Opinion: Prince's engagement another PR fiasco

For a nanosecond last week, I actually felt a glow of sympathy towards Prince Charles, whose face when his engagement was announced betrayed a weary relief that spoke volumes. But this feeling was short-lived and soon replaced by my more customary despair over the cack-handed way in which Charles' relations with the British public and media are handled.

There is a disingenuousness about the prince's PR that beggars belief. Look at the timing for a start. It would take an unobservant journalist not to note the juxtaposition of this announcement with the unfavourable review of Charles' finances, and the money he has been spending on his live-in lover. And the wedding is obviously timed with the hope that the media are going to be too busy covering the forthcoming election campaigning to obsess over the constitutional issues raised. Given this, combined with the apparent haste with which this wedding is being pushed through, the cynicism mounts.

Now it turns out that the prince's advisers failed to mention the fact that it will require an Act of Parliament to prevent his forthcoming bride from becoming Queen Camilla.

It is hardly surprising that a vast majority of the public are less than thrilled about the marriage.

It looks as if Paddy Harverson hopes that, given time, he can do a Bolland and wear down opposition to the idea of Camilla as queen in the same way as his predecessor gradually familiarised us with the idea of her as Charles' partner. But I suspect that he and the royal couple have under-estimated just how deep-rooted the opposition is to the idea of Camilla as queen, not just in the UK but overseas.

Living in Sydney in the early 1990s, I witnessed at first hand the level of monarchy mania abroad and just why the royal family has to date been such an asset to the tourist industry. Half way round the world magazine racks were filled with images of the queen, her progeny and, in particular, Diana.

While on a business trip to Paris earlier this week I was reminded of this international obsession, when I found myself watching a less-than-complimentary documentary on the prince's future wife. My French isn't great but it was clear that there was substantial opposition to the idea of Camilla as successor to Saint Diana. The producers even fielded a French 'specialiste de la famille royale'- which gives an idea of just what the prince is up against in terms of international opinion.

In PR terms, I suspect this may be a case of marry in haste, repent at leisure.

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