Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Birthday Boy: Gentleman in Waiting
The lace-bedizened infant seen here in the impeccably regal (imperial, in fact) lap of his great-grandmother turns 64 today. Charles Philip Arthur George (known formally as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty) must certainly rank among the most patient persons in history.
As I do his sister, the formidable Princess Royal (perhaps the current member of the British family most like the occasionally terrifying Queen Mary), I rather admire the man. He has managed to maintain a quirky individuality even as he's nearly faultlessly done his duty this past half-century or so, and while his personal life certainly had a rough patch after his unwise first marriage, he has taken from its wreckage two apparently well-raised sons and found very evident happiness in a second marriage that likely ought to have happened decades before it was finally manageable.
Seeing him here, cradled in that not-exactly-maternal embrace, it is rather astonishing what continuity this image represents. Today, the baby's daughter-in-law is the Duchess of Cambridge, and a fetching creature she is. In 1867 - just two years after the American Civil War ended - Queen Mary was (as unlikely as this may seem) herself a helpless babe in arms. Her godmother was the last Duchess of Cambridge, a redoubtable woman who presaged the later longevity of the family by living from 1797 until 1889. So, the ruddy-faced man who today opines on the environment and wears perhaps the most beautifully cut suits of anyone this side of his father was dandled on the lap of a woman who was, in the year that Marx published Das Kapital, brought to the baptismal font by a woman born in the year Napoleon deposed the last Doge of Venice.
All of which, because I am funny that way, makes me sit and think. What I mostly hope is that, when she is given the chance, the Duchess of Cornwall emulates the style of her husband's great-grandmother and loads on the jewels with a trowel. I think she'd look well draped in ropes of pearls en style Teck, and heaven knows the toque is ripe for a comeback. In the meanwhile, I hope the Prince has a very happy birthday, secure in the knowledge that, if he can stick it out, eventually he'll take over the family firm.