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Charles 'Is to Blame for All of This'

Charles and Diana/Reuter
Charles and Diana share perhaps one of the happiest moments of their marriage in this informal photo taken on the day of their wedding, July 29, 1981. (File Photo/Reuter)
By Christine Spolar and
Dan Balz

Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 3, 1997; Page A23

LONDON, Sept. 2óNot even tragedy has raised Prince Charles in the esteem of his countrymen.

The cool, remote Prince of Wales may be weeping over the death of his former wife, Princess Diana, if tabloid tales are true, but the British public appears to be oddly unmoved by his sorrow.

Charles, whose dour demeanor, eccentric enthusiasms and affair with a married woman have long made him the loser to Diana in the competition for public affection, has said nothing publicly and issued no statement since Diana was killed in an auto accident with companion Dodi Fayed and a driver early Sunday. But, according to press accounts, he is suffering deeply.

He has been roaming the moors of Scotland, contemplating his sorrow over the loss of his ex-wife, said the Daily Mail. Red-eyed and sleepless, he is totally distraught, said the Sun.

But many media commentators urged the heir to the throne today to heed his former wife's example, loosen up and reach out to his subjects in the same open-hearted way she did -- or risk his future and that of the House of Windsor.

Among the throngs of mourners in London, few people are shedding tears for the prince. Diana touched them in a special way, they say, but talk of Charles turns the conversation cold. As cold, some noted, as he himself appears to be.

"He's full of guilt -- and he should be," said Vanessa Belton, who stood in line with thousands of others to sign a book of condolence at St. James's Palace in memory of Diana. "If he'd loved her -- and all she wanted was her love returned -- this would never have happened. She'd never have had to go elsewhere."

"He's in a sad state, is he?" harrumphed 85-year-old Morris Regan, part of another vast assembly of mourners outside Kensington Palace, Diana's official residence. "Let me tell you this: I'm a royalist. I like the royals. She was a lovely lady. A credit to Britain. His tears? Guilt. He was a two-timer, wasn't he?"

"Look at all the people here," said Regan. "What does the country think of him? Well, he didn't think it would end this way. And he never counted on this."

Royal watchers are debating whether Diana, even in death, will control Charles's destiny. Britons still don't much like the woman with whom Charles cheated on Diana, Camilla Parker-Bowles, and analysts say Diana's death makes it less likely that Charles will be able to formalize his relationship with her.

"Camilla should leave the country," said one woman, who echoed the sentiments of countless mourners here today. "Without the mistress, none of this would've happened."

Many fault the prince for failing to maintain his marriage while waiting to assume the throne. Diana traveled the world to fulfill royal duties, but many mourners pointed out that she would not have been in Paris that fateful night -- in the company of boyfriend Fayed -- if her marriage had remained intact. Others asserted that it was Charles and the royal family who pushed for the divorce that ended the union last year.

"I think [Charles] is to blame for all of this," said Jean Lewis, who waited in line at St. James's Palace to record a tribute to Diana in the book of condolence. "She would have been quite happy at home with her two boys. Will he take those two boys to McDonald's [as she did]? I don't think so."

Lewis, like others interviewed today, said Charles has forfeited the right to become king and declared that the next monarch should be his and Diana's older son, Prince William, 15.

"I don't know if people will forgive him for this," Lewis said. "I know I won't. I don't think he deserves to be king."

Even if the outpouring of sympathy for Diana diminishes with time, royal watchers pointed out today that Charles has a long-term public relations problem: Diana will remain forever young and forever tragic and forever wronged. Can Prince Charles ever hope to compete?

"Perhaps the mood of the royal fans will be forgiving," wrote columnist Polly Toynbee. "Perhaps they will take pity on him in all his contorted awkwardness, so ill at ease with everything in his life. Perhaps they will forgive Camilla, whom Diana fingered so firmly as the destroyer of her marriage.

"But," she added ominously, "perhaps not."

"Can Charles take the strain" and change as so many of his countrymen would like him to? asked the Daily Mail. "Further erosion and implosion of the monarchy is more likely," the paper opined.

In any event, Charles will come under even greater public scrutiny in coming weeks, if that is possible. Those more sympathetic to his plight are calling his task "agonizing" and his prospective struggle to find serenity for himself and his sons "a sad story." He's undertaken his initial duties in the wake of Diana's death admirably, supporters note; his journey to Paris to bring her body home earned him respect among those who mold opinion about the royals.

Toynbee wrote that no one should view the prince now as an "out-and-out" villain. "He wanted to be the right man in that marriage and in life," she said. "He just couldn't do it."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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