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Why Camilla Is Good For Monarchy

"They are a very loving couple."

That's part of what Prince Charles' former press secretary had to say in an exclusive interview with The Early Show, hours after the prince stunned royal watchers with the announcement of his engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles.

Colleen Harris, the former press secretary, spoke to co-anchor Julie Chen. Harris has been at the palace for five years and knows the prince and his future consort well. She noted, "She is supportive of Her Royal Highness and the work that she does, and she's popular in the office as well. They all love her a lot."

Since the news broke, Harris pointed out the palace knew it was going to be difficult for the public to accept Parker Bowles. But Harris also said, "I think, over time, as they get to know her... they'll find that she is a very down-to-earth person, and you know, the way that she supports the prince and loves him is good for the monarchy, good for the prince and good for all of us. So I think, you know, it will turn out to be a very good thing all around."

Well, it seems it didn't take that long for the public to warm up to Parker Bowles. CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reports there is one poll out Friday morning showing support. The Prince of Wales is winning praise for decisiveness in making his mistress his wife.

The engagement turned a Windsor Castle business dinner into a sparkling coming-out party. Parker Bowles flashed a Windsor family heirloom on the ring finger: seven diamonds on a platinum band and thousand-watt smiles all around.

Asked at the dinner if the prince got down on one knee to propose, Parker Bowles said, "Of course." And eager to answer more questions, she added, "What else?"

"What else" is now a national guessing game from guest list, to gifts, to wardrobe, the couple's wedding puts new life in the unique and dubious profession of royal watching. Morning British TV consulted an expert in body language to measure how Prince Charles is holding up

"He's quite tactile with her," the expert said. "I think it is a look of relief about the fact that he can be more tactile with her now in public."

So why are they getting married now?

Harris said,"I can only say that I think the time is right for them. They haven't made a hasty decision, really, have they? But at last they've come to it and that's a good thing."

Harris pointed out family and royals were consulted and delighted with the news.

"The boys have spoken out and said that they're very happy for their father," Harris said. "I know they love their father very, very much, and all they would want is for him to be happy, and constitutional and religious matters seem to have been dealt with very, very smoothly."

And Camilla's friends want the world to know the royal family isn't losing a soap opera villain once branded a home wrecker. It's gaining a new star, sort of.

"She won't have that sort of 'balcony wow' factor, clearly, that Diana had," Parker Bowles friend Broderick Munro Wilson said. "But, I mean, she'll bring other things to the party, which I think people will realize that are very useful."

Asked how Parker Bowles gets along with her future mother-in-law, Harris said, "Well, the queen has given the marriage the blessing. I'm sure she's delighted for both of them, and I never thought that would be a problem between Her Majesty. I'm sure the relationship will grow and grow."

So it begs the question, if Princess Diana were alive today, would this wedding be taking place?

"I can't really answer that," Harris said. "This marriage is between two private individuals. I know it's very public because of the princess. But nevertheless, the decision to marry is a very private matter between the two people concerned.

"And although I know it is slightly tinged with unhappiness, as far as I know, from everything they saw, the prince loved the Princess of Wales when they married. But like a lot of marriages, things didn't work out, and that's very sad. But the good news is that, you know, he's with someone else now. Clearly, their love has stood the test of time, and they're going to be together forever now, one hopes."

The marriage will break a centuries-old convention that monarchs or heirs to the throne are banned from marrying divorcees.

It was the Church of England's consent that helped Charles and Camilla get to this, a decision to end their affair by marrying. But there are some questions being asked about the announcement. Camilla wouldn't be called the queen if Charles becomes king, which seems to upset precedent, and the title "Prince's Consort" sounds too much like the name of a new car.