Brief panic as Prince Charles changes wedding date

Panic briefly gripped Windsor after Prince Charles postponed his wedding by 24 hours to Saturday but organisers and hoteliers managed to juggle their plans and now expect an even busier day.

Britain’s future king and his partner, Camilla Parker Bowles, altered the date on Monday to enable Charles to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II on Friday.

The sudden decision short-footed the world’s media, many of whom paid a premium price to secure prime spots near the town hall in Windsor, outside London, where the couple’s civil wedding ceremony is due to take place.

At the same time, business at souvenir shops boomed as an array of Charles and Camilla memorabilia from mugs to tea towels, emblazoned with the initial wedding date of April 8 2005, became instant collectors’ items.

And the weekend date will enable more of the public to travel to Windsor to catch a glimpse the nuptials to the delight of local restaurants and bars.

News of the change “was a bit of a shock”, said Richard Varney, the general manager of Ye Harte and Garter hotel, which is located opposite Windsor Castle, where Charles (56) and Parker Bowles (57) will receive a blessing and hold a reception after taking their vows at the Guildhall.

“How has it affected us? Well, it was total chaos basically,” said Varney, whose hotel was booked up instantly by the media following the announcement of the wedding in early February.

“Everybody phoned up wanting to extend their bookings for an extra day, so we are having to rearrange rooms slightly,” he said.

Ye Harte and Garter had also cooked up a special menu at its restaurant for Friday and planned to serve free glasses of wine to the public, but the manager said such arrangements were easily shifted back and noted that business would likely be even better than expected as the wedding moves to the weekend.

“If anything, there should be more interest now ... so we are expecting it to be even busier,” he said.

The local organisers are putting on a cheerful face as well, despite the inconvenience and added workload.

“It has not affected things too much,” said Lloyd White, chairperson of the ceremonial events group for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which is charged with preparing Windsor for its royal guests and flood of spectators.

“We were already in the final stages of planning, so it really is a question of shifting everything back 24 hours, which we are more than happy to accommodate in light of the funeral of the pope,” he said.

“We have to work with Clarence House [the prince’s office] to make it is as good a day on Saturday as it would have been on the Friday.”

The new fixture opened up the possibility of even larger crowds flocking to Windsor, said White, who had previously predicted a turnout of at least 10 000 despite a wave of criticism thrown up by the two divorcees’ marriage.

“It is the weekend, so people who might have been thinking that they could not come down on the Friday because of work may well” change their minds.

Three other couples also are due to marry at the 17th-century Guildhall on Saturday, but their plans should be unaffected by the extra royal ceremony.

A stretch of road from the Guildhall to the castle will be closed and crowd barriers erected during Charles and Parker Bowles’s ceremony, but these restrictions will likely be lifted before the other weddings start.

Reversing a dearth of sales amid widespread apathy about the wedding, which has triggered fond memories of Charles’s first wife, the late Princess Diana, the change of date appears to have sent people running to souvenir shops to buy limited-edition April 8 commemorative goods.

“We have almost completely sold out of the official mugs, I think we have got six left at the moment,” said Julia White, the visitor marketing manager for the Royal Windsor Information Centre.

“We have sold 30 in the last hour because obviously they have got the April 8 date on them, so they are rather collectable now.”—Sapa-AFP

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