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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 11:19 GMT
Charles, Camilla, whatever...
By Jonathan Duffy
BBC News Magazine

Evening Standard
The announcement that Charles and Camilla are to wed has provoked strong reactions among those in favour and those against. But could a surprisingly large reaction be a simple shrug of the shoulders?

Amid all the ballyhoo about Charles and Camilla, forecasts of constitutional upheaval, the opprobrium of evangelical Christians, the gleeful endorsement of progressive monarchists, Stuart Hay has just one question: will we get the day off?

Mercenary perhaps, but it seems the 42-year-old data technician from Dunbar is not alone in showing scant interest in the impending nuptials of our future head of state.

A survey last year found entrenched camps on either side of the Charles-Camilla debate - 32% in favour of marriage, 29% against. But the biggest portion of all, 38%, didn't care.

Do you care about Charles and Camilla's wedding?
Yes I do care
No I don't care
11471 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Indifference, apathy, ambivalence, call it what you will, it appears millions of us are utterly unmoved by the surprise news that issued from Clarence House on Thursday morning.

"You strip away the monarchy from this and it's a 57-year-old divorcee marrying a 56-year-old divorcee. It happens every day," says Mr Hay. "I don't wish them any ill-will, but big deal."

A public holiday, it seems, is the most he, and many others, can hope for.

The fault line between the do and don't cares over Charles and Camilla is largely overlooked in favour of the heartfelt pro and anti views, but royal author Brian Hoey believes it reflects a generational clash in the country.

As long as it's not on the TV and headlining the news for the next two weeks, good luck to them
Stuart Hay
"Perhaps 99.9% of monarchists in this country would be aged over 40. In addition, people under 40 are disillusioned with lots of things, including marriage," says Mr Hoey.

The figures broadly concur. Older people - the over 55s - were twice as likely to disapprove of the marriage, than younger people, according to the survey by Populus for the Times, taken in June 2004. A closer look reveals marked gender differences, with nearly half of men (45%) saying they did not care, compared to less than a third of women (32%).

Notably, however, this dispassion seems to end at the suggestion that Camilla could take the title of Queen - a line in the sand which, it seems, the people will resolutely not cross.

Christopher Morgan, a religious affairs correspondent with the Sunday Times, believes the widespread indifference is a result of the long "softening up" process orchestrated by Charles' office to win the public round to Camilla. It may not be the ringing endorsement they hoped for but Mr Morgan wonders whether the constant "will they-won't they" questions ultimately bored the man in the street into indifferent submission.

Grown-up response

Speculation fatigue even engulfed the Prince of Wales' aides, says Mr Morgan, pointing to a story in his paper at the end of last year, which speculated (correctly as it turns out) that the couple would wed in a civil ceremony before seeking a church blessing.

Bristol Evening Post
No balloons and streamers, says Christopher Warwick
"Normally it was the sort of story that would have got a robust response from Charles' people, but we didn't hear anything from them. It didn't even seem to register," he says.

But for royal observer Christopher Warwick, maturity rather than monotony, better explains the public's nonchalance over Charles and Camilla's marriage plans.

"As monarchy becomes more anachronistic it has less bearing on people's lives. Does the monarchy matter on a day-to-day basis to the man in the street? Not a bit of it?" says Mr Warwick.

"I like to think as nation we've grown up a bit since Diana's death."

People have come to realise, he says, that in today's media age the royals are "damned if they do, damned if they don't".

"In a sense they can't win", and many of those who tick the "don't care" box are simply reflecting this view, says Mr Warwick, author of a book about Edward VIII's love affair which led him to abdicate the throne.

The indifferent masses he says are "the silent majority".

"We're not talking about a couple in their 20s or 30s. We're saying it's fine, go ahead but we won't be jumping up and down blowing up balloons and streamers and the rest of it."

As for a public holiday on the wedding day itself - it looks like Stuart Hay and millions of others will be disappointed.


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