Operation CPB is the code name for the public relations campaign to convince the British public that Prince Charles' mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, should be the Queen of England one day.
The plot is worthy of the juiciest fairy tale or historical romance.
It goes like this: Queen puts pressure on her son and heir to marry. So heir marries airhead. But heir has a secret girlfriend who is a married lady. Poor princess is justifiably unhappy. Prince and princess divorce. Married lady and husband divorce. Princess dies in terrible crash with swarthy foreign millionaire. Presto! Prince is free to marry Camilla. But British public mourn the pretty princess and think Camilla is the wicked queen with the poisoned apple.
As a result, the public relations experts have been called in to gently persuade the British public to forget Princess Diana and realize what a charming and good person Camilla Parker Bowles is. Gradually, Camilla has been seen in public with the prince. Step by step, she is being eased into a public role. Carefully chosen photo opportunities are used to place her next to the queen, next to the royal princes and alongside Prince Charles. It seems to be working, but still most English people don't want her to marry Prince Charles.
The hypocrisy of it all is stunning. Considering how congested the roads are, getting a divorce in Britain is easier than passing the test to get a driving license. Something like two out of three marriages in Britain end in divorce and most divorced people go on to marry someone else. Despite this, many British people think their future monarch should not marry a divorced woman.
The plot thickens because the Church of England is involved. The Queen is the nominal head of the Church of England, and Prince Charles will take up the same role someday. The rules of the Church of England still forbid divorcees to be remarried in church. Many think it would be terrible to have a divorced and re-married head of the Church of England.
Catholics in this country have long memories. Five hundred years long. They can't help asking what all the fuss is. After all, the Church of England was founded by a king for the very reason that he wanted to marry his mistress. If the founder of the church went on to divorce one wife, bump off the next, bury the third, divorce the fourth, bump off the fifth and then die of syphilis, what's the big deal?
Still, the idea offends those who believe in the sanctity of marriage, and so it should. No matter what you might think of royalty, the royal family ought to provide a role model of family life, loyalty and Christian commitment.
The sad fact is that the disastrous marriages of the royal family reflect the parlous state of family life in Britain generally.
Because ministers of the Church of England are still expected to officiate at the majority of weddings, the divorce and remarriage situation is at a crisis point. Although the rules don't allow it, most Anglican vicars at least perform “blessings” of marriages for divorced people and many flaunt the rules and remarry divorced people whenever they wish. Quite a few of the Church of England clergy are themselves divorced and remarried. There was even a Church of England bishop who married the divorced wife of one of his clergymen.
As a result of this chaos, the Anglican Church has been under extreme pressure to change the rules. Earlier this year the General Synod of the Church of England proposed changes to allow remarriage of divorcees in church under some circumstances, and it looks like the new rules will go through. So is that a green light for Charles and Camilla to get hitched?
Not really, because one of the proposed regulations is that the relationship between the people who want to get remarried in church should not have been the cause of the breakdown of either first marriage. Princess Di made it quite clear before she died that there were “three people in her marriage.” Everybody now knows that Charles and Camilla maintained a relationship all through Charles' “fairy-tale marriage” to Diana.
If the new rules are applied, the heir to the throne and his mistress are still left out in the cold because their adulterous relationship caused the breakdown of both marriages.
What are the other options? When Charles' sister Anne wanted to remarry she simply skipped across the border where the Church of Scotland (which is Presbyterian) allows the remarriage of divorced people in church. Charles and Camilla could go the land of kilts and bagpipes, but this would look suspiciously like the couples who sneak off to the marriage chapel in Las Vegas for a quickie marriage.
So the prince and his mistress are still stuck. There is one other option that no one seems to have considered. Prince Charles might actually display some moral courage. He could show a Christian example and sacrifice his own selfish “happiness” for the sake of his faith.
In other words, he might put away his mistress and either live as a celibate widower or marry someone who is free to be his queen.
Then, despite the personal difficulties for the prince, the fairy tale might have a happy ending after all.
Dwight Longenecker, a former
Anglican priest, is author of
The Path to Rome
and More Christianity.