OK. I don’t normally write about the royal family, and it would be clinically impossible for anyone to care less about their love lives than me. Nonetheless, this post is about Charles and Camilla. Sorry.

Let’s establish one thing: neither one of them looks like a 22 year old supermodel. Neither of them. Are we agreed? Good.

Then why do the constant “Camilla looks like a horse” / “Poor Mrs Parker-Bowles and her unfortunate appearance” / “Ugh, Camilla mings” / “Poor old Charles, marrying a heifer like her” / “Imagine shagging that after you’ve had Diana” / “Good job they delayed the Grand National on the day of the royal wedding – Camilla’s odds on to win” type jibes skate across mainstream society without comment?

For anyone who considers feminism has won the day, consider the number of times Camilla is lampooned for her looks, compared with the number of times her fiance is jeered at for the same reason.

The fact that a powerful man has chosen a partner on the basis of something other than looks appears to be a source of never-ending astonishment to the public, the media and every columnist from here to Zaire. Why not have a pretty little thing, Chas? Why would you choose personality over looks? Why would the heir to the throne put up with a middle aged, non-facelifted woman when his money and status could easily pull a surgically-enhanced twentysomething?

I’m willing to bet you read or see some “comical” cartoon, quip or gag about Camilla’s appearance most days. And yet, she and Charles are more or less equivalent in age and appearance, and apparently very compatible. Far more so than Charles and Diana, for a start.

What it all boils down to is this: women are still judged primarily on their looks, to the extent where the assumption exists completely unnoticed by the mainstream. Is it surprising more and more women are succumbing to eating disorders, undergoing extreme surgery and – here’s the important bit – spending their (still unequal) salaries on a slew of clothes, shoes and beauty products?

Cinema audiences will readily accept the prospect of Sean Connery snaring Catherine Zeta-Jones. Can you imagine the reaction to a romantic film starring a 70-year-old woman and a leading man in his 20s? I have a feeling it wouldn’t be a mainstream hit. (Don’t bring up Harold and Maude, I’m talking mainstream and contemporary.)

There are one or two exceptions – Joan Collins and her young husbands, perhaps – but, by and large, women in the public eye are expected to be primarily ornamental. Their value is correspondingly decreased if they move away from that main function. Even now. It’s not even controversial. It’s simply the way things are, in every area of public life.

Actually, I don’t think Camilla’s “below” Charles’ “level”. If anything, she’s out of his league.

Ditch him, Cam! You’re a wealthy, famous woman! You don’t need to settle for that saggy old goat! I hear Brad Pitt’s free!

See, it seems ridiculous the other way round. I feel like I’m stating the obvious here. But if it’s still considered acceptable to sneer at a woman for not being a sex symbol, I suppose I’m not.