Last night I dreamt about Camilla Parker Bowles

by Wolf Pascoe on May 1, 2011

Royal wedding castle


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.

Fair HelenaParker 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.

Royal wedding of Oberon and Titania

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.



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.

Charles father son

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.”

. . .



You are far away



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.
. . .


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.


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Clark Kent's Lunchbox May 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Funny you mention Camilla, very few others did in any of the news commentary surrounding the wedding. I’m sure some news show covered it.

I was “mantiquing” today and came across a set of Prince Charles & Diana dolls in their wedding outfits. Very ironic. The thought that ran through my head was, “I bet Camilla won’t get any dolls of her made up like this.” I kind of feel sorry for her in a way because she walks in impossible shoes.

PS. I did catch a little of the wedding as I got ready in the morning. I quite enjoyed the lemon butter cake the Queen wore for a hat.


Wolf Pascoe May 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Those Charles and Diana dolls are only going to get more expensive.

A regular Carmen Miranda, she is, Her Majesty.


Alameda May 1, 2011 at 9:27 pm

May be it is “us” that give so much relevance to these events. Every day thousands get married but once in a life time a royal family. May be we would like to “see” the magic, the fairy tales. By the same token thousands die every day of cancer, but when a celebrity is stricken by that dreadful disease we all convene and pray for their recovery. Again, we want to touch that “magic”. We don’t want it to end. Is it an escape from reality? Is it a confirmation that fairy tales could be real for the very few?


Wolf Pascoe May 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

I think we’re hard-wired to look for stories, whatever the source. It’s the psychic DNA. When I turn off the news, I find it easier to hear the everyday stories.


Sirena May 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

The fairy tale life with a happy ending is always desirable. Whatever we think about the British and the British Empire problems of the past, I thought the latest Royal Wedding was a nice change from the otherwise depressing news. Well, until I heard a piece on NPR about the divorce statistics for the royal family since the reigning king and queen. So you see, the odds for a happy ending for Kate and William are apparently not good, although I continue to envision a fairy tale ending for them. I didn’t watch any of it myself as my goal is never to watch or listen to the news at all except for the 1/2 hour in the morning when I listen to NPR on the radio while I get ready for work, but even that is not safe. I would like to see what Kate’s dress looked like though – maybe Youtube. I’m looking forward to Nick’s wedding in Westminster Abbey and hope I can attend in person instead of watching it on T.V. FYI: I have a Princess Diana Beanie Baby that is probably worth nothing….


Wolf Pascoe May 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Avoiding the news entirely is always a good plan. I will alert you to Nick’s Westminster wedding when it comes about.


Charles Bernstein May 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Visitations of royals are always fraught with import, especially in dreams. A Japanese tidbit: “I will come to visit you in your dreams tonight …Be sure to leave your door unlocked.”


Wolf Pascoe May 2, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Love it. Dreams of butterflies becoming people are also fraught.


BigLittleWolf May 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm

As you know, this little wolf did watch the Royal Wedding, and utterly enjoyed it. While I wouldn’t characterize myself as an “afterthought” just yet (though shopworn seems all too fitting lately), my youthful memories also include Prince Charles and Prince Andrew as the world’s most eligible bachelors in a time that was decidedly more innocent than our post-millennial media mad-mad-mad world.

I love this post, Wolf. Your willingness to imagine what created the Royals of their times – duty over affection, for example – and so many things we take for granted in our parenting – the touch of a hand, the offering of a shoulder and a lap. Here’s hoping that Kate and William will take lessons from Diana’s parenting rather than that of Charles, and keep a bit of Jean Valjean in their hearts as well. Of all your personages referenced, my favorite.


Wolf Pascoe May 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Remember the priest whose candlesticks Valjean stole? Heaven.


Barbara May 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm

It’s so strange how our minds work – you dreamed of Camilla, not Kate or anyone else. I watched it – got up early to do so. Can’t explain it but I’m sure it has something to do with fairy tales…


Wolf Pascoe May 3, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Camilla was the one the prince loved, but didn’t marry. It’s fairy tales for us, patriotism for the Brits.


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