Charles and Camilla: Where's the majesty?

On Windsor High Street, in the lee of the mighty castle walls, Inderjit Dhillon is doing brisk business.

It's royal wedding time, after all, and his souvenir shop is packed with customers snapping up tea towels, mugs, key rings, even $7 computer mouse pads bearing portraits of Prince Charles and his betrothed, Camilla Parker Bowles.

But these sales are rarely about affection for the royal pair. With the papal funeral forcing England's heir to the throne to postpone his wedding by 24 hours to Saturday, demand for memorabilia stamped with the wrong wedding date is skyrocketing. "People think all of this will become collectors' items," says Mr. Dhillon. "It's been really busy ever since they changed the date."

The episode reflects British attitudes toward this wedding. Gone is the flag-waving exuberance prior to previous royal occasions, including Charles's wedding to Princess Diana 24 years ago. Instead, one finds indifference - or worse - to the setbacks dogging the preparations and skepticism that it will help the House of Windsor.

A survey last month found two thirds of people said the liaison would harm the monarchy. Another poll this week found twice as many people plan to watch a popular horse race than plan to tune in to the wedding. Typically, rain - or even snow - is forecast.

"People just don't like Charles," says Paula Wells, who lives in Windsor. "We still remember Diana and what happened to her. We don't think he should be king. He's not in touch with the people."

Even royal tourists were unmoved by the weekend festivities. "If they want to get married, it's up to them," said Shirley Cater from Somerset, England, after visiting the gates of Windsor Castle, now closed to the public. She said Britons had turned on the royals in general and on Charles in particular "because of the way Princess Diana was treated."

Typically the media here has rejoiced in Charles's obvious discomfort at public attitudes to the wedding. A succession of setbacks over the venue, legality, guest list, and finally even the date generated headlines like "Jinxed!" and "Can anything else possibly go wrong?"

The awkward relationship between prince, press, and public was demonstrated last week when he briefly lost his cool at a Swiss ski resort. Grimacing through a painful media session he was overheard referring to journalists as "bloody people," and tellingly added, "I hate doing this."

Robert Lacey, a historian who has written several royal biographies, says that the antipathy toward Charles "speaks to a weakness that was illustrated by his meltdown on the ski slopes. "He is not kingly. In the Middle Ages, royals proved themselves on the battlefield. Now they do so in press conferences."

Charles's big mistake, Mr. Lacey argues, was in using the media during his acrimonious split from Princess Diana. In doing so, he opened the monarchy up to intense public scrutiny and the mystery and majesty of the royalty was lost. "Charles and Diana were both culpable in creating the familiarity because never before in royal history have we seen a warring couple ... reveal all the bitternesses of marital breakdown," Lacey adds.

"It was [19th century editor and critic] Walter Bagehot who said: 'We must not let in daylight upon magic,' " he adds. "In that sense, Charles has brought this upon himself."

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