Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Camilla and the Specter of Diana

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

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Marilyn,

I have a question... I think you have a website, but I hope this is ok too.

Who usually gathers at Sandringham for Christmas? I know that the imediate royal family is there... but would Vicount Linley and Sarah Chatto be inlcuded? What about the Kents?

Marilyn said...

Hi there,

Thanks for your question.

I think you're right and that it's the immediate family that gather at Sandringham. If they do go - (as the nephew and niece of the Queen, I don't see why they wouldn't be invited) they're not shown in photographs of the royals coming from the church service afterwards. But then maybe they are there and they're just not newsworthy enough beside the rest of the royals!

If they aren't there, I think that Viscount Linley and Sarah Chatto not appearing at public family gatherings reflects their minor status as members of the royal family and also their preference to stay out of the limelight. When the Queen Mother was alive they did appear outside of Clarence House with her, but otherwise their public appearances are rare.

With regards to the Kent's they do seem to be higher profile at public events such as the Trouping the Color, at least I recall seeing them on the balcony. I believe that the Duke of Kent, as a senior royal duke, rides in the parade.

The Duke of Kent, along with the Duke of Gloucester (probably the most reclusive of the royal family) are members of the Order of the Garter, so they are seen there too. I've heard that Princess Alexandra is close to the Queen.

There was a period of 24 years where Christmas was held at Windsor, I believe because the family was too large at the time and they needed more space. Now that the family has 'reduced' in size, (less small children), they went back to holding Christmas at Sandringham. So one would think that space shouldn't be a problem!

So, maybe Princess Margaret's children and the Kent cousins are at Sandringham and we just don't see any of them!

Marilyn :o)

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