Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles Wed
WINDSOR, England - Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles wed in a modest town hall ceremony Saturday with the blessing of the queen and the Church of England, sealing a tangled love affair ignited at a polo match more than 30 years ago.
Once married, the royals knelt beneath the towering Gothic arches of St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, nervously pledging their undying love and confessing their "sins and wickedness" — a phrase from the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer — as their vows were blessed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Despite years of public and media criticism, even ridicule, Charles and Camilla's shared affection appeared to finally to have won them a measure of acceptance from the British public, many of whom blamed their relationship for poisoning Charles' marriage to Britain's beloved Princess Diana.
"He did a bit of a dirty job on Diana," said Tina Quinney, 59, one of the thousands of people lining the streets of this royal town. "But the past is the past."
The ceremonies went off flawlessly on a bright, sunny day despite sinister omens: A change of location for the civil wedding vows, unsubstantiated reports of the queen's "fury" that the couple would wed at all, and a one-day postponement for Pope John Paul II's funeral.
Camilla is now officially the Princess of Wales, though 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.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the bride will ever be known as Queen Camilla.
Throughout the day, the couple suffered from jitters and displayed tenderness, even playfulness. Their hands knocked against one another several times before they found a comfortable clasp during the church blessing. Outside, Camilla clutched her hat awkwardly in a blustery wind as she waved 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 prayer book as they stood before the archbishop. He gently touched her arm as a signal when it was time to kneel.
Camilla 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.
The wedding, the second for both Charles and Camilla, was far simpler than his spectacular 1981 nuptials with 20-year-old Diana. Saturday, the local registrar, Clair Williams, conducted the 25-minute civil ceremony at Windsor's 17th-century Guildhall, or town hall, before fewer than 30 guests — mostly relatives of the bride and groom.
Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, stayed away out of respect for their son's wish that the ceremony be "low key." But they were very much a presence at the religious blessing afterward, being the last to arrive in their sleek, maroon and black Rolls-Royce.
The blessing ceremony, conducted by Archbishop Rowan Williams, was broadcast live and drew about 800 guests, including Prime Minister Tony Blair and Camilla's ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles.
Charles and Camilla chose a civil wedding because the Church of England, which Charles 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 happiness, though some couldn't shake the memories of Charles' infidelity during his marriage to Diana.
"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 an adulterous relationship with Camilla after his first marriage had "irretrievably broken down"; Diana also acknowledged that she had been unfaithful. Camilla was married to Andrew Parker Bowles until 1995, and the couple had two children. He attended the Windsor Castle ceremony, smiling and chatting with other guests.
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. She married Parker Bowles while the prince 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 in a Paris car crash but eventually resumed in 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 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 morning coat and gray pinstripe trousers with a gray waistcoat. The couple's rings were made of Welsh gold. Charles put his on his left little finger.
Prince William and Tom Parker Bowles, Camilla's son, served as witnesses to the marriage.