," the Beeb fretted.

All that Royal Watcher nonsense is pretty much lost on me. Let the British keep track of their monarchs, unaided by us. We've got better things to do.

(Isn't The Apprentice on any minute now?)

And yet....

The lone element of the Charles & Diana Saga that has always intrigued me is The Camilla Factor.

Scanning the online editions of some European newspapers yesterday, I learned a lot about the upcoming nuptials of Charles and the woman he has not too secretly loved for some 30 years.

The ceremony is planned for early April. It'll be a low-key affair (by royal standards, anyway) - a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle. Already, the prime minister has insisted that his office didn't leak the news, and oddsmakers are giving opportunities to wager on the color of Camilla's wedding dress.

You can read all about those sorts of things, but what I have for years found most interesting about this enduring romance doesn't seem to have surfaced elsewhere - the fact that, what we've got here is the best and perhaps only example of a Big Name man reversing a courtship trend.

Charles is 56, and his bride-to-be is 57. And not only is Camilla 57, but (all you TV plastic surgeons, cover your ears, this'll sting) she happily looks it. She doesn't do fiftysomething like Susan Lucci.

Now, when is the last time you heard of a rich, powerful man marrying someone who is (1) his own age, and (2) not some scalpel-crafted, or at least overly aerobicized, spa-dwelling lovely?

The last time a 50-plus rich male celebrity walked down the aisle was when Donald Trump, 58, wed Melania Knauss. She's a Slovenian lingerie model 24 years his junior.

If you take an age inventory of the women in Donald's life, you get Wife No. 1, Ivana, now 55; Wife No. 2, Marla, now 41, and of course, the current Mrs. T, who is 34. Where will Donald wife-shop next - high school?

Meanwhile, Camilla remains the woman referred to by Diana as The Rottweiler. The unaristocratic, plain, and plainly middle-age Camilla remains the woman who has retained Charles' affection and interest, well throughout his marriage to the aristocratic, sweet-faced, virginally young Diana.

I can't claim to know a single thing about their relationship, but on it's face, this has gotta be true love.

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