With the blessing of the Queen, Britain's Prince Charles announced today that he will marry Camilla Parker Bowles, his lover of many decades. The official word came first from Clarence House, the residence of Charles, where it appeared on Charles' Web site. It was followed by a statement from Queen Elizabeth II on the official Web site of the British Monarchy, saying how happy she was.
The Post's Leslie Shepherd, who covered the royal family from 1987 to 1993, was online Thursday, Feb. 10, at Noon ET to discuss the history of Charles and Camilla.
Shepherd covered the royal family for The Associated Press in London from 1987 to 1993 and provided online commentary for U.S. media for Princess Diana's funeral in 1997. She is currently editor of The Washington Post's Loudoun Extra section. Shepherd comes by her fascination with the royals honestly -- she was born in the Royal Columbian Hospital in the city of New Westminster (aka the Royal City, named by Queen Victoria) in the province of British Columbia.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Leslie Shepherd: Thanks for joining me today to discuss the latest chapter in this long-running love story. I look forward to your comments and questions.
New York, N.Y.:
Will Camilla be queen?
Leslie Shepherd: No. The official statement issued today said that when (if?) Charles becomes king, there will be no Queen Camilla. She will instead use the title Princess Consort.
Why didn't Charles and Camilla marry years ago?
Leslie Shepherd: Do you mean why didn't he marry her when they first met and fell in love in the 1970s? Charles joined the Royal Navy and went to sea without proposing or asking her to wait. She accepted instead a proposal from another long-time suitor, Andrew Parker Bowles, and married him in 1973. Those were different times, and it was also critical that the future queen be a virgin.
If you are asking why didn't they marry after Princess Diana died in 1997 ... many reasons, including widespread public opposition in Britain. Diana was widely loved and many blamed Camilla for destroying her marriage. The prince and his staff have worked hard in the last seven years to improve Camilla's public image and have her play an ever more public role in Charles' life.
Royal aides are saying today the "time was right" to legalize and regularize their living arrangements,
Falls Church, Va.:
Did Camilla and Diana ever meet?
Leslie Shepherd: Oh yes, many times. Camilla is said to have encouraged Charles to marry Diana and he reportedly proposed to her in Camilla's garden.
Why is this news? What possible relevance does this event have for people outside the families involved? Isn't this really something for page 22, column 3 of the Style section, next to "Colonel and Mrs. Chauncey Sanderson are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter...?"
Leslie Shepherd: At last check, this was the most read foreign news story on the Web site today, and the second most read story of any kind on the site. I think people remain fascinated with anything that has to do with Princess Diana, even more than 7 years after her death.
What is the official surname of the Royal Family? Why don't we ever hear it used? Will Camilla take the Royal Family name?
Leslie Shepherd: The name of the royal house is Windsor, but their surname is Mountbatten-Windsor. It was changed from just plain Windsor in 1960, just before the birth of the queen's third child, Prince Andrew, and following years of pressure from her husband, Prince Philip. He wanted his descendants to bear his name. Historically, the British monarch and his or her direct descendants have not used surnames.
Ms. Shepherd: How did you go from covering the royal family to Loudoun County? Is there anyone in Loudoun County who may be considered "royal?" (I have been ambushed on occasion by a "hunt" as I drive the Loudoun back roads)
Leslie Shepherd: There is a Town Council member in Middleburg who used to work for a member of a foreign royal family (not the British), but I think that's as close as we get!
After I left London the second time I became a full-time editor, first at AP New York and then on the Post foreign desk. About 3 years ago I saw the job posting for the editor of The Loudoun Extra and thought, "hey, that sounds like fun." And it is. Never a dull moment in the fastest-growing county in the United States.
But I still subscribe to Majesty magazine to keep on top of the royals and buy the tabloids whenever I can.
Northwest Washington, D.C.:
One of my cousins married King Edward and became the Duchess of Windsor. We came from a long line of Maryland Warfields and we're proud of several others in the family tree as well. She apparently was the most hated woman in Great Britain, but if I were alive in 1936 I would have said "You go, girl!"
I hope Charles and Camilla will be happy as a married couple. In reading stories about Diana during the royal marriage, I've come to the conclusion that, although she was pretty and charming, the girl was a nut case. Obviously not mature enough to handle public scrutiny and the demands of her royal life. Camilla seems savvy enough to deal with it. Cheers to Charles and Camilla.
Leslie Shepherd: Wow, you must have some interesting stories to tell at family reunions.
The abdication crisis in 1936, in which Edward VIII gave up the throne "to marry the woman I love," the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, is not ancient history to many Britons. The Queen Mother never forgave Edward for giving up his duty and for putting his brother, her husband, on the throne with little preparation and felt it contributed to his early death.
My husband says this is all fine and good, but Charles will never be king now -- QEII will just pass him over for his older son.
Leslie Shepherd: I disagree. The queen believes very much in tradition and would never abdicate, which is about the only way she could hand the throne over to William instead of Charles.
However .... the queen is still healthy and going strong in her late 70s. And her mother lived to be more than 100. The Windsor women tend to outlive the men by a long, long time. Charles is already 56. So if something happened to him, it's not inconceivable that the throne would pass from Elizabeth to William.
Also, just to digress, there's no requirement that Prince Charles become King Charles. He could pick another name. His grandfather, King George VI, was christened Albert (Bertie to the family)
Princes William and Harry:
Any word yet from Princes William and Harry -- every one including the royal chef seems to have heaped on congratulations, but I haven't seen anything about what Prince Charles' sons have to say/think about this?
Leslie Shepherd: According to an aide at Clarence House (Charles' London residence), William and Harry are "delighted" at the news.
What's with the concert princess title? It's as oxymoronic as Bush's enemy combatant.
Leslie Shepherd: They had to come up with something other than queen, which the British public just isn't ready for yet.
I'm so fascinated by the royal family. I have no idea why...
But why NOW? They've waited this long (30 years!) and seem to live quite comfortable together. Why bother? And at this moment?
Leslie Shepherd: Several reasons.
They're in love! They WANT to get married. And now the can -- the kids are on board, mumsy says it's Ok (and by law, she had to give her permission), granny, who never forgave the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, is dead.
By getting married now, they're giving the public years if not decades to adjust to Camilla as wife of the king.
Marriage will also settle some protocol issues, which remain more important in British society than American. They will be allowed to sit together at formal events such as funerals and state banquets. According to the British media, they skipped a society wedding in November because the seating plan had them at separate tables.
Will Camilla have official duties in her new role as wife of the Crown Prince?
Leslie Shepherd: Yes, good point, that's another reason to get married. She does a lot of charity work now, but it's "unofficial. After her marriage, look to see her take on more.
How does the line of succession work? If Charles is outlived by the Queen, would William become the heir, or is his place in the line contingent upon Charles becoming king?
Leslie Shepherd: Charles is the heir to the throne. William is second in line, followed by his brother Harry (aka the heir and the spare) and his uncle Andrew, the Duke of York. If Charles died before the queen, William would automatically become the heir.
If the Queen Mother were still alive, do you think Charles and Camilla would be able to go through with marriage? I always had the impression that the Queen Mum was adamantly opposed to the idea of Charles remarrying.
Leslie Shepherd: I touched on this earlier, but I agree with you. I think the timing of the wedding has everything to do with the fact that Charles's beloved grandmother is now dead. I don't think he would have married Camilla were the Queen Mother still alive.
What about Camilla's ex-husband? He supposedly moves in royal circles and was a godson of the late Queen mother. Has he remarried?
Leslie Shepherd: Andrew Parker Bowles, the former silver stick-in-waiting to the queen (I don't make these titles up) married Rosemary Pitman in 1996.
Any truth to the story about the breadrolls?:
The Evening Standard says that Camilla was so hated that at least once when she was in the supermarket, other shoppers actually pelted her with rolls. Can this be true?!;
Leslie Shepherd: The British media say she was pelted by bread rolls in a parking lot shortly after it was revealed that she and the still-married Charles had resumed their love affair.
When will they actually get married? Will it be broadcast? Will it be an official royal wedding like the spectacle of Charles & Diana?
Leslie Shepherd: They are scheduled to get married April 8 in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle (where his younger brother Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999). I would be dumfounded in they allowed the service to be broadcast, but you can be sure that there will be a mob of TV cameras and reporters from around the world on the church steps (or however close they will be allowed to get).
I don't think there will ever be another royal wedding like Charles and Diana's (although I read recently that Star Jones made sure the train to her wedding dress was three feet longer than Diana's). And, just like all second marriages, you don't HAVE to invite all the relatives and all your parents friends and heads of state the second time around.
I'm really confused with all the titles and names -- Diana was Princess of Wales, but Camilla will be Dutchess of Cornwall? Who decides the names/titles royals use? There must be some strict protocol, right?
Leslie Shepherd: Oh yes, the rules are very rigid.
Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales when he was about 10. It's the traditional title given to the monarch's oldest son dating back to Henry IV if I recall correctly.
So when they got married, Diana official became the Princess of Wales or Diana, Princess of Wales. (She was never officially Princess Diana because only girls who are born as princesses can use the title before their name. But even the British media gave up on that one from about Day 1).
Charles has a ton of other, lesser titles. The highest ranking of those titles is Duke of Cornwall. He gets most of his private income from the Duchy of Cornwall. So when they get married, Camilla will become the Duchess of Cornwall.
I read that Charles is planning an official U.S. trip this year. Will Camilla accompany him?
Leslie Shepherd: If they're married by then, I'd expect to see her come along.
Since you raised the name issue with Prince Charles, what is his full name? I know they normally have about 12 and can't remember them all from the wedding ceremony in the 80s!
Leslie Shepherd: wow, i'd have to look that one up. It's a mouthful. I recall Diana's mixing some up during her wedding.
I am curious why (some) Anglicans are opposed to the marriage of Charles and Camilla on the grounds that she is previously divorced. I understand the implications on the church, but would they prefer that the happy couple be adulterous outside of marriage? This would be the lesser of two evils in their minds, I would think? Or do they see it as the same thing? By the way, I am glad that they will finally be married.
Leslie Shepherd: Several people have asked this question and let me see if I can dance around it without being kicked out of my own parish .... Anglicans worldwide are taught to believe in the sanctity of marriage so, for many but by no means all, that means they oppose divorce or the remarriage of divorced people in the church.
Many churches in the Anglican Communion have softened their position in recent years, including the Church of England. It has scrapped the ban on divorced people marrying in the church if their formers spouses are still alive and says the decision is up to the local priest.
The problem here is that Camilla's husband is still very much alive.
The other problem is that Charles, when he becomes king, will become the temporal head of the Church of England, which is the state church. The coronation itself is a religious service conducted by the archbishop of Canterbury. Some Anglicans have a problem with the church's Supreme Governor being divorce.
I wonder if Camilla's children from her previous marriage will now have to face life in the fishbowl.
Leslie Shepherd: I think they've already been spun through the public spotlight a few times but yes, this will turn up the wattage some more.
For the person who asked about all Charles' names: Charles Philip Arthur George
His titles are Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Chester, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Island, Great Steward of Scotland.
Try saying that three times quickly.
So what was Elizabeth's title before she ascended? Was she Princess of Wales?
Leslie Shepherd: No, she was just Princess Elizabeth. Her father was second in line to the throne, so her parents were the Duke and Duchess of York.
Charles Phillip Arthur George:
Just had to pipe up. Diana reversed the middle two.
Leslie Shepherd: I'd have been lucky to remember any of them ....
Northwest Washington, D.C. again:
Re: the Queen Mother's hatred for cousin Wallis -- King George was a heavy smoker for many, many years. He died of lung cancer. The Duchess certainly can't be blamed for his lung cancer. It was all his own doing.
Leslie Shepherd: Yes but he was also sickly much of his life. She blamed the enormous responsibility and workload of being king as a contributing factor to his illnesses and death.
The info coming from Clarence House is that "it is intended that" Camilla will not be queen but will be princess consort. Doesn't this leave open the possibility that, say 20 or so years from now, when Charles succeeds his mother, Camilla could still become queen, if the popular view of her has changed?
Leslie Shepherd: Ah, that will be interesting to see, won't it?
I think that's one of the factors in the decision to get married now. See how it plays out with the public.
Are Camila and Charles distant blood relatives? I know in the past, the royal family all married second and third cousins.
Leslie Shepherd: I don't think I have ever seen reference to even a distant family relationship between them. Burke's Peerage always looks into these things and inevitably finds some relationship between a U.S. president and the royal family.
Although you may be thinking of the oft-told story in which a young Camilla told a young Charles, "my great-grandmother (Alice Keppel) was your great-great-grandfather's mistress, so how about it?" There has been wink-wink, nudge-nudge speculation that a child resulted.
About 15 years ago I worked for the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum. Through this, I did have opportunity to meet all of the involved characters -- though it was our best interest not to pay too much attention. The one thing that surprised me was how I found Prince Charles (or HRH as we'd say) very different from his tabloid persona. He was exceptionally smart -- and made it clear that he wanted to use his celebrity status to make the world a better place. He also was exceptionally thoughtful and kind -- especially to me, a rather unconfident young American. He had a way of making everyone feel valued -- and I appreciate that to this day. I hope his marriage brings him happiness, as I think he deserves it.
Leslie Shepherd: I agree with much of what you say. I'm sure it was frustrating for the prince and his staff to always be portrayed as the bad guy in his marriage to Diana or as some but who just talked to plants.
New Rochelle, N.Y.:
I have read that Ms. Parker-Bowles is actually much more attractive in person than her photographs suggest. Have you seen her?
Leslie Shepherd: Only from afar ... I must say that to me, she looks pretty much like her photos. But hey, she's 57 years old and has lived an outdoor lifestyle for most of them. Having said that, I suspect she has not always been photographed in the most flattering positions or from the most flattering angles. It will be interesting to see how she polishes up for any official engagement or wedding pictures.
Wait: why is Henry the Eighth allowed to have seven (?) wives -- all of them bearing the title "Queen" -- and Charles is not?
Leslie Shepherd: I think this is a decision that Charles and Camilla have taken together -- she apparently isn't overly concerned about what her title is. So why push the issue and at this point? As Duchess of Cornwall, she will still outrank most other women in Britain.
What will Charles's repsonsibilities be as head of the Anglican Church?
Leslie Shepherd: The monarch is the temporal head of the church while the archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leaders. His main duties besides the providing moral leadership kind of thing involve the appointment of bishops.
Have Charles and Camilla been living together for a while? Or did she just have some of her stuff at his place? You'd think the Church would have a problem with them living together out of wedlock, no?
Leslie Shepherd: After the Queen Mother died, Charles moved into her London home, Clarence House, and undertook substantial renovations, which included rooms for Camilla. So yes, they've basically been living together for a while. She still owns a county home near his Highgrove estate.
The archbishop of Canterbury said today that he was pleased Charles and Camilla were taking this "important step," so yes, for many in the church, this is probably better than just living together.
The archbishop has agreed to perform a marriage blessing service for the couple. The wedding itself on April 8 will be a civil one.
Ann Arbor, Mich.:
Are Camilla's parents still alive? Are they members of the British aristocracy?
Leslie Shepherd: Neither Camilla nor her parents are members of the British aristocracy.
Her mother, Rosalynd Shand, died of osteoporosis in 1994 (which is why Camilla's big charity if the National Osteoporosis Society). I believe her father Bruce is still alive.
So, does that mean Camilla will now have her own business staff, ladies' in waiting and other servants, and dresses made by international fashion designers?
Leslie Shepherd: She will almost certainly have a small office staff and a larger role in running the household staff at Clarence House. And she'll probably need a wardrobe upgrade if she's going to take on more public responsibilities. I've read in the British media where Charles has already been helping her pay for some of her evening wear and other clothes she wears in public.
Leslie Shepherd: Thanks to everyone who participated. Those were some great questions and I apologize for not being able to get to the rest. I typed as fast as I could, but time is up.