LONDON – Prince Charles has reopened a sensitive debate in Britain by suggesting his wife Camilla may take the title of queen when he becomes monarch.
The comments came in an interview with U.S. network NBC recorded in August, which was broadcast and Web-posted Friday.
Excerpts were aired on British television and received high attention in the week Charles' son Prince William — who is second in line to the throne — announced his engagement to Kate Middleton.
Camilla legally will be queen if Charles takes the throne, but when the couple married in 2005 officials said she planned to adopt the title Princess Consort rather than the more traditional Queen Consort.
NBC's Brian Williams asked the 62-year-old heir to the throne if Camilla would become "Queen of England, if and when you become the monarch." Charles hesitated as he replied "That's, well ... We'll see won't we? That could be."
The difference is purely semantic — the role of consort carries no constitutional power. But polls have suggested there is hostility to Charles' divorced second wife, whom he married eight years after the death of Princess Diana, being called Queen Camilla.
At present Charles is Prince of Wales, but Camilla is known as Duchess of Cornwall rather than Princess of Wales — Diana's title.
Camilla was reviled by Diana-lovers as the old flame who poisoned Charles' first marriage. "There were three of us in that marriage," Diana said in a famous TV interview.
Although Diana acknowledged affairs of her own, many Britons vilified Camilla as a royal home-wrecker.
But since her marriage to Charles the British public has warmed to Camilla, who is perceived as down-to-earth and funny. Those qualities were on display this week when she greeted news of Prince William's engagement with the words: "It's wicked."