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UK poll: Charles stock rises, Diana fading | LONDON (UPI) -- A new opinion poll published Thursday showed a sharp upturn in British public support for Prince Charles and his longtime lady friend, Camilla Parker Bowles -- and, surprisingly, a wane in devotion to his late wife, Princess Diana.

The survey by the YouGov polling organization found that 51 percent of those questioned believe Charles should become king on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and that he should be allowed to marry Parker Bowles.

It was a dramatic turnabout in public affection for the couple from five years ago. After Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, and subsequent revelations of the affair between the prince and Parker Bowles, opinion polls labeled her the most unpopular woman in the country.

But the YouGov survey published Thursday showed 71 percent of the respondents now believe it would have been better if Charles had married Camilla in the first place, and only 16 percent thought he made the right decision in marrying Diana, from whom he was divorced.

The poll also indicated little enthusiasm for major projects in Diana's memory. About 75 percent said a public holiday called Princess Diana Day would be a bad idea, and only 22 percent favored a suggestion to turn her former home, London's Kensington Palace, into a museum and permanent memorial.

Some 60 percent of those questioned said they thought it was OK for the prince and Parker Bowles to have a Church of England wedding, even though she is divorced and her ex-husband is still alive.

"Most people generally think that everyone has a right to happiness," royal author Ingrid Seward told the Evening Standard. "Camilla makes (Charles) very happy, and that is why there is an upsurge in support for him."

The couple are now seen together frequently in public, occasionally holding hands, and there are indications of increasing acceptance of Parker Bowles by the queen, especially since the death of the monarch's mother, who was known to have opposed the relationship.

Royal biographer Philip Ziegler said the public has now seen that Parker Bowles "has handled the whole affair with great dignity and discretion."

"What is most surprising is that the public did not come around to her earlier," Ziegler added. "I am sure that in five years, even more people will support the idea of them marrying."

On the few occasions when he has touched on the subject, Charles has been quoted as saying there were "no plans" for a marriage -- but the change in fortunes reflected by new opinion polls may persuade him to rethink the issue.

Diana, in retrospect, has not fared so well. The YouGov poll showed that only 52 percent agreed that the public outpouring of grief at her death was genuine, but 46 percent thought it was "hysterical."

And, perhaps most tellingly, 39 percent felt Diana had made no lasting impact on the nation, and 55 percent believed the monarchy had grown stronger in the years since her death.

The poll was commissioned by The Evening Standard. About 1,000 people, age 18 and older, were questioned in the past few days, a spokesman for the Standard told United Press International. No further details on the poll were available.

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