Royal Wedding Legality Questioned

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CBS
The upcoming wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles has hit another potential stumbling block.

Privately, reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer in London, they appear to be a genuinely loving couple. Publicly, they're stumbling toward the altar, as Britain's tabloid press finds hitch after hitch that the prince's highly paid staff didn't anticipate.

First, the couple had to change the venue of the wedding from the Windsor Castle to the local town hall. Then came a suggestion that the ceremony would have to be open to the public.

And the latest allegation is that Charles and Camilla aren't allowed, under a 19th century law, to marry in a civil ceremony.

Royals watchers tell Palmer the intense scrutiny is inevitable: A widowed prince marrying his longstanding lover, who is a Catholic divorcee, is charting new and sensitive ground.

Royal historian David Starkey notes, "This determination to marry with a church blessing, but not to marry in church, and (for Parker Bowles) legally to be queen, but to call herself prince's consort, it represents vividly, and encapsulates vividly, the extraordinary confusion we have."

Most Britons, it seems, do hope they get safely past the hazards and through the ceremony to find wedded bliss, Palmer observes.

Author Hugo Vickers, who has written biographies of royal family members, says, "There are some complications on the legal side, but I can assure you that they will get married and that they'll sort these things out.

"The religious side will be a service…at St. George's Chapel, and that will remain the same. They have indeed run into problems on the civil side, on account of various marriage acts.

"So, either the marriage acts will be altered, which would be very important…because we don't want there to be any doubt about this, or the other possibility is that they that they might not go to the Guildhall in Windsor. They might get married civilly in Edinburgh, which they're perfectly entitled to do. But I can assure you of one thing: they will resolve them."

Should the civil ceremony remain in Guildhall, members of the public wouldn't have to be allowed in, Vickers asserts: "You need to have witnesses and they will obviously have witnesses. They can invoke all sorts of strange rules, like the health and safety law. You can't have members of the public coming in, for security. That's not a problem. …It will be private. I can assure you of that."

Vickers continued, "Prince Charles knows what he wants to do and he will do it. You can be certain of that. …Of course, the legal aspects are very important and they have to be addressed.

"And normally, it's more attractive if the legal things are all in place and then the prince, as it were, takes advantage of them, rather than changing the law specifically to satisfy his whim to get married in the Guildhall in Windsor. That's not very attractive. But if it has to be done, it will be done."