On the 10th February 2005 it was announced that Charles Mountbatten-Windsor otherwise known as HRH Prince Charles the Prince of Wales and heir apparent to the British crown, intended to marry his long time companion Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles on the 8th April 2005. It was subsequently announced on the 4th April that the wedding would now be postponed until Saturday 9th April, to allow Prince Charles to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome, who died earlier on the 2nd April.
Charles and his intended were reported to be "absolutely delighted" at the prospect of their marriage, whilst his mother, HM Queen Elizabeth II has announced that "The Duke of Edinburgh and I are very happy that the Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles are to marry", sentiments apparently echoed by both Prince William and Prince Harry who are also quoted as being "very happy" and wish the couple "all the luck in the future". The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has also said that he was "pleased that Prince Charles and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles have decided to take this important step", adding his hopes that the marriage would be "a source of comfort and strength" to the couple. The customary statements of congratulation have been issued by the leaders of all the major political parties, and most likely by the leader of all the minor and entirely insignificant political parties as well.
The wedding will take place on the 9th April 2005 and in a complete break with tradition the marriage will be a civil ceremony, to be followed by a service of prayer and dedication at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It was originally announced that the civil ceremony itself would also be held at Windsor Castle until someone pointed out that, firstly Windsor Castle didn't have the necessary license to conduct a civil wedding and secondly, even if it did obtain such a licence this would make the royal residence available as a wedding venue for the general public. Presumably dismayed at the prospect of drunken commoners in morning suits cavorting over her lawns every weekend HM put her foot down and the couple subsequently announced that would marry at Windsor Guildhall instead, which is simply the local registry office. Technically speaking members of the public therefore have the right to attend the ceremony, but given the limited capacity of the Guildhall it is very likely that any uninvited guests will find themselves denied access.
Although neither Queen Elizabeth II nor the Duke of Edinburgh will be present at the wedding itself, apparently because the couple wish to keep the occasion low key, they will be present at the subsequent blessing and the Queen will be hosting the wedding reception at Windsor Castle. However both Prince Charles' sons William and Harry are expected to attend the ceremony at the Windsor Guildhall as indeed are Mrs Parker Bowles' children, Tom and Laura.
The BBC has announced that it will be televising the 45 minute long church blessing although whether this will attract as large an audience as the 750 million people who watched the Prince marry Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral in 1981 seems debatable.
The legality of the marriage
Since Camilla is divorced and her former husband is still alive, the couple cannot be married under the auspices of the Church of England.
(Which might seem somewhat ironic given that the Church of England was more or less invented in order to allow Henry VIII to divorce and remarry whoever he wanted, but times have changed.) Denied a church marriage they have therefore decided upon a civil marriage. 1
Now the concept of a civil marriage was introduced into England and Wales by the Marriage Act 1836, but section 45 of that Act specifically stated that it "shall not extend to the marriage of any of the Royal Family". And when the legislation regarding marriage was tidied up and consolidated in the Marriage Act 1949, that piece of legislation included the statement that "nothing in this act shall affect any law or custom relating to the marriage of members of the Royal Family". Since it was by then the established custom that royal marriages were solemnised in church it has generally been considered that it was not lawful for a member of the Royal family to be married in a civil ceremony.
Thus in 1955 when Princess Margaret wanted to marry Peter Townsend she was told she was unable to do so and even more recently in 1992 Princess Anne was forced to marry in Scotland in order to avoid the whole issue. Although it has to be said that the matter is less than crystal clear as the offending section 45 of the Marriage Act 1836, was repealed by the Registration Service Act 1953.
However the current Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer has taken quite a different view on the matter and issued his formal opinion that it is now quite legal for a member of the Royal family to be married in a civil ceremony. Apart from some legal jiggery-pokery the Lord Chancellor now relies on the Human Rights Act 1998 which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights into English law. Since Article 12 of the convention states that "Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right" the Lord Chancellor believes that the courts would be forced to interpret the law in a way that is compatible with this requirement and thus the marriage would be held to be legal.
Understandably given the popularity of the former Diana, Princess of Wales in certain quarters there is a reluctance for Camilla to adopt the style of Princess of Wales, as is traditional for the consort of the heir apparent to the British throne. It was therefore announced that Camilla Parker Bowles will become known after her marriage as HRH Duchess of Cornwall, (or the Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland) and it was further announced that if and when Prince Charles becomes king, then Camilla will not be known as Queen Camilla but rather as the Princess Consort.
But as has been pointed out, as the law stands the wife of a reigning King automatically becomes Queen whether they like it or not. (This was all thrashed out in 1936 when Edward VIII similarly proposed marrying a divorcee.) If Charles does become king legislation will be required to formally confirm that Camilla does not have the title and status of Queen. But given that his mother shows no signs of giving up her job at the moment this may well be some years into the future, by which time people well have ceased to care what Camilla calls herself.
Public opinion and the succession to the throne
Of course Prince Charles has known Camilla for a number of years having first met her at a polo match at Windsor Great Park in 1971. It is widely believed that they have been lovers before, during, and after their respective marriages to completely different people. Both have since been divorced with Charles' former wife Diana, Princess of Wales, famously dying in that car crash in Paris in 1997.
Before her death Diana cited her husband's ongoing relationship with Camilla as one of the contributing factors in the breakdown of their marriage, which had led many to brand both Charles and Camilla as the 'guilty parties'. A view which of course now colours the response to the engagement. However British public opinion on the question of the marriage is divided; there are significant minorities who both oppose the marriage and welcome it, but by and large the biggest group of people simply don't care one way or the other.
However Charles' critics seem to regard it as morally reprehensible that the heir apparent to the British throne should be marrying his former mistress, a divorcee with a surviving ex-husband, (Which is exactly how his uncle Edward VIII got into trouble in 1936 when he was forced to abdicate.) particularly citing the idea that the possible future head of the Church of England should not be ignoring the Church's views on marriage. (As noted above the Church of England does not sanction the marriage of divorced people.) Of course many believe it is preferable that Charles should be married rather than to continue 'living in sin'; Camilla has been ensconced at the Prince's residences of Highgrove House and Clarence House since 2003.2
Oddly enough members of the British royal family are quite entitled to marry whomsoever they wish, so long as they are not Roman Catholics. (Although Mr Parker Bowles is a Catholic his former wife most certainly is not.) No member of the royal family needs the permission of Parliament to marry, although if they are under the age of twenty-five they need the permission of the monarch, a stipulation which of course, does not apply to Charles.
Whereas he may well one day be the Supreme Head of the Church of England and is required by the Act of Settlement 1701 to be a member of the Church of England, there is no specific constitutional requirement for the monarch to be married in accordance with that church's sacrament, or indeed to take the slightest notice of its teachings. After all George I fulfilled the role of Supreme Head despite being a German Lutheran with a limited command of the English language, and the vast majority of kings since the time of Henry VIII (and allegedly one or two queens) have been adulterers without compromising their ability to perform their secular and divine duties.
Despite whatever people might think his marriage has no bearing on the ability of Charles to succeed to the crown (although it may well cause some people to question whether Britain needs a monarchy at all), and although it is extremely unlikely (Camilla is 58 this year), any children of the marriage would take their place in the succession after the children of Charles' first marriage.
Camilla and Charles are currently staring in Born to be Queen Consort as serialised in Private Eye.
1 Charles and Camilla could, of course, have alternatively chosen to be married in a religous ceremony held under the auspices of religous denomination that does permit the remarriage of divorcees, such as the Church of Scotland or one of the Nonconformist denominations.
2 Despite the widely held belief that modern Britain is a more 'permissive society' than it once was, royal mistresses appear to be less tolerated these days
- Prince Charles to marry Camilla Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 22:24 GMT news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4252795.stm
- Prince and Camilla change venue Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 16:48 GMT
- Camilla 'has no wish to be Queen' Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 17:19 GMT
- Queen denies 'snub' over wedding Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 08:34 GMT news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4289225.stm
- Lord chancellor's statement in full Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 14:27 GMT news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4291337.stm
- Royalty, tradition and a wedding Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 18:31 GMT news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4292349.stm
- Charles' wedding blessing on TV Friday, 18 March, 2005, 17:34 GMT
- Pope funeral delays royal wedding Monday, 4 April, 2005, 19:26 GMT
- Joshua Rozenberg Falconer rides to the rescue of a civil union (Filed: 24/02/2005) - Daily Telegraph online at
- Laura Elston The Joys and Troubles of Planning A Royal Wedding Thu 31 Mar 2005 - The Scotsman Online at