Engagement and Preperation

On 10 February 2005, it was announced that Camilla Parker Bowles and the Prince of Wales would marry on 8 April 2005, at Windsor Castle with a civil service followed by religious prayer. Mrs Parker Bowles' engagement ring is a Windsor family heirloom that belonged to the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. With a 1920s platinum setting, it is composed of a square-cut central diamond flanked by six diamond baguettes. After the engagement announcement, the couple were congratulated by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, indicating that consent had been granted under the Royal Marriages Act 1772. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams; the Prime Minister, Tony Blair; the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard; the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy; the Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain; and the Prime Ministers of the other Commonwealth Realms also added their congratulations.

Questioning a royal civil wedding

The Prince was the first member of the royal family to marry in a civil ceremony in England. Dr. Stephen Chetney, a Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford questioned whether Charles and Camilla could marry in a civil ceremony, as the Royal Family was specifically excluded from the law which instituted civil marriages in England (Marriage Act 1836). On 14 February the BBC's Panorama uncovered documents of official legislative research advice dating from 1956 and 1964, which stated that it was not lawful for members of the royal family to marry in a civil ceremony in England and Wales, though it would be lawful in Scotland.[2] These documents' statements were dismissed by Clarence House on the advice of four unnamed legal experts.[3] These experts' views that the 1836 Act had been repealed by the Marriage Act 1949 were upheld by the British Government. Acting through Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor, the sitting government issued a written statement published by the House of Lords in their debate record: Quote from "Royal Marriage", Lords Hansard, 24 Feb 2005: "The Government are satisfied that it is lawful for the Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles, like anyone else, to marry by a civil ceremony in accordance with Part III of the Marriage Act 1949. Civil marriages were introduced in England, by the Marriage Act 1836. Section 45 said that the Act "... shall not extend to the marriage of any of the Royal Family". But the provisions on civil marriage in the 1836 Act were repealed by the Marriage Act 1949. All remaining parts of the 1836 Act, including Section 45, were repealed by the Registration Service Act 1953. No part of the 1836 Act therefore remains on the statute book. ¶... We are aware that different views have been taken in the past; but we consider that these were overcautious, and we are clear that the interpretation I have set out in this Statement is correct. We also note that the Human Rights Act has since 2000 required legislation to be interpreted wherever possible in a way that is compatible with the right to marry (Article 12) and with the right to enjoy that right without discrimination (Article 14). This, in our view, puts the modern meaning of the 1949 Act beyond doubt." Eleven objections were received by the Cirencester and Chippenham register offices but were all rejected by the Registrar General (and National Statistician) Len Cook who determined that a civil marriage would in fact be valid, the Human Rights Act 1998 apparently superseding any previously enacted legislation barring members of the royal family from civil marriages. There were calls for a short piece of legislation to remove all doubt, but no legislation was in fact introduced. In fact the matter was never seriously in issue, however, as it is a truism of English law that a statute is pro tanto repealed by a subsequent statute to the extent of any inconsistency, whether or not the prior inconsistent statute is expressly repealed for that or any purpose. (To what extent such an inconsistency exists however was itself a point of contention.)

Change of the wedding location and date

On 17 February, Clarence House announced the marriage's change of venue from Windsor Castle to the Windsor Guildhall, immediately outside the walls of the castle. This substitution came about when it was discovered that the legal requirements for licensing the royal castle for civil weddings would require opening it up to other prospective couples for at least three years. On 22 February, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen would not attend the wedding ceremony, but would attend the church blessing and host the reception afterwards. The reason stated by the palace was the couple wanted to keep the occasion low key. On 4 April, it was announced that the wedding would be postponed 24 hours until 9 April, so that the Prince of Wales could attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II as the representative of the Queen. The postponement also allowed some of the dignitaries that were invited to the funeral to attend the wedding. In keeping with tradition, the Prince of Wales spent the night apart from his bride-to-be at Highgrove House, his country mansion in Gloucestershire, with his sons Princes William and Harry.

Wedding and blessing

The wedding took place at the Windsor Guildhall at 12.30 pm BST (11:30 UTC) on 9 April 2005. Crowds had gathered on the streets since dawn ahead of the service. A civil ceremony was planned because of controversy within the Church of England regarding the remarriage of divorcees (see, for example, Edward VIII abdication crisis). It should be noted that there would have been no impediment to Charles re-marrying in the Church of England to a non-divorcee since his ex-wife's death back in 1997 had made him a widower according to Church law. The problem was that his bride's ex-husband was still alive.

The ceremony was attended by all the senior royals apart from the Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. When Princess Anne married Timothy Laurence after having divorced Mark Phillips, she chose to do so in the Church of Scotland. Remarriage of divorcees is less controversial in the Church of Scotland, and the sovereign has no constitutional role in the governance of the Church. The Prince of Wales and his bride did not elect this course of action.

The arrival of the Royal guests in a locally-hired mini-bus, was uprecendented. After the wedding, the couple's witnesses were Prince William of Wales and the bride's son, Tom Parker Bowles. In keeping with tradition, the couple's wedding rings are crafted from 22 carat Welsh gold from the Clogau St David's mine in Bontddu. The tradition of using Clogau Gold within the wedding rings of The Royal Family dates back to 1923. The design of the wedding rings is by Wartski, a London jeweller that has held the Royal Warrant to The Prince of Wales since 1979. The Prince wears his on the small finger of his left hand. For the wedding, the duchess wore a cream-coloured dress and coat with a wide-brimmed cream-coloured hat. For the blessing afterward, she wore a floor-length embroidered pale blue and gold coat over a matching chiffon gown and a dramatic spray of golden feathers in her hair. Both ensembles were by Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine, London designers who work under the name Robinson Valentine; both hats were made by the Irish milliner Philip Treacy.

The wedding was followed by a televised blessing at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, led by The Archbishop of Canterbury.

The wedding cake was made by Mrs Blunden, owner of the "Sophisticake" cake shop in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. In April 2005 a hotelier paid £215 in an internet auction for a slice of cake.

Public and commercial interest

Manufacturers of pottery and other commemorative items faced a late rush to change the dates on their products after the delayed wedding date became known. However, sales of those with the incorrect date soared when people began to think that they would become collectors items. For the wedding day, the theme park Alton Towers changed the name of their rollercoaster "Rita: Queen of Speed" to "Camilla: Queen of Speed". Television commercials and signs around the park were all updated to reflect this change.

The BBC gained the rights to broadcast the event where there was live coverage of the Service of Prayer and Dedication from St George's Chapel. On BBC One Huw Edwards and Sophie Raworth presented the live coverage of the event and fashion advisors Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine contributed as the contemporary social commentators. The BBC had around thirty cameras at the event and shared footage with broadcasters throughout the world. BBC News 24 also had coverage during the day with Jane Hill and Simon McCoy reporting live from Windsor.

Three weddings had already been booked for the day at the Guildhall and were not displaced by the Royal engagement. Ms Grace Beesley was first to follow in her marriage to Mr. Fraser Moores. They were followed by Major Thomas Nigel Crapper of the Royal Signals who married Ms Deborah Jane Biltcliffe and Mr James Hooper of St Albans, Herts, who married Ms Nadine Hopkins

Wedding guest list

Family of the Prince of Wales

Family of Camilla Parker Bowles

Blessing guest list


  • HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
  • Plus: Families of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles as per the above-mentioned list of wedding invitees


Foreign royals


Religious representatives

Celebrities and personalities

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