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8:31 a.m. - 2005-03-31
Prince William and Harry
2:50am (UK)
How Diana's Boys Accepted the Camilla Marriage

By Peter Archer, PA Court Correspondent

Prince William and Prince Harry were said to be “very happy” at the news of their father’s engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles.

Charles’s sons issued a joint statement in support of the planned marriage.

William, 22, and Harry, 20, said: “We are both very happy for our father and Camilla and we wish them all the luck in the future.”

Aides said the Princes were 100% behind their father and Mrs Parker Bowles’s decision to marry – a move which will mean Camilla becomes their stepmother.

Charles and Camilla are understood to have discussed the wedding with them at Christmas.

A royal source said: “Camilla was very nervous about talking to the boys, knowing how much Harry, especially, misses Diana.

“It was important for Camilla to give them the chance to voice any concerns they had. She felt it was important to do this on her own so they didn’t feel they would be upsetting Charles if they did want to speak out.

“But in the end, they didn’t give her a hard time at all and said they were delighted that their father was so clearly happy.”

Charles broke the news to William and Harry during their holiday at Sandringham, the Queen’s Norfolk estate.

A close friend of the Prince said: “William and Harry would never have had a problem with the marriage because they adore their father and only want the best for him.

“They are also young men who increasingly lead separate lives from their father, so it’s not as if Camilla’s presence would be an irritation.”

A friend of the late Princess of Wales added: “William adored his mother but has come to accept that Camilla is in his father’s life and that nothing will ever bring his mother back.

“Harry finds it harder, but he realises that she does make his dad happy, so he is trying to look forwards and not back.”

Diana’s boys were already in their mid-teens when they first met Camilla – when she was effectively living with their father at St James’s Palace.

Initial encounters were said to be rather strained, with Camilla admitting to friends that she needed a stiff vodka and tonic after meeting William during one of his breaks from Eton.

It was her own children, Tom Parker Bowles, now 29, and his sister Laura, 24, who had helped thaw the atmosphere when they were Charles’s guests at Birkhall over that Easter.

William and Harry, then 16 and 14, spent a lot of time with them, and got on well, according to a royal aide.

He said: “The boys rather look up to Tom as a young man-about-town and they took to Laura because she’s a pretty girl and they like pretty girls.”

A friend of Camilla’s added: “Camilla knows she has to draw a very fine line between being friendly with Charles’s sons, and not letting it ever seem as if she is trying to mother them and usurp Diana’s place in any way.

“But she does want to be kind to them for, let’s face it, she was a good mum to her own children who are terribly, terribly fond of her and hold very happy memories of a glorious fun-filled childhood in spite of the bitter end to their parents’ marriage.”

However, the news of their father’s marriage was likely to have stirred up some difficult emotions for William and Harry, according to experts.

Relate counsellor Paula Hall said the Princes were likely to have been reminded of the unhappiness which surrounded their parents’ marriage break-up and divorce.

“It’s bound to stir up some old emotions and feelings about the break-up of their parents’ marriage, to reawaken some of those things, because Camilla was cited in some of that,” said Ms Hall.

“The most important thing in this situation is the way the news is broken,” she said.

“I don’t think it will have been handled insensitively in any way.”

Because Mrs Parker Bowles was unlikely to take on any kind of maternal role there was less scope for upsetting the Princes by making them feel their mother had been replaced, she added.

Clinical psychologist Kathleen Cox, who has a special interest in step-families, said the news would be welcome to the Princes because it cleared up an ambiguous situation.

“It’s regularising what everybody has known about for a very long time and I think that’s a very good thing for everybody,” she said.

Tina Abbott, associate solicitor of family law firm Emsleys, said: “The issue that needs to be handled most sensitively when any divorced parents go on to remarry is the impact it has on the children from previous marriages.

“In the case of Charles and Camilla, their children are now adults, so they have the maturity to deal with the news.

“In our experience, children are happier when they know their parents are happy, which is true whether they are part of the Royal Family or not.

“The key difference in this situation is that the children have to deal with this news under the scrutiny of the public and the media which is of course an added pressure.”

Speculation is rife that Harry cannot forgive Camilla for making his late mother’s life miserable.

It is claimed that, in private, he disapproves of Camilla and avoids meeting her.

Novelist Jilly Cooper, a friend of Camilla’s disagrees and said it was a “myth” that the Princes disliked their future stepmother.

“William and Harry like her very much,” she said.

“Also those poor boys have faced such a bombardment with stories about their mother that I think they need stability.”

However, although William and Harry’s relationship with their father’s lover has always been a strictly private matter, it will have been coloured by their mother’s antipathy towards her.

The Princess famously described Camilla as the “third person” in her marriage and the “Rottweiler”.

Last year it emerged, in a set of tape-recorded interviews with Diana, that the royal couple had argued about Camilla within days of their fairytale wedding.

And by the time Diana agreed to the infamous Panorama interview 10 years ago, she openly blamed Camilla for the failure of her marriage to Charles.

In the years following her death, public sympathy was very much pro-Diana and anti-Charles, and his relationship with Camilla was kept distinctly low-key.

Still in their early teens, William and Harry had enough to cope with after their mother’s death, without the added burden of being asked to consider whether they would be willing to accept a new stepmother.

“The whole issue was put on hold,” said a source.

“This was not the right time to be putting that kind of pressure on two young men struggling to cope with the trauma of losing their mother.”

However, when Charles’s senior aides began masterminding “Operation PB” – the public acceptance of his relationship with Mrs Parker Bowles – William and Harry became part of a sequence of stage-managed appearances.

In August, 1999, Charles brought his lover along when he took a 10-day cruise around the Aegean with William and Harry on board Greek billionaire John Latsis’s yacht.

In February, 2001, Charles, Wil

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