An Open Letter to Camilla Parker Bowles

— -- To: Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles, c/o Clarence House, London, England

Dear Camilla,

I know it's bad form to address you by your Christian name when we've never formally met. But "Mrs. Parker Bowles" seems so formal. After all, I've read so much about you (and of course listened to that saucy "Camillagate" tape) that I feel I know you. At least well enough for a little woman-to-woman chat.

First of all, let me say, in all sincerity, congratulations on your impending nuptials. In fact, You go, girl!

It's been a rough week for you and your honey, I know. Prince Charles is said to be mighty peeved that the wedding had to be postponed for a day so that he could go to the pope's funeral. (What, they can't hold funerals on Thursday at the Vatican?) All the papers were blathering on about it: "Camilla's Big Day Is Jinxed," blared the headline in the Daily Express. "No Wedding and a Funeral," chortled the Daily Mirror.

Let them have their little laugh. Because in the long run, it's not going to matter.

No Reason for Doom and Gloom

Given the number of problems that have already beset this wedding, some people (and reporters) are wondering what will go wrong next. "It's all gone wrong from the start," The Sun newspaper said, quoting a senior royal source as saying Queen Elizabeth II feels the her eldest son's wedding is "jinxed. It's a huge embarrassment and makes the royal family a laughingstock."

Why all this doom and gloom? Having to push back your wedding a day is not exactly a catastrophe, unless the caterers say they can't show and then keep your deposit.

Holding the civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall instead of the castle? Who cares. Having your future mother- and father-in-law boycott the actual wedding? Boo-hoo. Like you'll miss them.

None of these count as wedding disasters. Now if you want a wedding disaster, consider:

The 1906 nuptials of King Alphonso XIII of Spain and Princess Ena of Battenberg, a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria. As the newlyweds traveled from the cathedral to the palace after the ceremony, someone threw a bomb at their carriage, causing massive carnage. The 18-year-old bride was not injured, but she wandered around the reception with blood on her gown, repeating dazedly, "I saw a man without any legs."

And what about the engagement of Henry VIII to his third queen, Jane Seymour? It was announced on May 20, 1536. Henry was a newly single man, since just the day before he had had his second wife, Anne Boleyn, relieved of her head. And yes, it was a bad omen. Henry and Jane were married May 30. Less than a year and half later, Jane died after giving birth to a son.

And here's a sad wedding story that's a little closer to home: In 1937, Prince Louis of Hesse and Margaret Geddes were married in heavy mourning, because the groom's entire family -- his widowed mother, brother, sister-in-law and two small nephews -- were killed in a plane crash while en route to the wedding. (The sister-in-law, Princess Cecile, was a sister of the very same Prince Philip who's about to become your father-in-law, Camilla.). Prince Louis and his new wife adopted the sole survivor of the family, a baby daughter named Johanna who had been left at home, but the child died of meningitis two years later.

Now that we've put things in perspective, let's take another look at all the naysayers and their naysaying about the wedding. They can natter on all they want about jinxes and curses, but in the long run you'll win. Why? Let's look at your track record.

Hanging in There

You have a fine knack for hanging in there. Remember back in late 1970s, when everyone was pushing Prince Charles to marry and sire more Windsors? According to various reports, you pushed Diana Spencer as a suitable bride, figuring she was a naive young thing who could be easily pushed aside. Now that was a mistake -- not to mention a little cynical. But by the time Diana had produced the heir and the spare, Charles had had more than enough of her tantrums and dramas. Eventually, he came back to you.

It must have been hard when Andrew Morton's book "Diana: Her True Story" came out, and everybody knew that Diana believed her husband was carrying on with "The Rottweiler." It was reported that you had referred to Diana as "that ridiculous creature." So you lost out in the clever nickname game, and you lost out in the court of public opinion. People made fun of your looks and wondered openly why Charles would prefer you to Diana, who was lauded as one of the most beautiful women in the world. (I know what you're thinking -- meow!) When you ventured out to your local supermarket, angry shoppers pelted you with bread rolls.

And that "Camillagate" tape wasn't exactly a walk in the park either. It's one thing to be known to the world as a married woman who's carrying on with the heir to the British throne. It's quite another to be known as a married woman who's carrying on with a man who wants to become a tampon so he can "live inside your trousers or something." In a word: Ick.

But you didn't try to make excuses or tell your side of the story. You kept your mouth shut. And when Charles decided to seek public sympathy by going on TV in 1994, you reportedly tried to persuade him that it was a boneheaded move. Unfortunately, you didn't prevail on that one. Charles admitted in a television interview that he had committed adultery, and consequently everyone really hated you. Your husband, mortified beyond belief, decided it was time for divorce.

Now there's no point in sugarcoating it -- that was a low point for you. But didn't it work out for the best? Sure, your husband moved out. But you were free to spend more time with Charles. His divorce came through finally in 1996. You began to think that maybe you could start winning a little public acceptance, bit by bit.

That plan imploded on Aug. 31, 1997, with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a Paris car crash. The world mourned. Charles needed to devote himself to his two motherless sons. And you needed to disappear from the public eye for a while.

But again, that waiting game worked. You bided your time. And in private, you continued to spend more time with your man. He began shouldering more and more of your expenses. As time wore on, you met his kids, which went really well, considering.

That ornery old queen mum still refused to acknowledge your role in her grandson's life, and that made Queen Elizabeth II turn all squiffy too. But in the end, who won that one? Queen Mother Elizabeth died in 2002 at the ripe old age of 101, and you promptly joined Prince Charles in moving into her London home. She had a lovely diamond ring that her husband, the future King George VI, gave her back in 1926. Now it's gracing your finger.

You've tried to mollify the diehard Diana fans out there by saying you don't want to be known by her title, Princess of Wales, but rather as Duchess of Cornwall. And if/when Charles becomes king, you don't want to be queen. Princess consort will do, thank you very much.

But here's the thing -- according to all the legal experts, you will automatically share all Charles' titles -- whether you want to use them or not.

And here's where that waiting game you've already proved to be so good at will really pay off. Queen Elizabeth turns 79 on April 21, but she's in very good health. And if she's anything like her own mother, you can expect her to see the century mark. Unlike the Dutch rulers, the British monarchs have no tradition of retiring due to old age and handing over the reins to the heir. So by the time Charles finally becomes king, he'll probably be a little old man. By that point, I bet people won't balk at calling you queen. Come on, who's going to be mean enough to snub a little old lady?

So forget about all those mean people are who making bets on what else will go wrong before the royal wedding. It doesn't matter. After three decades of playing "Stand by Your Man" (albeit not the man who was your husband) and waiting for tomorrow to be another day, you've finally won.

You've got the prince. Some people may wonder just why you want him, but he's yours. And now you're getting all the perks too -- even though you may be a wee bit shy about exercising them at first. All I have to say, Camilla, is that YOU RULE.

So ta-ta for now, and good luck at the wedding. But I don't think you'll need it.