Could anything else go wrong with the wedding of Charles and Camilla?11/04/2023
Could anything else go wrong? How the Grand National, a courtier’s cock-up, a bout of sinusitis and an intervention from the Pope came close to derailing the Windsor wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles…
- For a while, it looked as though Charles and Camilla’s wedding was doomed
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If it’s well-known that the path of true love never did run smooth, Prince Charles must be more painfully aware of that than most.
And something similar might apply to those attempting to organise his 2005 wedding to Camilla.
For a while it looked as though the whole ceremony was jinxed.
The context was already complicated, to say the least, with continued hostility from those determined to blame Charles and the Royal Family for the breakdown of his ‘fairytale’ marriage to Diana.
Camilla Parker Bowles proudly showing off her engagement ring as Clarence House was bounced into going public on February 10, earlier than had been intended
Prince Harry provoked a furore by wearing an Afrika Corps uniform to a fancy dress party at the start of the year
If Windsor Castle was given a licence to host the civil marriage of Charles and Diana, it also meant that ‘any old yobbo’ could apply to marry at the Queen’s home
In January of that year, Prince Harry had provoked a furore by wearing an Afrika Corps uniform to a fancy dress party, prompting great anger from Charles – some of it directed at older brother William for allowing this to happen (a point subsequently touched on by Harry in his memoir Spare).
Then, the Evening Standard got wind of the impending wedding announcement and bounced Clarence House into going public on February 10, earlier than had been intended. There would be a civil ceremony a Windsor Castle on April 8 – far away from memories of St Paul’s and Diana.
Then came a major problem that no amount of apologising would fix, as author Tina Brown relates in her best-selling book The Palace Papers.
‘The small print in the Marriage Act 1994 allowed marriages to be solemnised in certain “approved premises”. That said, if Windsor Castle was given a licence to host the civil marriage of Charles and Diana, it also meant that any old yobbo could apply to marry at the Queen’s home as well.’
The venue was switched to the Guildhall in Windsor.
As head of the Church of England, Charles’s mother, The Queen, was already disinclined to attend a civil ceremony. And she certainly wasn’t going to attend ‘a high street registry office’, as Brown puts it.
‘Queen snubs Charles’s Wedding’ was just one of the inevitable headlines.
Charles blamed his Private Secretary Michael Peat. Peat blamed his deputy, who resigned.
So there was already tension in the air when Charles agreed to stage a brief photo opportunity and press conference with his sons on the slopes of Klosters in Switzerland – tension aggravated by the persistent presence of paparazzo photographers
The venue was hurriedly switched to the Guildhall Windsor
The Daily Mail’s front page after Prince Charles had been caught on microphone talking about Nicholas Witchell
BBC’s respected royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell asked an (agreed) question of the heir to the throne. Charles responded with a supercilious non-answer – then unleashed his real thoughts sotto voce
Not that it justified what followed. When the BBC’s respected royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell asked an (agreed) question of the heir to the throne, Charles responded with a supercilious non-answer before expostulating in private to William and Harry:
‘Bloody people…I can’t bear that man. He’s so awful. He really is.’
Unfortunately, the prince’s gratuitous remarks were picked up by a microphone and subsequently broadcast to the world. It was left to spokesman Paddy Harveson to do the apologising.
‘Charles was distraught about how the wedding was being received,’ writes Brown. He made frantic phone calls to his friends.
On a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, where he met Tsunami victims, the prince was rewarded with polls saying that nearly 60 per cent of Australians thought he should stand aside for William.
Then, just six days before the wedding day, the Pope, John Paul II, died.
‘Seventy presidents and prime ministers, four kings, five queens and more than 14 leaders of other religions were on the guest list,’ writes Brown.
The Queen asked Charles to represent her at the funeral – scheduled for the day of his wedding! The wedding was postponed for 24 hour.
Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, former Prime Minister Tony Blair pictured attending a service in Westminster Cathedral in memory of the late Pope John Paul II
The Queen asked Charles to represent her at the funeral Rome – scheduled for the day of his wedding
Bishop James Harvey welcomes Prince Charles before the funeral of Pope John Paul II in St Peter’s Square, Vatican City in April 2005
As the Daily Mail put it: ‘Can anything else go wrong.
Now it would clash only with the Grand National, which was delayed so that TV viewers could see both.
But there was plenty more trouble ahead: Camilla developed sinusitis – and was so ill she was genuinely concerned she might not make it.
‘It must have felt as if Diana and the Queen Mother had joined forces from beyond the grave to rain down thunderbolts on her special day.’
Royal biographer Penny Junor wrote that it took four people to get Camilla out of bed.
‘Finally, it was Annabel who settled the matter: “Okay that’s all right. I’m going to do it for you. I’m gong to get into your clothes.”
Only then did Camilla respond.
There was, of course, an entirely happy conclusion. Having taken a break from the proceedings to watch the Grand National, the Queen made her speech, saying there were two important announcements.
Camilla developed sinusitis – and was so ill she was genuinely concerned she might not make it
Prince Charles talking with his mother as he walked away from St George’s chapel with his bride
The first was that her horse Hedgehunter had won the Aintree race.
The second was that she was delighted to welcoming her son and his bride to the winners enclosure.
‘They have overcome Becher’s Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles,’ she said.
‘They have come through and I’m very proud and wish them well.
‘My son is home and dry with the woman he loves.’
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