The “Plan” to Make Camilla Queen

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According to Tom Sykes at the Daily Beast, there’s a plan in place to make Camilla queen and it will be implemented within 24 hours of Charles ascending the throne. Specifically, when Charles goes before the Accession Council and tells them what name he plans to take as king he will instruct them that Camilla will be known as “Queen Camilla.”

That Charles wants his wife to take the title of “queen” isn’t news, but that there may be a firm game plan for the mechanics of bringing this about very much is. So, let’s investigate:

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Daily Beast: The source says that while the name of the King–almost certainly Charles III although George VII remains a possibility–will be widely announced on the airwaves and in a sequence of traditional proclamations at key locations around the country that day, the fact that Camilla—whose official title is the Duchess of Cornwall–has been declared queen will not be ceremonially proclaimed at that point. Instead key editors, press agencies and royal correspondents will be informed of Charles’s wish, so the news will effectively go out alongside his proclamation as king.

I’m not saying that this is true, but if there is a firm plan in place to make Camilla queen then this is exactly how you’d go about it. It’s no-frills, it’s quick and it waters down the impact by sliding it alongside Charles’s proclamation when, undoubtedly, there will be about 20 different narratives going on in the news.

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Daily Beast: The dramatic move—emphatically denied by a source close to Prince Charles–will contravene long-held assurances that Charles will not attempt to make Camilla queen. Charles’s website, for example, publicly states that Camilla will be known as HRH The Princess Consort when Charles accedes, and these assurances have served, over the years, to dampen the anger of traditionalists at court, who still perceive that making Camilla queen would be rewarding adultery.

The trickiest part of all of this, in my opinion, will be the fact that doing this will directly contradict the Palace’s earlier statements, going back to 2005, that Camilla will be known as Princess Consort.

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Charles and Camilla’s wedding portrait from 2005

Daily Beast: Camilla is still routinely disrespected in court circles, according to insiders. “There are many women at court who simply will not curtsey to Camilla,” says the source.

Makes sense given the British upper-class’s reputation for upholding a strict moral code at all times. (Sarcasm). This aside unfortunately rings true for me, but what I would mainly like to point out is that this moral outrage that Camilla is in some way devaluing the monarchy by having married into it is actually more potently affected by people refusing to respect her as Charles’s wife. They are effectively making the argument that one’s position in the Royal Family, and the RF itself, are dependent on winning a popularity contest. If you feel that way, fine, but then don’t walk about calling yourself a “traditionalist,” because you’re hurting the institutions’s longevity far more so than an everyday republican.

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The Countess of Wessex, the Duchess of Cambridge and Camilla in 2011

Daily Beast: The Queen is unlikely to be unaware of Charles’ machinations. She is known to be a steadfast opponent of the idea of making Camilla Queen and her acceptance of Charles’s marriage to Camilla was to some extent influenced by his concession that Camilla would be merely Princess Consort.

This is a more compelling argument for withholding the title from Camilla – not that the Queen doesn’t want her to have it, but the “why” behind it. The Queen, and Charles after her, is the head of the Church of England and, as such, is a religious leader. The church is against divorce and so giving Camilla the title “Princess Consort” would not be a reflection of her so-called unpopularity or “revenge” on behalf of Diana, Princess of Wales, but rather an acknowledgement that she is Charles’s second wife following a divorce.

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But be very careful here, because whatever action is taken will set a precedent. The last time anything like this scenario played out was Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, but that was the 16th century and Henry was already on the throne. The legacy of barring Camilla as queen will not be a victory for put-upon wives everywhere, but rather a strong statement that all future second wives following a divorce are ineligible to be named queen.

And to be clear, that’s a move that would essentially only impact women. More specifically, it’s a precedent in which second wives are asked to pay for their husband’s crime of divorce. Now, you can argue that Camilla is an exception because she was Charles’s mistress and played a role in the demise of the Wales’s marriage in the ’80s and ’90s, but be aware of the ramifications of withholding a professional and legal right or privilege on moral grounds.

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Daily Beast: Charles may be underestimating the opposition, however. According to a 2015 poll by Comres, for the Daily Mail, just a third of the population (34%) say they like Camilla, with a greater number, 38% saying they dislike her. A whopping 55% of the population are adamant that Camilla Parker Bowles should not become Queen.

The numbers are interesting, but let’s be clear on what the source is here. The Daily Mail can hardly be trusted to speak for the entirety of the British population, and is indeed conservative leaning. But let’s assume for a moment that these numbers are fairly representative of public sentiment. Thirty-eight percent may dislike Camilla, but that’s a minority compared against the 34 percent that like her and the 28 percent that presumably don’t care. Fifty-five percent don’t want her to be queen, but what amount of that figure is based on anti-monarchist sentiment or, indeed, anti-Charles sentiment? My point is, let’s be wary of reading this as a personal indictment of Camilla.

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Charles and Camilla with Camilla’s granddaughter, Eliza Lopes, at William and Kate’s wedding in 2011

Time, unfortunately, is key here. Diana has been deceased for 20 years and, let’s ballpark Charles’s accession as about 10 years away – that puts roughly 45 years between his and Diana’s wedding and his accession, and about 30 between it and her death. The percentage of the population that was an adolescent or adult actively watching and admiring Diana will be reduced from what it is today. Even younger fans who “discover” Diana will likely have less of an immediate emotional reaction, not having lived through the events firsthand.

Somewhat ironically, the longer Charles waits to be the king, the greater Camilla’s chances of becoming queen.

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Daily Beast: A spokesperson for Prince Charles declined to comment. However, a palace source said that the substance of the statement made by Clarence House at the time of Camilla’s marriage to the Prince–that Camilla would be called Princess Consort–still stood. The source said that the claims that Charles would declare Camilla “queen” unilaterally shortly after his mother’s death were “without foundation.”

At first blush I was surprised by the denial, but upon a closer read, this all makes sense. Clarence House declined to comment, which is correct, while another source on background has denied specific aspects of these claims. “The substance of the statement” back in 2005 that Camilla would be known as Princess Consort, does not necessarily mean that all of it still stands. The descriptor of “unilaterally” in the denial may be the “out” here, in that Charles may still make Camilla queen, but it won’t be unilaterally.

So, what to make of it all? I think we can trust the core that Charles wants to name his wife queen. I would lean towards saying these reports are accurate and some variation of this plan has been discussed, even if it is not “in place,” per se. If and when Charles moves forward with this, I also think he’ll be successful. There’ll be backlash, but the outrage will die down and the precedent it sets gives some wiggle room to future divorced monarch that, God knows, will likely be needed at some point down the line.

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