I wonder whether our Prime Minister is historically minded enough to have compared himself lately with Stanley Baldwin? When Mr Blair was told that the Prince of Wales intended to marry Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, would his first thought have been of what starchy old Stan went through in 1936, when a King of England wanted to marry his divorced mistress? Would he have recalled that, then, such a thing was deemed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and respectable society to be impossible? Would he have considered advising the Queen that, like Edward VIII, Prince Charles could not be crowned King if he chose to marry? I doubt it.
Or, Mr Blair might have seen Baldwin as an aberration, and himself as moving in the best traditions of the English constitution in advising the Queen to approve the marriage. Even if the Church of England had a serious primate (which it manifestly does not), he could comfortably be told to go to hell were he to raise any objections about the intentions of his future Supreme Governor. After all, the Church of England was invented to allow a divorced king to marry his mistress: if that isn’t a precedent, what is? Moreover, the people of England are usually not in a periodic fit of morality; it has subsequently been shown that Baldwin and Archbishop Lang’s interpretation of public opinion was either wilfully or accidentally wrong. Letters released in 2003 showed an overwhelming clamour from the public for Edward to have been allowed to marry Mrs Simpson. Indeed, there was not really any constitutional bar to it, merely a bar formed by prejudice.
That, too, was what had held back the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles. The public’s prejudice about her is preposterous, hypocritical and canting.