Charles, Camilla repent, promise to be faithful

Britain’s Prince Charles wedded Camilla Parker Bowles on Saturday, turning his true love into a duchess and formalising an on-off relationship that has endured for more than three decades.

The private civil ceremony and televised religious blessing, broadcast around the world, drew a cheering crowd of 20 000 into the streets of Windsor, west of London, but still paled in comparison with the storybook wedding of Charles and Princess Diana more than 20 years ago.

Illicit lovers during their previous marriages, Charles and Camilla went on to vow—in public, before the Archbishop of Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth II—to be faithful to each other after repenting for their “manifold sins and wickedness”.

Charles (56), the heir to the British monarchy, and Camilla (57) exchanged vows at Windsor’s 17th-century Guildhall and then held a mid-afternoon blessing ceremony and reception at nearby Windsor Castle.

Crowds waving Union Jack flags lined picturesque streets under blue, chilly skies to catch a glimpse of the prince with his new Duchess of Cornwall—far fewer than the 600 000 who turned out in London in July 1981 when Charles wedded Diana inside the domed splendour of St Paul’s cathedral.

They were rewarded with the sight of the smiling newlyweds emerging arm-in-arm from the Guildhall. Another 2 000 well-wishers were chosen to gather inside the castle grounds, away from the hordes, while a lucky few even got to exchange words and handshakes with the couple.

In a sober Church of England service of blessing in the castle’s St George’s chapel, Charles and Camilla were asked by Archbishop Rowan Williams if they resolved to be faithful to each other, “forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live”.

They replied: “That is my resolve, with the help of God.”

With the rest of the congregation of nearly 800, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, they also acknowledged “our manifold sins and wickedness which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed ... We do earnestly repent.”

The mood lightened at a reception in the castle afterwards, with guests ranging from continental European royals to pop stars and actors tucking into 16 900 canapés plus Welsh fruit cake.

The queen, sombre at the chapel, later roused guests to laughter with a joke, by offering a toast first to the winner of Saturday’s Grand National horse race and only then to her son and new daughter-in-law.

One guest said the queen—earlier described as “snubbing” Charles by deciding to skip his civil ceremony—was “very bubbly and chatty”, while another praised the prince’s touching toast afterward, saying “people were crying”.

Julie Cleverdon, who runs one of Charles’s charities, Business in the Communities, gushed over the Windsor affair.

“There was a fantastic number of marvellous hats,” she said.

Guests included Camilla’s cuckolded ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles, a former British army officer. He was seen smiling and chatting animatedly.

After the reception, the couple drove off in a dark Bentley decorated by Princes William and Harry with balloons and “Just married!” scrawl, en route to their honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands.

They were greeted later at Aberdeen airport by local dignitaries and bagpipe music, before speeding off to Birkhall on the royal Balmoral Estate, where they will spend a week to 10 days.

Charles and Camilla, who first met in 1970 and have been on-and-off lovers across the decades, have effectively lived as man and wife since the late 1990s, and now often appear together at official functions.

But many still hold the practical, country-loving Camilla responsible for the break-up of Charles’s marriage to the glamorous Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in August 1997, a year after her divorce from Charles.

Saturday’s wedding, originally planned for Friday, was hastily rescheduled in order not to clash with the Vatican funeral of Pope John Paul II, which was attended by Charles and by Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the guests at Saturday’s blessing.

The arrangements were dogged by gremlins from the beginning, with a forced change of venue, a volley of legal objections and the queen’s miss of the wedding ceremony.

A tabloid newspaper also exposed security flaws on Thursday by driving into Windsor Castle with a fake bomb, and even on Saturday, Charles was embarrassed by front-page newspaper photos showing him shaking hands at the pope’s funeral with the much-criticised president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

Charles and Camilla were declared man and wife before only 28 guests, and no media, in the upstairs Ascot Room of the Guildhall where Prince William and Camilla’s eldest son, Tom, acted as witnesses.

Camilla, now officially Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, wore an ivory-cream dress, and matching full-length coat designed by Robinson Valentine, then switched into a porcelain blue silk dress for the service of blessing.

Upon her arrival in Scotland, she was dressed in a crimson coat trimmed in the Rothesay tartan corresponding to her and Charles’s Scottish titles, the duke and duchess of Rothesay.—Sapa-AFP

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