Charles-Camilla Marriage a Step Closer?

Neither the prince nor his lady has publicly expressed any intention of remarrying, and the Bishop of Winchester said the Synod did not vote for the change to accommodate any marriage plans the Prince of Wales may harbor.

"We were not doing this work because of the Prince of Wales," he told The Times. "If the Prince of Wales reached the point of raising the question of marrying then that would a matter that the clergy concerned would deal with privately rather than publicly."

In Charles' case, the "clergy concerned" would be the Archbishop of Canterbury, Britain's top prelate.

The archbishop could always refuse, of course, but the current holder of the office, George Carey, is scheduled to step down in October. The man widely expected to succeed him, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales, is a radical liberal who supports both women bishops and gay clergy, so it seems unlikely that he would cavil at the prospect of remarrying a divorcée.

Gradually Gaining Acceptance

All in all, the answer to whether Charles, 53, will at long last wed Parker Bowles, 54, and maybe one day make her Queen Camilla largely rests on whether or not the British people will accept her.

When Princess Diana publicly blamed Parker Bowles for breaking up her marriage, the older woman was widely reviled. Tabloids ridiculed her looks as frumpy. Housewives pelted her with bread when she tried to shop at her local supermarket.

But in the years since Diana's death, public opinion toward The Other Woman has mellowed. She and Charles seem to be winning points for enduring for so long. The apparent acceptance of the relationship by Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, also helps.

The queen is also relaxing her objections to the match, going so far as to invite her son's girlfriend to some of the Golden Jubilee celebrations marking her 50 years on the throne.

The death this spring of the queen's mother, Queen Mother Elizabeth, also removed another obstacle the couple had faced. The Queen Mother, who was 101, was said to have objected strenuously to her grandson marrying a divorcée.

If Charles does marry his longtime love, will she ever be Her Majesty Queen Camilla?

Given that the queen enjoys excellent health, Charles probably isn't anticipating inheriting the throne any time soon. When Charles eventually does become king, his wife would be queen consort — unless there was a decision to give her a lesser title. She could, for instance, be known as the Duchess of Rothesay, from one of the prince's Scottish titles.

What the Camilla Question comes down to, in the end, is whether the British people would accept her. In 1936, there was no legal reason Edward VIII could not marry a divorced woman — except that the Cabinet, Commonwealth and general populace weren't about to swallow Mrs. Simpson.

The Church of England's decision to sanction remarriage after divorce doesn't mean that anyone's heading to the royal chapel anytime soon. But it does make it one step easier for Parker Bowles to gain full public acceptance.

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