Britain's Prince Charles tied the knot Saturday with Camilla Bowles, the true love of his life, in a private civil ceremony that inevitably paled against his storybook wedding to Princess Diana more than 20 years ago.
Legal lovers at last
Charles, 56, the heir to the British monarchy, and Parker
Bowles, 57, wed at the 17th century Guildhall in Windsor, west of London at 12:30 pm (1130 GMT), with a service of blessing and reception in next-door Windsor Castle to follow.
Kay Clash, 61, from Birmingham, England, enjoys the early Royal Wedding atmosphere as crowds gather opposite the Guildhall in Windsor, England, Saturday morning April 9, 2005.
Less than two hours before the nuptials, several thousand
people, some waving Union Jack flags and hats, lined the picturesque streets under blue skies to catch a glimpse of the new royal couple. In comparison, around 600,000 turned out in London in July 1981 when Charles wedded Diana inside the domed splendour of St Paul's Cathedral.
"The sun is shining. The crowds are filling the streets. It's
going to be a wonderful day," said Paddy Harverson, the Prince of Wales's communications director, on BBC radio, as the bride and groom made their way to Windsor.
Quick, closed ceremony
Britain's Prince William.
Charles and Parker Bowles, both divorcees, were declared man and wife by local registrar Clair Williams in a private 20-minute ceremony in the Guildhall before 28 specially invited guests and no media at all. The couple's eldest sons by their previous marriages, Prince William and Tom Parker Bowles, acted as witnesses. Notable by their absence, however, were the groom's parents: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
After the wedding a televised 45-minute Anglican service of blessing in Windsor Castle, where the newlyweds -- reading from the stern and uncompromising 1662 Book of Common Prayer --are to "acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness".
The mood is set to lighten up at an afternoon reception, also in Windsor Castle, at which more than 700 people had been invited, ranging from European royals to the likes of pop star Sting. The couple are then due to slip away to Scotland for a honeymoon on the royal estate of Balmoral.
"Occasions like this bring the whole world together," said
wellwisher Sheila Parry, 67, a retired farmer from South Wales, who camped out next to the Guildhall overnight to guarantee herself a good view of the wedding procession. "It is much quieter, but that is to be expected for a second marriage," she added.
Wedding dogged by hitches
The Prince of Wales and his partner Camilla Parker Bowles attend the Mey Games in Caithness, Scotland in this Aug. 7, 2004 file photo.
Charles and Parker Bowles, who will take the title of Duchess of Cornwall, have had an intimate relationship going back more than 30 years, and in recent years have effectively lived as man and wife, often appearing together at official functions.
Britain's late Princess Diana, Princess of Wales.
But many still hold the practical, country-loving Parker Bowles responsible for the break-up of Charles' marriage to the glamorous Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997, a year after her divorce from Charles.
Saturday's wedding, originally planned for the day before, was hastily rescheduled in order not to clash with the Vatican funeral of Pope John Paul II, attended by Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the guests at Saturday's blessing.The arrangements were dogged by glitches from the beginning, with the wedding venue being changed from Windsor Castle to the Guildhall for licensing reasons and Queen Elizabeth opting not to be present when they tied the knot.
A handful of royalty purists lodged objections right up to the wedding day, while a tabloid newspaper exposed security flaws by driving into Windsor Castle in a rented van with a fake bomb inside.
Even on Saturday, Charles woke up to see himself on the front pages of newspapers shaking hands at the pope's funeral with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who is accused by the British government of gross human rights violations.