Dave Caulkin  /  AP
Moving the ceremony away from well-fortified Windsor Castle complicates the task of keeping the wedding secure.
updated 3/26/2005 10:34:05 PM ET 2005-03-27T03:34:05

The sturdy walls of Windsor Castle, which have shielded Britain’s monarchy for nearly 1,000 years, face an unusual array of threats at next month’s royal wedding: terrorists, anarchists — and Camilla-haters.

British police plan a huge security operation for the April 8 wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles, an event that the country’s top police officer has called an “obvious and enormous” target for terrorists.

Police will also have to contend with anti-monarchy demonstrators and crowds of spectators — many of whom blame Parker Bowles for the breakdown of Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana.

Security arrangements fell into disarray last month when the heir to the throne switched his wedding venue from the heavily fortified Windsor Castle west of London to the nearby Town Hall.

The rushed decision was a practical one. Under British law, staging the civil ceremony in the medieval stronghold would have required registering it as a wedding venue, thus opening it up to other people’s weddings too.

Moving ceremony creates headaches
But moving the ceremony created a security headache: Officers will have to protect the couple and their prominent guests — including Charles’ brothers and his sister — as they drive about a mile from the royal residence to the Guildhall in Windsor’s town center.

Queen Elizabeth II plans to skip the wedding because, according to Buckingham Palace, her son and future daughter-in-law want a low-key ceremony. Instead, the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will attend the church blessing of the marriage at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and later give a reception, also at the castle.

Despite the monarch’s absence, Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police and the country’s most senior police officer, recently listed the wedding among several “obvious and enormous targets” for terrorists along with a national election expected in May and a G8 summit in Scotland in July.

Officers will sweep the route from the castle to the Guildhall for explosives, said a spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police, the local force. Mounted officers will help police the route and some roads within central Windsor will be closed.

Snipers, undercover officers, hundreds of uniformed police
Security expert Charles Shoebridge said the operation will likely involve hundreds of uniformed police, snipers positioned on rooftops, undercover officers and bodyguards.

“Much of the work that goes into ensuring security will be done before the event takes place,” said Shoebridge, a former member of the police’s anti-terrorist unit. “That includes planning, securing routes, searching and sealing lampposts, manhole covers and so on.”

In theory, members of the public can attend the ceremony at the Guildhall. But Charles and Camilla have invited 30 guests, including the prince’s siblings Anne, Andrew and Edward, a spokesman for the prince’s office said. That’s the maximum number of guests fire regulations permit in the room — meaning onlookers and potential troublemakers will not have access.

Spectators will stand behind barriers as the couple arrive and leave, a spokesman for Charles’ office said. In the narrow streets of Windsor, that means they will get far closer to the prince than his aides had originally planned.

Repeated security breaches
Publicity seekers have repeatedly breached the royal family’s leaky security in recent years. A comedian dressed as Osama bin Laden crashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle in 2003, and a newspaper reporter got a job as a servant at Buckingham Palace later that year.

In addition to publicity stunts, police in Windsor expect protests by the anarchist group, Movement Against the Monarchy.

Republic, a group that calls for an elected head of state, said it would campaign in London the weekend before the wedding but would not demonstrate on the day of the nuptials.

There have been unconfirmed reports that some members of the Diana Circle — a group of devotees who have vowed to preserve the late Princess Diana’s memory — might picket Charles’ second wedding.

But the group’s co-founder Joan Berry said that was unlikely. Members will instead mark the day by laying flowers outside Kensington Palace, Diana’s London home, she said.

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