Like Laurel and Harvey, Abbott and Costello, Siskel and Ebert, Camilla and Diana's names seem to be intertwined. Whether it's about fashion or exclusion from state prayers, when discussing Camilla, Diana's name invariably comes up. And it's not likely to end anytime soon. Their names will go down in history as a cautionary tale of what not to do when you marry into the royal family. Future generations take note. But other than being blonde, well-to-do, divorced, born under the sign of Cancer, mother's of two children, and married to the same man, what do they really have in common?
More than you would think. According to the recent issue of Majesty magazine, they are related through an illegitimate line from King Charles II and his brother, James, Duke of York. It has even been said that Charles is related to both women; albeit through a legitimate line.
Although blood is supposed to be thicker than water, there are limits. Especially when a distant cousin has an affair with a cousin's husband, who also happens to be a cousin. In this situation family ties are bound to get strained. Tongues wag and relations take sides. Things could have gotten nasty. Then Diana died, and everyone was saved from awkward moments at family gatherings.
But although Diana is gone, she is not forgotten.
We only need to look at the coverage of Charles and Camilla's recent American tour. Although I consider myself to be an avid royal watcher, I have no idea what Charles and Camilla did or where they went. I was too busy reading the comparisons between Charles and Diana's 1985 tour and the 2005 one. The media packed Diana's bags and brought her along. It was inevitable that this would happen, but reporting it for the entire tour? didn't the newspapers have anything better to write about?
In the current issue of Vanity Fair, there's an article titled 'Charles and Camilla, Together at Last', which makes it to the third page before it mentions Diana. True, the path to marital bliss cannot be told without mentioning how inconvenient Diana was. But do we really need to rehash every part of the drama? There's nothing new in this article. No explosive revelations. Nothing we haven't heard royal experts heatedly discuss on Larry King.
Few remain neutral when discussing Camilla and Diana. Although the Camilla campaign has won much of the public over, for the unconverted, the consensus is to blame Camilla for everything that went wrong in Diana's marriage, and her resulting death. If the monarchy eventually implodes, that will be Camilla's fault too.
It seems that Camilla will always live under the specter of Diana. In the absence of accomplishments on Camilla's part, it's more interesting to compare the two. After all, has Camilla walked through a mine field? shook hands with an Aids patient? had everyone from her childhood nanny to her spiritual advisor write a book about her? caused a massive outpouring of global grief at her death? We'll have to wait and see. For now Diana takes the lead in those categories.
So many of the comparisons between Camilla and Diana are negative towards Camilla. But like Diana, I'm sure that Camilla has her own remarkable qualities. Her ability to be down to earth is not unlike Diana's common touch. Like Diana, she has renewed interest in the monarchy. She may never make the same impact or be as universally lauded, but does she need to? If we can leave the past behind and focus on all of the positive that Camilla can bring to her role, then in time Camilla may have a chance to make her own mark. Then those comparisons can be put to good use.
And that may not be such a bad thing afterall.
© Marilyn Braun 2005
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