Queen plans on skipping Charles and Camilla's wedding

Queen Elizabeth II stunned royal observers on Wednesday by announcing she would not attend her son Prince Charles’ civil wedding to his longtime companion Camilla Parker Bowles, with some declaring it a snub to an indecorous city hall ceremony.

“The queen will not be attending the civil ceremony because she is aware that the prince and Mrs Parker Bowles wanted to keep the occasion low-key,” said Buckingham Palace, her official London residence.

The palace said the British sovereign would however attend a subsequent blessing and prayer service after the wedding, led by the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

“The queen and the rest of the royal family will, of course, be going to the service of dedication at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle,” the statement continued.

The announcement is the latest blow to a wedding ceremony that has already faced a series of setbacks since it was announced on February 10.

One historian declared the queen’s decision to stay away “unprecedented”, while royal photographer Arthur Edwards dubbed it “another snub” against the prince.

“The one thing [Charles] wanted was to get this wedding over and done with so that (Parker Bowles) would not be snubbed. Now it seems his own mother is snubbing him and his wedding. It just seems to go on and I just wonder what next is going to hit the couple,” Edwards said.

But a palace spokesperson stressed this was not an insult by the queen, whose recent public backing for the union between her son and his lover has helped warm the public to the match.

Parker Bowles was widely seen as a major cause of the breakup of Charles’ first marriage to the late Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997 but has remained hugely popular.

“The queen is attending the service of dedication and paying for the reception—this is not a snub,” said the spokesperson.

Clarence House, the official residence of Prince Charles, said the couple was “happy with the decision”.

Charles’ sons from his marriage to the late Princess Diana—Prince William and Prince Harry—as well as Parker Bowles’s children from her prior marriage, Tom and Laura, are still expected to attend the Windsor town hall ceremony.

But The Daily Mirror tabloid reported on Wednesday that Charles’ father Prince Philip, his brothers princes Andrew and Edward and sister Princess Anne also would stay away.

Charles (56) and Parker Bowles (57) who have known each other for more than 30 years and dated on and off, cannot marry in a church ceremony because they have both previously married and been divorced.

Initial plans called for a civil ceremony to be held inside Windsor Castle, one of the queen’s residences west of London, but those had to be scrapped because the venue is unlicensed.

Since licensing the palace for a civil wedding would have also made the royal castle “regularly available”, for three years, to other British couples who want to marry there, the couple moved down the road to the town hall.

But the queen finds the Guildhall too “common”, according to a close source to the family quoted in The Sun tabloid.

Such a ceremony was a sign to the sovereign that “the last vestige of the mystery of the monarchy will be smashed forever,”

the source said.

And the queen’s former press secretary Dickie Arbiter told Sky News that she cared only about the archbishop’s blessing, not “signing two bits of paper in Windsor town hall”.

“The queen, being a religious person, will see the blessing as the important part of this ceremony rather than the civil bit,” he said.

Asked whether her absence was because Charles was having a civil ceremony in public, and not a religious one in private, a palace spokesperson declined to comment, saying: “The queen makes her own decisions ...
Other factors may or may not have gone into the decision.”

The last monarch to miss a child’s wedding was almost 150 years ago, when Queen Victoria skipped the wedding of her son in 1863.

That son, like Charles, was heir to the throne and was crowned Edward VII after his mother’s death.

Charles and Parker Bowles were reportedly forced to announce their engagement prematurely on February 10, in order to prevent it being exposed in a British paper, but this has meant key preparations were left undone.

“It seems they had not done their homework properly,” Arbiter said. - Sapa-AFP

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