What else do the simple folk do
To help them escape when they’re blue?
They sit around and wonder what royal folk would do
And that’s what simple folk do.
Alan Jay Lerner, Camelot
Last night I dreamt about Camilla Parker Bowles, the Dutchess of Cornwall. Nothing unsavory happened in the dream, just a conversation, and nothing like the infamous, intercepted phone call between her and Prince Charles (which transcript you can read for yourself, if you have an inquiring mind.) But there she was, dark and brazen usurper, a painted queen in the carnival of my irrational.
Parker Bowles, of course, is the Other Woman who torpedoed the marriage of Charles and Diana. Torpedoed is not exactly fair, as the marriage was a miserable one anyway. She is now Charles’ wife, and a few years ago they made public amends for their transgressions in their wedding ceremony. And Charles is the father of William, who is next in the line of succession. And William got married to Kate the day before yesterday.
I had intended to ignore the royal wedding. I like the spirit shown by Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, who listed all the reasons he wouldn’t watch, among which the Boston Massacre of 1770, the burning of Washington by the British in 1814, and Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 sell-out to Hitler at Munich. But when I went to pick up Nick at his friend Jay’s house the other day, the whole family was watching a rerun of the ceremony, and I sat down and watched too.
Initial thought: wasn’t all this puffery the reason we got the British out of here in the first place? Second thought: Dutchess of Cornwall. Prince of Wales. Archbishop of Canterbury. How like a fairy tale it sounds. How these names draw me in. How names draw Nick in, every night at bedtime, when he says to me, Tell me about Lincoln! About Pericles! Tell me about Arthur!
Who are we, really, wanderer? A menagerie, I think. In my head, I have a peddler, a thief, a king. My peddler looks a lot like Tevye. My thief like Jean Valjean. My king like Prince Charles.
They never go away, these characters. It’s not a democracy in there, where you can vote them out. Sometimes they hide from me and I have to look for them. Sometimes they fight and I have to make peace. Sometimes, as in my dream of Camilla last night, they just show up, unbidden.
“Hey,” I said to Camilla. “If you’re my queen, I’d like to get to know you.”
“In due course,” she said.
CHARLES THE SHOPWORN
At the wedding of William and Kate, Charles and Camilla hovered in the background, like ghosts. Grey and shopworn now, they are the royal afterthoughts. But I am of Charles’ generation. He’s been part of the landscape ever since I can remember. Senators, congressmen, and presidents come and go. The royals endure; they are part of the menagerie. If Charles is an afterthought, so am I.
I know only a few stories of Charles. Here is the most telling: There is a film clip of him of him as a little boy. It shows his parents returning home from a long trip. Charles runs with outstretched arms to embrace his mother, the Queen. She ignores the offered hug and shakes his hand.
This morning as he often does, Nick came down without a word and sat in my lap. Sat in my lap with my arms around him and laid his head on my shoulder and closed his eyes. Such blessings I can never take for granted, and I wonder if Charles’ ever did that with his father. I don’t know of course, about that rarefied world of palaces and nannies and protocol, but I kind of doubt it. I doubt if he spent much time in his mother’s lap either.
Nora tells me that she read an interview of Kate, who said she and William want to live like normal people. Good luck with that, both of you, and all blessings. I hope your children accustom themselves to your laps and not your handshakes.
“What did you think of the wedding,” I ask Nick, still curled up in my arms.
“Do you know the name of the queen?”
“Would you like to get married in Westminster Abbey?”
“Let me think about that.”
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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
The Nanny at the Wedding — Motherlode weighs in on Nannies
The Man Who Would Be King. A commoner has a shot at royalty. John Huston’s film of the Rudyard Kipling story features Michael Caine and Sean Connery. The story, and the movie, are timeless. Rated PG. Here’s a taste:
Art Passions — The second and third illustrations above (Fair Helena and The Meeting of Oberon and Titania by Arthur Rackham) are taken from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists. Among them are Rackham, Maxfield Parrish, and the Preraphaelites.
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Any thoughts about the royals, the wedding, or the menagerie in your head? I encourage, invite, bestir, charge, and exhort you to add your comment below. I always respond here.