Attention, class: If there is a lesson to be learned from last week's announcement that Prince Charles was marrying his longtime paramour Camilla Parker-Bowles on April 8, it is this:
You canbe the other woman and still get your man. Heck, you can be 50-something, frumpy, have bad teeth and still get your man. All the psychologists and advice columnists were wrong -- sometimes married men DO leave their wives for their mistresses, and sometimes they even live happily ever after, thereby disproving your mother's warning that "just because he cheated on her doesn't mean he won't cheat on you."
Wait a minute -- scratch that last paragraph, says Gilda Carle, a New York therapist and author of "Don't Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want By Betting on Yourself."
For those mistresses out there who see themselves validated by Camilla Parker-Bowles, for those who believe that patience and persistence will get them to the altar in the end, a distressed-sounding Carle had the answer in three words:
"No, no, no!"
"Charles and Camilla are an anomaly. This almost never happens," she went on. "This is not your typical mistress-married man relationship. Charles knew Camilla well before he met Diana, Camilla married someone else before he did, and she even encouraged him to marry her for the sake of having heirs. It's a totally different situation than for most men, who are perfectly happy the way things are. They have their families, and they have their mistresses. I should have a dollar for every time I've heard one of my clients say, 'Oh, he's going to leave his wife.' "
Still, there are enough examples of public figures, at least, who did leave their wives for other women. There's Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Marla Maples and Donald Trump. Elizabeth Taylor AND Eddie Fisher AND Richard Burton. None of those marriages, by the way, lasted, bearing out a report in 2002 by the National Center for Health Statistics which found that the median first marriage for men lasts 8.1 years, the second just 6.3 years -- and the third a mere 4.6 years.
Another question remains: Was she the home wrecker, or was he? Unfairly or not, the public usually blames the mistress, even if the man was equally culpable. Perhaps it's because evolutionary psychology has always described men as inherently promiscuous, hard-wired to spread their seed among as many women as possible, whereas women are expected to be nesters, monogamous and faithful. Whether in a romance novel or big-city tabloid, a woman who breaks out of that mold is usually condemned for her behavior, derided as a "temptress," and worse, while the man is indulged for his swashbuckling ways.
Diana famously described her marriage to Charles as "a bit crowded," inasmuch as there were three people in it, although the debate rages today about who cheated on who first. For her part, Carle says Charles "behaved like a cad, putting his wife down in public and carrying on openly with Camilla."
Now, of course, it's all ancient history.
Here's a look at some other mistresses who became the Missus:
Marla Maples/Mrs. Donald Trump: The 26-year-old actress-model and former homecoming queen from Dalton, Ga., claimed she met The Donald, then 43, "in church" (others say they met when she was filming a Tropicana orange juice commercial). The New York tabloids went wild: "BEST SEX I EVER HAD," screamed the 1990 New York Post headline, reportedly quoting Marla and delighting Trump but infuriating his wife, Ivana, who fought hard to break Trump's ironclad $20 million pre-nuptial agreement -- to little avail (she got $25 million). After three years of serial engagements and breakups, and two months after daughter Tiffany was born, Marla married Trump in 1993. Trump said he was persuaded to marry again after reading news reports about a gunman slaying riders on a Long Island commuter train. "I figured life was short," he said, although other skeptics said it was to boost his public image with investors prior to a big business deal. The marriage lasted six years. Trump filed for divorce just a few weeks before their pre-nup ran out: If he had waited past four years, she would have received millions more. Today the two are reportedly friendly -- he invited her and his first wife to his third marriage in Palm Beach in December to Melania Knauss.
Julie Chen/Mrs. Leslie Moonves: The CBS's "The Early Show" anchor married Viacom-CBS honcho Leslie Moonves in Mexico over Christmas, much to the consternation of Moonves' estranged wife of 24 years, Nancy. She told the Daily News she was so hurt by the romance that neither she nor her children had watched CBS in years. "I don't want to see [Chen]," she said. "It's not healthy for me." Asked if she had ever met Chen, 34, Nancy Moonves replied "no. I hope to God I never will. I knew our marriage would end eventually. But the way it happened was not correct, it was not moral." The Chen-Moonves liaison was common knowledge in New York media circles for some time, although the couple had tried to keep it private until Moonves, 55, got his divorce. At one press availability last year, Moonves was asked by a reporter whether he would "recuse" himself from decision-making on "The Early Show." "What do you mean?" a clearly surprised Moonves asked the reporter. "Are you writing for (the New York Post's) Page Six now?" Now that they're married, though, even fellow TV execs feel free to joke -- a little. After CBS News supposedly put out feelers to NBC "Today Show" host Katie Couric about Dan Rather's job, NBC Universal Television Group president Jeff Zucker responded, saying, "What we've decided is if CBS goes after Katie Couric, we're going after Julie Chen."
No word on Moonves' response.
Veronica Lario/Madame Silvio Berlusconi: You probably never heard of her, but she's an Italian actress who was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's mistress before he married her in 1980. They met when she starred half-naked in the play "The Magnificent Cuckold," although in a recent biography, Veronica, now 48, defends her behavior by saying that at the party afterward, "he seemed single in the way he presented himself to the guests." Italian voters didn't mind the marriage, but all is apparently not well today. Veronica refuses to live with Berlusconi, 68, in his Roman palace, frequently criticizes him in public and hinted strongly in her book about his serial philandering. In this case, your mother was right: What goes around apparently has come around.
Pamela Digby/Mrs. Randolph Churchill/Mrs. Leland Hayward/Mrs. Averell Harriman: In a class by herself, she was perhaps the most accomplished mistress of the 20th century, if one defines that in terms of proximity to and marriage to powerful, accomplished men. Married at 18 to Winston Churchill's dissolute, philandering son, she divorced him after the war and launched a career as a postwar courtesan, prized for her lush, English rose beauty. CBS's legendary broadcaster Edward Murrow and Fiat magnate Gianni Agnelli were among the throaty-voiced redhead's lovers (she was devastated when Agnelli married someone else, according to biographers). Her great gift, supporters and detractors said, was her ability to make the men she loved feel utterly pampered and adored. Marriage came Pamela's way in 1959, when she swooped in and plucked fun-loving, attractive Hollywood uber-agent and Broadway producer Leland Hayward ("South Pacific," "Mr. Roberts") from his wife "Slim" Hayward, while she was traveling in Europe. Slim had asked Pamela, whom she regarded as a friend, to "take care" of Hayward while she was gone. Pamela did. "Men don't marry Pamela Churchill," said a disbelieving Slim when she learned of the liaison. "They might sleep with her, but they don't marry her." She proved them wrong. And years later, when she walked down the aisle with another former lover from World War II days, uber-diplomat Averell Harriman, she proved them wrong again.
Suzy Wetlaufer/Mrs. Jack Welch: Another name largely unknown outside corporate and media circles, Wetlaufer, a 42-year-old divorced mother of four children and then-editor of the Harvard Business Review, nonetheless caused a furor in 2001 when she took up with former General Electric CEO Jack Welch after interviewing him at lunch. Welch, then 65, had just retired from General Electric a month before and was still married to his second wife, Jane Beasley Welch, who found out about the affair through e-mails. The sparky, vivacious Wetlaufer ended up leaving the magazine shortly afterward. Welch offered wife Jane a settlement of $15 million, but she is believed to have walked away with anywhere between $150 million and $350 million. Wetlaufer and Welch were married last April in Boston. "It's never been better, man," said Welch, 68, giving a thumbs-up as he descended the rose petal-strewn front steps of the Park Street Church. "It's the best ever."
Judith Nathan/Mrs. Rudolph Giuliani: "America's Mayor" began seeing New York socialite Judith Nathan while still married to second wife Donna Hanover. Rumors had long since circulated that the Hanover-Giuliani relationship was broken: there was talk of a mayoral dalliance with a press secretary. In 2000, Giuliani publicly announced, over succeeding days, that 1) he had prostate cancer, 2) his "affection" for Nathan, praising her for supporting him during his battle with cancer and 3) that he was getting a divorce. There was one problem: He did all this without telling Hanover, who found out about it on the news. She retaliated at a news conference, claiming that Giuliani had, indeed, canoodled with a City Hall staffer, and later obtained a court order banning Nathan from Gracie Mansion while she and the couple's two children still lived there, prompting the mayor to move out. But Nathan got the last laugh: In 2003, she married the by-then-former-Mayor Giuliani, 58 -- at Gracie Mansion. The 48-year-old bride's choice of a tiara as part of her wedding outfit annoyed Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan, who wrote that "Wearing that sparkling tiara was a former-mistress-now-wife's equivalent of doing an elaborate touchdown jig."