Another 'Royal Fiasco'?

Instead of marrying amid the opulence of Windsor Castle, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, like like thousands of Britons every year, will exchange vows at their local town hall.

Charles' Clarence House office says the April 8 union of the heir to the throne and his longtime love would take place at the Guildhall in Windsor, west of London, rather than at the castle, as announced last week.

The change is a pragmatic move. Under British licensing law, registering the castle as a wedding venue would mean opening it up to commoners' weddings as well.

" The prospect of commoners tying the knot in the royal rooms was just too much," reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, in London. "So now, Charles and Camilla will marry at the town hall down the street instead.

"British tabloids are having a field day, Palmer adds, "claiming the queen is furious" at the prospect of what one tabloid's headline refers to as a "common wedding."

And, Palmer observes, morning television "is scathing, calling this a 'royal fiasco.' "

"Someone didn't do their homework, did they?" one British TV reporter asked.

Palmer continues, "With only seven short weeks left before the royal wedding, it's probably not the last time pragmatism will trump palatial pomp."

Clarence House said holding the service in the 17th-century town hall also would enable the public to see the newlyweds arrive and leave, and would help to include the town in the day's events.

A blessing led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams after the ceremony will still take place at the castle's St. George's Chapel, followed by a reception at the castle's state apartments.

Windsor's town hall, the Guildhall, was built in 1690. A sturdy building of brick and Portland stone, partly designed by Christopher Wren, it is one of 29 approved venues for civil wedding ceremonies in the Windsor area. Local authorities charge $500 for a weekday ceremony, $38 extra if, like Charles and Camilla, a couple wishes to wed on a Friday.

The town's mayor, Emrys Richards, said he was honored the prince and Parker Bowles had chosen the venue. "I don't think the couple will be disappointed with their choice," he said.

Local businesses were also looking forward to the big day. Chris Wilkes, manager of the Three Tuns pub next to the Guildhall, said Windsor hotels had been fully booked since the wedding date was announced a week ago.

"I think it's wonderful," he said of the venue change. "The whole public will be able to see it better."

The prince and his longtime love announced on Jan. 10 that they were to wed, after a 30-year, on-and-off romance that endured through Charles' rocky marriage to the late Princess Diana.

Divorce is a delicate issue for the man who would be head of the Church of England. To salve concerns among traditional Anglicans, who frown on the remarriage of two divorcees, the couple said they would have a civil ceremony rather than a church wedding.

Parker Bowles will take the title of Her Royal Highness Princess Consort, rather than Princess of Wales, the title Diana used, and will not become queen when Charles accedes to the throne.

Clarence House also said Parker Bowles, 57, had chosen Robinson Valentine to design her wedding outfit and Philip Treacy to design her hat.

The pair will exchange wedding rings made from Welsh gold, in keeping with a royal tradition begun by the Queen Mother Elizabeth in 1923, Clarence House said.

About 700 friends and family are expected to attend the service, a far cry from the 3,000 guests, and estimated million outdoor bystanders, who came to see Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul's Cathedral in 1981.

The modest scale of the event is highlighted in Parker Bowles' choice of designer. Robinson Valentine, a small, London-based design company headed by Anna Valentine and Antonia Robinson, is a longtime favorite of Parker Bowles, and is credited with helping to transform her image from dowdy, outdoorsy aristocrat to classy royal consort.
  • Brian Dakss

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