Royalty: My Son, the Prince

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"There's this princess, see." It is a line that has commemorated countless Hollywood script conferences from The Prisoner of Zenda to Roman Holiday. In reel life, the scenarist can find his Prince Charming at Central Casting. But in real life there are not enough princes—charming or otherwise—to go around.

Listed in the Almanack de Gotha are 26 spinster princesses—and only 16 princes of marriageable age. Not all the princesses come from reigning houses. Two of the prettiest are Maria Gabriella and Maria Beatrice, daughters of Italy's ex-King Umberto. But the biggest problems are in The Netherlands and Denmark. The Dutch have four unmarried princesses—Beatrix, Irene, Margriet, and Maria—and the Danes three—Margrethe, Benedikte, and Anne-Marie; neither house has a son.

Reasons of state have further narrowed the field. The ugly memories of World War II make it unlikely that a Danish princess would ever marry a German prince, and Britain's royalty is discouraged from marrying Roman Catholics. Also complicating matters is the fact that intermarriage has linked so many of Europe's royal houses. Questioned about a romance with a young prince, one Oxford-educated continental princess snapped: "Come off it. He's my first cousin."

So great is the prince shortage that royal mothers are. as always, unblushing marriage brokers. A couple of years ago, The Netherlands' Queen Juliana threw a ball so that Crown Princess Beatrix could meet some nice boys, but the stags stayed stags. With far more success. Greece's Queen Frederika organized a Mediterranean cruise for nubile royalty; it sparked the match between Spain's Prince Juan Carlos and her daughter, Princess Sophie.

When Frederika's son. Crown Prince Constantine, began courting a voluptuous Greek actress, his mother promptly broke up the romance. Frederika had her sights on a higher prize—perhaps even Denmark's beauteous. 16-year-old Princess Anne-Marie, Constantine's coveted companion. For her younger daughter. Princess Irene. Frederika had her eyes on Crown Prince Harald of Norway.

Led by Britain's Princess Margaret and her cousin Princess Alexandra, who soon will marry Scottish Businessman Angus Ogilvy. princesses have begun to look more favorably at kind hearts with no coronets. "What interests me is not the crown, but what's beneath the crown." says France's Princess Isabelle. daughter of the French Pretender, the Count of Paris. A commoner should of course have money. Sweden's royal family ruled British Playboy Robin Douglas-Home (nephew of Foreign Secretary Lord Home) "unsuitable" as a consort for Princess Margaretha because of his low income. "You can't expect this young lady to get along without at least one maid," explained a palace spokesman.

Undoubtedly the best royal catch in the world today is Britain's Prince Charles, but at 14 he is not so long out of short pants. Generally overlooked, however, is a royal prince whose line stretches back to 660 B.C.. and whose family has announced that he is looking for "an appropriate girl from a decent home." He is 27-year-old Prince Yoshi of Japan.