announcement that Charles and Camilla are finally to marry has sent the media
into a frenzy of excitement mostly unmatched by the population at large.
Reporters have scrutinised the couple's long history, every
carefully choreographed appearance, the first public kiss and all manner of such
historical banalities. Learned commentators have been dusted down to discuss the
constitutional implications and the niceties of royal protocol. The question of
what title the future Mrs Windsor will take has played on historians' minds to
an unhealthy extent.
Such coverage will undoubtedly please the royal family more than
the news earlier this week that MPs were asking uncomfortable questions about
the finances of the two largest royal estates - the duchies of Cornwall and
Lancaster. Between them these estates provide the Queen and Prince Charles with
a private income of nearly £20 million a year.
The National Audit Office has requested to see the accounts for
the first time in 700 years, which seems reasonable. However, the Duchy of
Cornwall's secretary, Bertie Ross rejected the request, saying: "Any business or
estate that's private should be able to choose its own audit."
Such matters will be temporarily forgotten as the party leaders
rush to offer their congratulations to the happy couple, whose wedding in April
will punctuate the expected general election campaign.
But how long the monarchy can endure as a bastion of inherited
wealth and privilege is a question that will surely recur in political debate
until such time as we assert that democracy and equality are not compatible with
the Windsor family's continued reign. Each time I see a royal wedding I hope
it's the last.
Steve Bell's view of Prince Charles - in the heir to the throne's own