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ROBIN ABCARIAN

Face It, Prince Charles Horsed Around Too Much

November 06, 1994|ROBIN ABCARIAN

We can stop putting on airs.

The Prince of Wales is gone. Or at least he's supposed to be gone, as of Friday. We go to press early around here so we can't be positive, but let's assume he's history. Now we can say what we really think. Of the man, of the monarchy, of the shocking media restraint in the face of his first visit to Los Angeles in 17 years.

Shall we dish?

All last week, I read the papers, watched the news, listened to the radio. Prince Charles shook hands, he murmured "mellifluously" as our woman-on-the-scene described it, he complimented and speechified. He was down in the 'hood, and way up in the hills. But not a soul--and remember, this is a town with taste foul enough to make a tourist attraction out of a double murder site--could muster the nerve to ask the (possible) future king of England the only two questions on all of our minds:

Camilla Parker Bowles?

Over Diana?

So we are left to conjecture.

I borrow my own theory from the work of novelist Ed McBain, who once wrote that only two facial types exist in the world: pigs and foxes. Likes attract. This is a very serviceable notion, except when it comes to such hallowed--or thinning--bloodlines as the British royal family. For them, it would seem that a third, equine-inspired category must be pressed into service.

This is the only way to answer the question about Camilla, who is, with all due respect, a horsey face par excellence.

Diana, all fox, never stood a chance.

Meeee-ow . Or should I say, neiiiiiighhhhhh.

*

All right. I know. This is petty, mean-spirited, inconsequential stuff.

In a world of disasters--Bosnias, Haitis, Rwandas and Huffingtons--I ought to be ashamed of myself for making fun of the much-maligned Prince Charles.

He is, as a reviewer of his authorized biography put it in the Times of London last week, "heir to the most prestigious secular throne (the British monarchy being comparable only with the Papacy in worldwide significance)."

In California, we call that being a major dude. As such, he deserves a little respect.

Which I would gladly offer, if the man weren't so hellbent on making it impossible to give.

Consider:

* In a television interview earlier this year, he admitted committing adultery. A ploy for sympathy? If so, not a terribly bright move.

* To counteract a biography of his estranged wife, Princess Diana, in which he is portrayed as a cold, heartless cad, Charles allowed his own quasi-independent biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, access to his personal diaries and 10,000 of his letters. According to press reports, the prince retained the right to review the book, "The Prince of Wales," but only for "factual errors," not interpretation. He comes across, in the words of one reviewer as only "partly attractive, partly the reverse."

* The biography also depicts Charles as feeling that he is the son of an emotionally unavailable mother and a bullying father who pushed him into a marriage with Diana. Diana is portrayed as a deeply troubled woman, for whom he arranged appointments with a psychiatrist in 1982, only a year after their "fairy-tale" marriage captivated the imagination of the world.

"Frequently, I feel . . . that I'm in a kind of cage, pacing up and down and longing to be free," went one diary entry, penned by the prince in 1986.

Interesting, and probably inevitable, that the mantle of victimhood would be worn by perhaps the most privileged man in the universe.

Should he ever be caught shoplifting, we can certainly predict what the defense strategy will be.

*

These last few years-- anni horribili in the plural?--with the divorce-happy Windsors have been a little too heavy on the soapy plots. Andrew and Fergie. Anne and Capt. Mark Phillips. And soon, it would appear, Charles and Diana, whose settlement has been rumored to be as much as $30 million and perhaps retention of her title. (The queen is said not to mind if Diana remains a princess; Prince Charles and Prince Philip supposedly want to revoke the tiara.)

What they have shown the world, these pampered people, besides their all-too-human shortcomings, is an incredible disregard for the feelings of their two young boys, who cannot be protected from common knowledge about their parents no matter how many guards, functionaries, footmen and nannies stand between the children and the rest of the world.

Slugging it out in public as Charles and Diana have done, waging a literal battle royal for the sympathies of their subjects is pathetic and verges on parental incompetence. Not to mention that their public fighting and indiscretions have led to widespread speculation that Charles is unfit to be king and should take himself out of the line of succession to the throne.

"It has all the elements of a Greek tragedy," wrote Charles in his diary after his marriage fell apart. "I never thought it would end up like this. How could I have got it all so wrong?"

To answer, I must perforce paraphrase Shakespeare: Your kingdom for a . . . horseyface.

That's how.

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