Ours would be a grim age if we were to deny millions of people cheap and satisfying entertainment, and so, therefore, perhaps we should be especially grateful to the Prince of Wales and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles as they approach their wedding day. Few people in Britain seem to welcome the happiness the couple clearly feel as they approach the regularisation of their relationship. However, the joy the public finds instead in engaging in acts of spite, hypocrisy, gratuitous vilification and outright republicanism seems to more than make up for that.
Among politicians even one so supposedly senior as the oafish Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, allowed himself a sneer when the engagement was announced. Among the clergy of the Established Church even the Bishop of Salisbury, David Stancliffe, could reconcile with his definition of Christian behaviour an attempt publicly to humiliate the heir to the throne by demanding that he apologise to his fiancée’s former husband, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, for cuckolding him. And among the media, where the anti-monarchist agenda is fashionable, there has been no shortage of so-called ‘royal commentators’ — you know the sort of tossers who once wrote a cuttings-job book on Prince Edward that can now be found in every remainder shop for 99p — saying the monarchy will implode the second our beloved Queen joins her ancestors.
In such an atmosphere, to plead for Mrs Parker Bowles to be treated with the civility our society normally affords to harmless middle-aged women is to invite ridicule. Politicians, media executives and even prelates have decided that the audience for which they are all, in their different ways, competing has one overriding consideration about the future Duchess of Cornwall: that she was responsible for the divorce and, it follows, for the death of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.