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44

Adultery: The Forgivable Sin

Royal Suites

Consider England’s royal family, where mistresses—or “confidantes,” as they’re discreetly called—have long been accepted and even acclaimed. Look at the result: pain.

If as reported, Prince Charles had been cozying up to his favorite confidante, Camilla Parker-Bowles, instead of spending time with Princess Diana when they were married, they would be just following family tradition. After all, when she first met the prince, Camilla exclaimed, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-grandfather! I feel we have some-thing in common.”

History bears her out. Great-grandma was Alice Keppel, the inamorata of King Edward VII. Keppel was so favored in royal circles that the queen even summoned her to say goodbye to the dying king. (She saucily described the etiquette of her role: “A royal mistress should curtsy first, then leap into bed.”)

Charles has a royal flush of relatives with a roving eye (see genogram, page 47). His uncle Edward VIII (also known as David) dallied with assorted married ladies until he fixed on one, Mrs. Wallis Simpson of Baltimore. She divorced, he abdicated for “the woman I love,” and they spent the rest of their lives as the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Then, of course, there are the varied romantic scandals in-volving his aunt, Princess Margaret, his sister, PrincessAnne, and his princely brothers, Andrew (supposedly cuckolded by his duchess wife, the notorious Sarah Ferguson). Prince Edward, whose prolonged bachelorhood provoked rumors—and palace denials—that he was gay, married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999. Princess Diana had her own long legacy of illicit love. Five branches of her family, the Spencers, are descended from the illegitimate offspring of King Charles II. More immediately, her mother, Frances, left home to marry her lover, Peter Shand Kydd, when Diana was only six years old. Her late father, Earl Spencer, later remarried Raine, the daughter of romance novelist

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