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   If for God and country, then what of love. . .

Diana, Princess of Wales,
and Charles, Prince of Wales

“I am not a normal person, in the normal sense of the word,”
Prince Charles once told a reporter. But if there is one thing his life illustrates,
it is just how ordinary—how normal—the course of his life has been.

   Charles Windsor could have been born into a family that expected him to be a carpenter or a fisherman or a dentist. Instead, he was born into one which required him to be king. It doesn’t matter. It always works out the same. Children raised to fulfill the expectations of others always live lives in conflict.

   Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Charles’ very public love life. In love with one woman, he married another woman to, as he wrote a friend, “do the right thing for this country and for my family.” His vacillation was legendary. While Diana fretted to her friends, “Why won’t he ask me?”, the newspapers editorialized that his indecision was “profoundly disappointing.”

   Finally, though “terrified of making a promise and living to regret it,” Charles capitulated. After he proposed, his indecision was still evident. When a television reporter asked if they were in love, Diana replied, “Of course.” Charles was more circumspect. After a long pause, he added, “Whatever ‘in love’ is.”

   For her part, Diana Spencer’s life was also normal and ordinary. On the eve of her wedding she learned of the bracelet with intertwined initials Charles was about to give his lover. Diana told her sisters she couldn’t marry him. “Too late, Duch,” they counseled, “your face is on the tea towels.” It was a shock, but no surprise to Diana, when Camilla’s picture fluttered out of Charles’ diary on the honeymoon.

   Both are familiar stories. The phone rings. A woman, following her gut feeling, begs her mom to “tell him I’m not home.” She ends up married with three children before she’s done with him. A man goes out with a woman he doesn’t like because he needs a date for a fraternity party. They have a boy and a girl before parting.

   Feelings not followed always end in pain and sometimes in disaster. Once the train gets moving, it’s hard to stop. One woman told us as she put on her wedding gown in the back of church, all she wanted was to flee, leaving her family to make the explanations and return the wedding gifts. The marriage lasted less than a year.

   Whether your universe is small or vast, the one thing which makes a marriage work is love. You don’t get to tweak the rules because of your position. It isn’t a piece of paper which makes a marriage real, but love. When you have money, position, and power, love becomes even more important. Charles and Diana knew their marriage lacked legitimacy because it lacked love.

   The portrait of Charles Windsor painted by the press has often been unsympathetic. Some of it is deserved, of course, but it’s hard to act decently when you grow up with people curtseying to you and bowing out of rooms. As one wag observed, “They have to pretend to be superior, and we accept the pretense.”

   Sherlock Holmes remarked, “Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what the result would be.” In criminal investigations, the great detective was undoubtedly right. But when it comes to relationships, he was undoubtedly wrong. Each generation seems to learn lessons the hard way. Though the result is predictable, they don’t see what will happen until it happens.

   Charles today is no longer with a wife he couldn’t love. His chances of assuming the throne are greatly diminished. Is it any wonder that pictures of him often catch a man who, for the first time, seems genuinely happy. No. It’s only normal. Normal for a normal person, in the normal sense of the word.

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"There were three of us in this
marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

    —Diana, Princess of Wales


       All In The Family

   Charles, of course, is not the first member of the royal family to sacrifice a life to expectation. The queen's sister, Margaret, followed a similar course.

   In the 1950s, Margaret fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend—war hero, former aid to her father, and a divorced person.

   After several years and much speculation she announced in October, 1955 that they would not marry. She was, she said, "mindful of the church's teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth."

   Sir Alan Lascelles, the queen's private secretary, lobbied especially hard against the match. In later years Margaret was heard to say, when Lascelles walked by, "There goes the man who ruined my life."

   Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. They divorced in 1978, a year when expectations were changing, but too late to change the course of her life. Princess Margaret died February 9, 2002.