Wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles

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Wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles
Date9 April 2005; 18 years ago (9 April 2005)
VenueWindsor Guildhall, St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
LocationWindsor, Berkshire, England

The wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles (later King Charles III and Queen Camilla) took place in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, on 9 April 2005. The ceremony, conducted in the presence of the couple's families, was followed by a Church of England Service of Prayer and Dedication at St George's Chapel. The groom's parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, did not attend the civil wedding ceremony, but were present at the Service of Prayer and Dedication and held a reception for the couple in Windsor Castle afterwards.[1]

The marriage formalised the relationship between Charles and Camilla, and she became known as "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall". The proceedings of the Service of Prayer and Dedication were covered by the BBC network. Notable figures in attendance included international political, religious and royal figures, as well as various celebrities. The wedding was described by the media as "A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups."[2][3][4][5]

Engagement and preparations

On 10 February 2005, it was announced that Camilla Parker Bowles and Charles, Prince of Wales, would marry on 8 April 2005, at Windsor Castle with a civil service followed by religious prayer. The Privy Council met on 2 March 2005 to give effect to the Queen's consent to the marriage, in conformance with the provisions of the Royal Marriages Act 1772.[6] The government indicated that the marriage was not morganatic.[6] After the engagement announcement, the couple were congratulated by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.[7] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, issued a statement which read: "These arrangements have my strong support and are consistent with Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage which the Prince of Wales fully accepts as a committed Anglican and as prospective Supreme Governor of the Church of England."[8] Prime Minister Tony Blair, Leader of the Opposition Michael Howard, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy, Leader of the House of Commons Peter Hain, and the Prime Ministers of the other Commonwealth realms added their congratulations.[9]

The Duchess' engagement ring is a Windsor family heirloom that belonged to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It has a 1920s platinum setting and it is composed of a square-cut central diamond flanked by six diamond baguettes.[10]

Civil ceremony

A civil ceremony was presumably chosen to avoid potential controversy caused by the future supreme governor of the Church of England marrying a divorcée in a religious ceremony, Camilla Parker Bowles having divorced her first husband in 1995. In fact, the marriage of a divorced person whose ex-spouse is still living has been possible in the Church of England, at the discretion of the member of clergy conducting the ceremony, since 2002.[11]

When Anne, Princess Royal married Timothy Laurence after having divorced Mark Phillips, she did so in the Church of Scotland. The remarriage of divorcés is not controversial in the Church of Scotland, which does not view marriage as a sacrament, and the sovereign has no constitutional role in the governance of the Church.[12] The Prince of Wales and his bride did not elect this course of action.

Questioning a royal civil wedding

Charles is the first member of the royal family to marry in a civil ceremony in England. Stephen Cretney, 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).[13][14] 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.[15] These documents' statements were dismissed in a statement published by Clarence House on the advice of four unnamed legal experts.[16] It took the view that the 1836 Act had been repealed by the Marriage Act 1949.

In the newspaper The Times on 22 February 2005, the Lawyer David Pannick wrote: "It is difficult to understand how the happy couple can marry in a civil marriage ceremony, as they intend, without causing a right royal nullity ... Section 79(5) of the 1949 Act still prevents a civil ceremony."[17]

The first lawyer to put his name to a contrary view was Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor, who made the following statement in the House of Lords on 24 February:

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.[18]

This argument was rejected by the law professor Rebecca Probert. She noted that the 1949 Act nowhere refers to "ancient procedures" but to the preservation of existing "law". As the heading indicates, Section 79 is a "saving". The purpose of a "saving" is to make specific provision for the continuance of an old law which would otherwise be abrogated by a new law.[19]

The government raised the issue of the Human Rights Act, noting that under this the 1949 Act had to be interpreted wherever possible to uphold the right to marry without discrimination. The key words are "wherever possible" - the Human Rights Act specifically states that where a statute makes something illegal the only way to make it legal is to amend or repeal the statute. For example, were the Sovereign to deny a member permission to marry under the Royal Marriages Act, an application to the Court for a declaration that the marriage must be permitted to go ahead under human rights legislation would fail.

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.[20]

Change of the wedding venue 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.[21] 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.[22] 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 who 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 home in Gloucestershire, with his sons Princes William and Harry, while Camilla remained at Clarence House.[23]

Wedding and Service of Prayer and Dedication

The wedding took place at the Windsor Guildhall at 12.30 pm BST (11:30 UTC) on Saturday 9 April 2005. Crowds had gathered on the streets since dawn ahead of the service. The ceremony was attended by senior members of the royal family apart from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.[24]

After the wedding, the couple's witnesses were Prince William and Tom Parker Bowles, sons of the groom and bride respectively.[25][26] 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.[10] 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.

The civil wedding was followed by a televised blessing, officially termed a Service of Prayer and Dedication[27] by both the Prince of Wales's office and the press.[28][29][30] in the afternoon at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.[31] This was attended by 800 guests and all the senior members of the royal family, including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.[32] During this ceremony Charles and Camilla joined the congregation in reading "the strongest act of penitence from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer",[33] widely quoted in press reports of the wedding:

We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.[33][29][34]

The arrangements for the wedding and service were strongly supported[29] by the Archbishop of Canterbury as "consistent with the Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage".[35] The "strongly-worded"[36] act of penitence recited by the couple was a confessional prayer written by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury to King Henry VIII.[34] It was interpreted as a confession by both, of past sins, albeit without specific reference[36] and going "some way towards acknowledging concerns" over their past misdemeanours.[34]

For the wedding, the Duchess wore a cream-coloured dress and coat with a wide-brimmed cream-coloured hat. For the Service of Prayer and Dedication afterward, she wore a floor-length embroidered pale blue and gold coat over a matching chiffon dress and a dramatic spray of golden feathers in her hair.[37] Both ensembles were by Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine, London designers who worked under the name Robinson Valentine, now solely called Anna Valentine; both hats were made by the Irish milliner Philip Treacy.[10] The Duchess's flower bouquet contained daffodils, jasmine, Lily of the Valley, pink and cream lilies, camellias, hydrangeas, and roses which came from the Prince of Wales Highgrove House gardens.[38] Charles and all male members of the royal family wore morning dress. The wedding cake was made by Mrs Blunden, owner of the "Sophisticake" cake shop in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire.[39] In April 2005 a hotelier paid £215 in an internet auction for a slice of the cake.[40]

Following the service of blessing, the couple greeted the people who had lined outside the chapel.[41] The party then moved to Windsor Castle's State Apartments where the Queen hosted a reception for a number of guests.[41] The couple later went to Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate for their honeymoon.[41]

The official photographer of the wedding was Hugo Burnand.[42]

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. A cut-price replica of Camilla's diamond engagement ring went on sale at a British supermarket and immediately became the chain's fastest selling jewellery item.[43] 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.[44]

The combined coat of arms of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall

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, Dermot Murnaghan 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.[45] The BBC reported an average audience of 7.3 million.[46]

Many self-described fans of Diana, Princess of Wales opposed the wedding of Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, with some referring to the event as "Black Thursday" and writing to national newspapers to express their disapproval.[47]

Wedding guest list

According to a list released by the office of Prince Charles:[48]

Family of the Prince of Wales

Family of Camilla Parker Bowles

Blessing guest list

According to official press package:[49]

Members of the British Royal Family


Foreign royalty

Members of reigning royal families

Members of non-reigning royal families

British politicians

Religious representatives

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr Williams
  • The Lord and Lady Carey of Clifton
  • The Dean of Windsor and wife
  • Canon Doctor Hueston Finlay and wife
  • Canon Laurence Gunner and wife
  • Canon John Ovenden and Christine Ovenden
  • Rev Canon John White

Other notable guests


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  17. ^ Pannick, David (22 February 2005). "Imagine it: Camilla calls a couple of judges and says, Let's oust him". The Times. London.
  18. ^ Lord Falconer of Thornton (24 February 2005). "Royal Marriage; Lords Hansard Written Statements". Hansard. Parliament of the United Kingdom. col. WS87 (50224–51). Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  19. ^ Probert, Rebecca (September 2005). "The wedding of the Prince of Wales: royal privileges and human rights". Child and Family Law Quarterly. 17 (3): 363–382. SSRN 1594262. Retrieved 18 August 2022. See section (1)(b)(1) - Can a member of the royal family marry in a civil ceremony?: the meaning of section 79(5) of the 1949 Marriage Act: terms and context. See also footnote 30 "S Walters, 'Charles Wedding Illegal Warn Experts' Mail on Sunday 20th February 2005, p. 1.", footnote 39 "...'[t]here is a presumption that consolidation Acts are not intended to alter the law...", and footnote 98 "See e.g. the sarcastic opening lines of a leader in The Guardian the day after the Lord Chancellor's statement: 'Well, that's all right then. Everything is strictly legal. The government's lawyers say so.' ('Difference of opinion' 24th February 2005)."
  20. ^ "Royal Marriages: Constitutional Issues" (PDF). Parliament of the United Kingdom. 2 December 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Prince and Camilla change venue". BBC News. 17 February 2005.
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  23. ^ "Charles and soon-to-be bride Camilla spend last night as 'singles' apart". Irish Examiner. 9 April 2005.
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  26. ^ Clarence House (23 March 2005). "William a witness at royal wedding". CNN. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  27. ^ "See note 1 for the role of a Service of Prayer and Dedication". Church of England. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  28. ^ "Press Pack with full details of Service of Prayer and Dedication" (PDF). Clarence House. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  29. ^ a b c Left, Sarah (10 February 2005). "Charles and Camilla to Marry". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  30. ^ "DVD bearing this title". Amazon. 31 July 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  31. ^ "Timetable of Royal wedding day, 9 April 2005". BBC News. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  32. ^ Clarence House (18 March 2005). "Royal wedding blessing on live TV". CNN. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  33. ^ a b "Royal couple to acknowledge 'sins'". CNN. 7 April 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  34. ^ a b c Brown, Jonathan (7 April 2005). "Charles and Camilla to repent their sins". Independent.
  35. ^ Williams, Rowan (10 February 2005). "Statement of support". Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  36. ^ a b "Charles and Camilla to confess past sins". Fox News. 9 April 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
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  38. ^ "The Wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles". 9 April 2005. Archived from the original on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  39. ^ Royal Correspondent (20 March 2011). "Is this the royal wedding cake maker?". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
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  41. ^ a b c "Charles and Camilla's wedding day". BBC. 9 April 2005. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  42. ^ Spranklen, Annabelle (21 April 2021). "Prince William and Kate Middleton Almost Didn't Take Their Most Iconic Wedding Photograph". Town and Country Magazine. Archived from the original on 31 March 2023. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
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  49. ^ "THE WEDDING OF HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE OF WALES & MRS CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES" (PDF). Office of The Prince of Wales. Retrieved 9 April 2017.

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