LONDON – In the latest twist in a royal wedding saga that has been full of flip-flops, the British government revealed Monday that like it or not, Britons will have to get used to Queen Camilla.
That's because Camilla Parker Bowles (search) will, by law, automatically become queen when Charles is crowned.
While the public has come around to supporting the marriage, opinion polls still show strong opposition to Parker Bowles taking the title of queen.
But any attempt to change the rules to bow to popular sentiment would be exceedingly difficult: It would require not only a new law in Britain, but also legislative changes in 15 other nations where the British monarch is head of state.
Ever since Prince Charles' (search) office announced the wedding in February, preparations have been riddled with reversals that have prompted many observers to liken the nuptials to a farce.
Charles and Parker Bowles were initially to get married at Windsor Castle (search), but were forced to choose a decidedly more downscale venue — town hall.
Then Queen Elizabeth dropped her plans to attend her son's wedding, immediately prompting speculation of a royal snub.
On Monday, Constitutional Affairs Minister Christopher Leslie said in a written statement responding to a lawmaker's question that the royal marriage would not be "morganatic" — in which the spouse of inferior status has no claim to the status of the other.
"This is absolutely unequivocal that she automatically becomes queen when he becomes king," said Andrew Mackinlay, the lawmaker who raised the question.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs confirmed that interpretation, saying legislation would be required to deny Parker Bowles the title of queen.
"I'm perfectly happy for the Prince of Wales to marry whoever he likes, but altering the constitution is parliament's business and this does require an alteration to the constitution," Mackinlay said.
"It shouldn't be done for one man and one man alone," he added.
Prime Minister Tony Blair was in no hurry to deal with the issue.
"The position at the moment is limited to what the title would be on her marriage. In terms of any future events, let's wait until future events arise," Blair's official spokesman said.
Announcing his wedding plans last month, Charles said his future wife would be known by the lesser title of Princess Consort when and if he becomes king.
Immediately after their April 8 wedding she will become Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, and will not be called Princess of Wales — the title used by the late Princess Diana.
In making the wedding announcement, the prince subtly left the door open for changing his mind about Parker Bowles' future status, saying "it is intended" that she would use the title HRH the Princess Consort.
Some commentators believed that Charles was seeking to buy time to win over public acceptance of his wife as queen. After all, for years he had been saying he had "no plans" to marry Parker Bowles.