Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Prince Charles's wedding delayed


London — Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles have waited more than 30 years to be together, and now they'll have to wait one more day.

Britain's royal wedding will be postponed from Friday to Saturday in order not to conflict with the papal funeral in Vatican City, which Charles will attend — a significant concession for the man who is next in line to become head of the Church of England.

"As a mark of respect, His Royal Highness and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles have decided to postpone their wedding until Saturday 9th April 2005," read a statement from Clarence House, the Prince's headquarters. "It is expected that the arrangements will be largely the same as previously planned."

Yesterday, Charles returned early from a skiing trip in Switzerland to attend a service for the Pope at Westminster Cathedral, along with Mrs. Parker Bowles, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie.

Perhaps the only thing left is for the cake to fall over. The star-crossed wedding has already suffered a venue change, the absence of the bridegroom's parents and questions over its legitimacy.

Now, when the heir to the throne and his bride arrive at Windsor's Guildhall Saturday morning, accompanied by their children and other members of the Royal Family, they will be merely the first of four couples to be married there that day.

The logistics at the end of the week would test the patience of even the most stalwart wedding planner. Charles and the Blairs will attend the Pope's funeral Friday morning in Rome and return to England for the wedding the next morning. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will also attend the funeral and is expected to return and deliver a blessing for the couple at Windsor Castle.

"Henry VIII must be turning in his Windsor grave," wrote an analyst in the London-based Guardian newspaper, referring to the king who broke from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534.

The wedding is not the only high-profile event affected by the Pope's death. Mr. Blair had intended to set the date for a general election yesterday, but postponed the announcement until today. It is widely expected that Britons will go to the polls on May 5.

Sunday, Clarence House announced that the wedding would go ahead as planned even if it meant a conflict with the funeral. Yesterday's reversal was just the most recent pothole in the road to royal marriage.

First, the engagement was leaked in a London paper, forcing Clarence House to verify the news days in advance of its planned Valentine's Day announcement. Then, plans to hold the wedding at Windsor Castle went awry when it became clear that a licence for the Prince to marry there meant that the favoured royal residence would have to remain open for public weddings for three years.

The Queen then announced that neither she nor Prince Philip would attend the civil ceremony, which was widely seen as a snub. Meanwhile, there were questions about whether members of the Royal Family were even allowed to marry in civil ceremonies under British law.

The latest controversy arose when it was announced last week that Mrs. Parker Bowles would indeed become the Princess of Wales upon her marriage, a title associated in many British hearts with Charles's first wife, Diana, who died in 1997.

"This wedding has been fraught with problems," royal biographer Penny Junor said. "And it has put such a strain on both of them."

That strain became evident last week in Switzerland when a routine photo call given by Prince Charles and princes William and Harry showed a bridegroom irritated with the press. "These bloody people," Charles said to his sons, unaware that he was being picked up on microphones.

Yesterday, there were reports that souvenir hunters were snapping up commemorative mugs, spoons and thimbles with the April 8 wedding date, in the hopes that the incorrect date would make them collectors' items. But even before the tea-towel speculators descended, vendors were reporting brisk trade.

"Now that the wedding is around the corner, sales have really picked up," said Gina Alvarenga, manager of the Crest of London souvenir shop in London. "It's not just tourists, but locals too."

Many of the wedding's details, from music to food at the reception, are expected to remain unchanged despite the date change. The Prince and Mrs. Parker Bowles are still expected to travel the short distance to and from Windsor castle in a 1962 Rolls-Royce once used by the Queen Mother. Tens of thousands of daffodils have been ordered for the wedding, and there are assurances that the blooms will last an extra day.

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