A British Royal Wedding – Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles

To continue the ongoing British Royal Wedding series, in this post I will feature the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles that took place on April 9, 2005.  In fact there were two ceremonies performed that day; one was a civil ceremony at the Windsor Guildhall and later a Church of England Service of Prayer and Dedication at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  I will discuss the details of both wedding ceremonies and the reception that followed later.     

Prince Charles was born on November 14, 1948 at Buckingham Palace in London, England.  He is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.  At present, Prince Charles is the oldest and longest serving British heir apparent, his grandfather King George VI died in 1952 and his mother became Queen when he was three years old.  He is also the longest serving Prince of Wales, his investiture was held in July 1969 at Caernarfon Castle in Wales when he was 21 years old. 

Camilla was born on July 17, 1947 in London; her parents were Major Bruce Shand and Rosalind Cubitt.  Like most upper class British children, her parent’s had two homes, one in South Kensington and an 18th century country house, the Laines, located in East Sussex.  It was there that Camille developed her skills as an equestrian but she also enjoyed painting, fishing and gardening.

In 1965 Camilla was a London debutante and she moved to a small flat in Kensington which she shared with a friend, later she moved into a larger flat in Belgravia.  Camilla worked as a secretary for several different businesses in the West End and later as a receptionist at Colefax and Fowler, a famous decorating business in Mayfair. 

In the late 1960s Camilla met Andrew Parker Bowles who was then a Guards officer and lieutenant in the Blues and Royals.  The couple had a sporadic relationship over the next few years, at one time Parker Bowles dated Princess Anne (Prince Charles sister).  Camilla briefly dated Prince Charles but when he went overseas while serving in the Royal Navy in 1973 their relationship ended.  Although Prince Charles and Camilla were genuinely fond of each other, at the time she was deemed an unsuitable prospective wife of a future King or England. 

Later that same year Camilla reconciled with Parker Bowles and they became engaged, on hearing the news Prince Charles was devastated thinking that he had lost someone that he truly loved.  In July 1973 Parker Bowles and Camilla had a large society wedding held at the Guards Chapel at the Wellington Barracks in London.   The couple made their home in Wiltshire and then later in Corsham and they had two children, Tom born in 1974 and Laura born in 1978.  In 1994, after 21 years of marriage, Parker Bowles and Camilla started divorce proceedings and it became final a year later in March 1995.      

Meanwhile, who was thought to be a perennial bachelor, was feeling the pressure to settle down and get married.  Eventually Prince Charles met Lady Diana Spencer and quickly announced an engagement.  Their wedding took place on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England.  (For more information about the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, please click on the link)

Prince Charles and Princess Diana would go on to have two children, Prince William born in 1982 and Prince Harry born in 1984.  Unfortunately, the future would not be kind to them and they would endure an unhappy marriage that included infidelities on the part of the Prince Charles and Princess Diana as well as malicious and very public gossip involving both of them.  The Royal couple would ultimately divorce in 1996 and sadly the Princess would die in a tragic car accident in Paris in 1997.  

Throughout the years, Prince Charles and Camilla continued their friendship and at one point they once again became romantically involved.  When the news came out, the public blamed Camilla for the divorce of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  A few years after the death of Princess Diana, Prince Charles stayed firm in his rekindled relationship with Camilla and he hired a public relations team to rehabilitate Camilla’s public image.  In 1999, the couple made their first public appearance together and afterwards she accompanied the Prince on many of his official engagements.  After many years, eventually the public as well as the Queen and the Royal family accepted Camilla but most importantly to Charles his sons seemed to become quite fond of her because she made their father so happy. 

So, almost 35 years after the couple first meet, Prince Charles proposed to Camilla while they were on Christmas holiday at Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland.  On February 10, 2005 the engagement of Prince Charles and Camilla was officially announced by Clarence House.  Special Note: Both Birkhall and Clarence House had a special connection to Prince Charles’ beloved grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who died in 2002.  He inherited Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate from his grandmother as well as Clarence House which has become his official residence in London.

The engagement ring Prince Charles gave to Camilla features a platinum Art Deco setting with a five carat emerald cut diamond in the center with three baguettes on either side.  The ring is believed to have been given to his grandmother when she gave birth to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1926. 

As the heir apparent of the British throne and thereby the future titular head of the Church of England, the impending marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla was very controversial and the consent of the Queen, her government and the Church of England were required for them to wed.   

Special Note:  When Princess Anne married Timothy Laurence after having divorced Mark Phillips, she did so in the Church of Scotland.  For a member of the Royal family, the remarriage of a divorcee is less controversial because the sovereign has no constitutional role in the Church of Scotland.  The Prince of Wales and Camilla did not choose this course.  

The Wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla

The wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla took place on April 9, 2005 and, as previously mentioned, there were two ceremonies.  The civil ceremony took place at the Windsor Guildhall; the original date was delayed due to the funeral of Pope John Paul II to which the Prince of Wales attended as the representative of the Queen.    The civil ceremony was not opened to the public but was attended by the couple’s immediate families.  The couple’s two eldest sons from their previous marriages, Prince William and Tom Parker Bowles, were the formal witnesses.

The wedding ring Camilla were made from 22 carat Welsh gold from the Clogau St David’s mine in Bontddu, this British Royal tradition dates back to 1923.  Wartski, a London jeweler who has held the Prince of Wales Royal Warrant since 1979, designed the wedding rings.  Camilla wears the wedding ring with her engagement ring on the same finger of her left hand.    

A second ceremony was held at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and the Church of England Service of Prayer and Dedication was attended by 800 invited guests, this service was televised by the BBC.  Although the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were not present at the civil ceremony they did attend the church blessing. 

During the service, which was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Prince Charles and Camilla read the act of penitence from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  This was interpreted by the press as an unprecedented confessional from the couple for any past indiscretions thereby satisfying the public who were initially unhappy with the marriage of this couple with a controversial relationship. 

Immediately after the service was finished, Prince Charles and Camilla (now known as the named Duchess of Cornwall) exited St. George’s Chapel and were greeted by the people lined up outside. 

Later in the day the Queen hosted a reception at Windsor Castle in St. George’s Hall and the Waterloo Chamber.  It was noted that the Queen warmly congratulated the couple and Prince Charles gave a heartfelt toast to his new bride.  The entertainment at the reception included the St George’s Chapel Choir, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Russian soprano singer Ekaterina Semenchuk who performed a special song for the couple.

The wedding reception menu featured some of the finest British classic afternoon tea food which included sandwiches of smoked salmon, potted shrimp, and roast venison served with red currant and port jelly.  Sweet treats were also served including glazed fudge, strawberry tartlets and miniature scones with clotted cream and jam.  

The wedding cake was made by Etta Richardson; the square shaped two layer fruitcake measured 93 by 12 inches and weighed about 240 pounds.  The cake was soaked in brandy and then covered with white fondant and royal icing was used to create lattice work on the sides.  The Prince Charles Royal crest and the letter C to represent both Prince Charles and Camilla, sugar roses, leeks, daffodils and thistles were also used as decoration.  In comparison to other Royal wedding cakes, this one was considerably smaller in size but appropriate for a second wedding.

Following the wedding, Prince Charles and Camilla went to Birkhall in Scotland for their honeymoon.

For more information regarding the wedding dresses and bridal accessories of Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, please check back later.