Signing a registrar’s book and kneeling before the Archbishop of Canterbury, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles sealed in matrimony a romance sparked more than 30 years ago and blamed by many for poisoning his marriage to Princess Diana.
Under the solemn gaze of Archbishop Rowan Williams, the fifty-something divorcees nervously pledged their lifelong love at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle Saturday and confessed “manifold sins and wickedness” — words from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer.
After enduring years of criticism and even ridicule, the evident affection the couple feel for each other appeared finally to have won them a measure of acceptance from the British public. But it remains to be seen whether the bride will ever be known as Queen Camilla.
'Past is the past'
“He did a bit of a dirty job on Diana,” said Tina Quinney, 59, one of the thousands of people who lined the streets of this royal town. “But the past is the past.”
Following the awkwardness of changing the location of the civil wedding, the unsubstantiated reports of the queen’s “fury” at the wedding, and the one-day postponement because of Pope John Paul II’s funeral, the day went off flawlessly — and in bright sunshine.
Camilla is now officially the Princess of Wales, although she will be known as the Duchess of Cornwall in deference to enduring public affection for Diana. When Charles is crowned, she will be queen — but the prince’s office says she will use the title “princess consort” instead.
Throughout the day, the couple displayed wedding-day jitters, tenderness and even a playful side.
The couple’s hands knocked against one another several times before finding a comfortable clasp during the church blessing. Afterwards, Camilla clutched her hat awkwardly in a blustery wind, waving to well-wishers with her bouquet of spring flowers.
But the affection between the couple, who first met and fell in love in the early 1970s, was apparent. Charles, 56, reached over to help his new wife, 57, find her place in her prayerbook as they stood before the archbishop, and he touched her arm to signal when it was time to kneel.
She appeared emotional at times during the service; he was fidgety and somber. Even the normally reserved queen — whose views about her son’s wedding have been the subject of endless media speculation — beamed as she emerged from the chapel.
The couple sped away for their honeymoon on the prince’s Balmoral estate in Scotland in a car festooned with red, blue and white balloons and the words “Just Married” scrawled on the back window.
In spite of protestations that the couple wanted something low-key, news of the wedding dominated front pages in Sunday’s papers across Britain’s former colonies.
In Hong Kong, handed back to China by Britain in 1997, the English-language South China Morning Post ran a massive photo of the couple on its front page. Its editorial said, “This was not a fairy tale wedding — far from it. But it is one which is likely to last.”
A simple affair
The wedding, the second for both Charles and Camilla, was far simpler than the spectacular 1981 ceremony in which he married the 20-year-old Diana. The local registrar, Clair Williams, conducted the 25-minute civil ceremony at Windsor’s Guildhall, or town hall, before fewer than 30 guests — mostly the bride and groom’s relatives.
Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip skipped the ceremony, saying they were respecting Charles’ wish that it be “low key,” but they were present for a religious blessing of the marriage afterward.
Royal pomp was far more visible at that service, held under the chapel’s majestic arches in Windsor Castle and televised live. About 800 guests, including Prime Minister Tony Blair and Camilla’s ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles, were there.
Charles and Camilla chose a civil wedding because the Church of England, which he will one day symbolically head as king, frowns on divorcees remarrying. But the religious blessing led by the Archbishop of Canterbury demonstrated the Anglican hierarchy’s approval of the union.
“Heavenly father, we offer thee our souls and bodies, our thoughts and words and deeds, our love for one another,” bride and groom said while kneeling before Williams. “Unite our wills in thy will, that we may grow together in love and peace all the days of our life.”
Feelings about Camilla and her new royal role were mixed among the 15,000 people who crowded the streets of Windsor. Most of those interviewed said the couple deserved to be happy together, though some couldn’t help remembering Charles’ infidelity during his first marriage.
“This time Charles gets to make his choice,” said Irene Bellamy, 59, of Manitoba, Canada, standing across from the Guildhall. “Much as we loved Diana, this is his choice ... a love match.”
Charles has admitted cheating with Camilla after his first marriage had “irretrievably broken down”; Diana also acknowledged being unfaithful. Camilla was married to Andrew Parker Bowles, with whom she had two children, until 1995. He attended the Windsor Castle ceremony, smiling and chatting with other guests.
Long road to marriage
Charles and Camilla met in their early 20s and quickly became romantically involved, but they made no commitment before he went to sea with the Royal Navy and she married while he was gone. They remained close friends, and eventually became lovers again.
Their effort to win public acceptance was put on hold after Diana’s 1997 death, but eventually began again with a carefully choreographed series of steps.
Charles and Camilla’s confession to sinning is a standard element of an Anglican blessing of a civil wedding. However, they chose a particularly stark wording from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, which some took as public acknowledgment of that their relationship was at one time adulterous. They publicly resolved to be faithful.
The outdoorsy Camilla, more often photographed in sportswear, was elegant in a cream chiffon dress and long, matching oyster silk coat for the civil service. Her straw hat was overlaid with ivory French lace and trimmed with a fountain of feathers.
At the Windsor Castle blessing, she wore a long, fitted silk porcelain-blue dress and high-collared coat embroidered with gold thread, with a slight train. Both outfits were designed by Robinson Valentine, a design team with a salon in London’s Kensington district.
Charles wore a black morning suit and gray pinstripe trousers with a gray waistcoat. The couple’s rings were made of gold from Wales; Charles put his on his left pinky.
The couple’s sons, Prince William and Tom Parker Bowles, served as witnesses to the marriage.