Friday, February 11, 2005

Just Let Them Get Married

At one time, I was quite an avid monarchist. No, I did not favor the imposition of a monarchy here on American soil; our republican system was created in the right place and at the right time. But the abdication of the old dynasties in many traditional monarchies has often come at great cost. The successors of the Hohenzollerns in Germany and the Romanovs in Russia were responsible for the Holocaust, the Great Purges, and the Cold War. Other monarchies adapted as the times have changed, and exist in harmony with democratic systems in the nations of Benelux and Scandinavia.

Until recent years, the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom has been relatively safe and stable. British republican sentiment became strong during the later years of Queen Victoria's reign, but never gained enough support to seriously challenge the existing structure of the state, even under the most extreme socialist Labour governments. Serious questions about the future of the monarchy were not raised until the dissolution of the Prince of Wales's marriage several years ago.

When Prince Charles took Lady Diana Spencer to be his wife, he was performing a duty. As heir to the throne, Charles needed to produce heirs of his own. That has been the way for centuries. The consort of the heir, and the consorts of anyone in the recognized line of succession, must meet several requirements. They must be of royal or noble birth; they must be Protestant and not Catholic; and their marriage must be approved by the reigning British monarch. Sad, but true. (Some of the constitutional monarchies of northern Europe have only recently allowed heirs to marry commoners.)

The Charles-Diana marriage infamously ended in tragedy. They did their duty and had their children. Earlier royal marriages would have continued behind a facade of harmony while the king exercised his prerogative to carry on with whomever he pleased in private. But times have changed, and as it has always done before, the British monarchy should adapt in order to stay relevant. In fact, it can become more open and honest than it has ever been.

So why is there such an uproar over the news that Prince Charles is engaged to long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles?

Both Charles and Camilla did the right thing in divorcing their first spouses. Life is not as solitary, brutish, poor and short as it once was. People need to take time to find their lifemates. Arranged marriages are almost never happy. Not to mention that both are in their mid-fifties and there is no longer a problem with dynastic succession where Charles is concerned. Unfortunate that it took an urging from Queen Elizabeth II to convince Charles to remarry.

The Prince is doing everything he can to please everyone from the Queen down to the harshest critics as long as his future happiness is assured: having a civil wedding ceremony, attending a blessing service with "prayers of penitence", agreeing that Camilla be styled Consort but not Queen should Charles become King, and perhaps most importantly listening to his mother. Her Majesty often seems to be the only one with her head on straight, based on news reports of the Royal Family.

Charles should not, as some people feel, step aside to make way for his older son William. The future of the monarchy is in Charles's hands, and it is his responsibility to reign as King. William and younger brother Harry still have plenty of growing up to do. Let them wait their turn.

Now is the time to allow the royal family to adapt and change. Nobody wants to be the one to put and end to a 1000 year old family business. I do not want to see Charles be that one.

No comments: