Nearly eight years after Princess Diana’s death in a car crash was mourned the world over, Prince Charles, her widower and heir to the British throne, weds his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles. The marriage, a private civil ceremony, took place at Windsor Guildhall, 30 miles outside of London. The ceremony was originally supposed to take place on April 8, but had to be rescheduled so as not to conflict with the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
After the civil ceremony, which the queen did not attend, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams blessed the union on behalf of the Church of England in a separate blessing ceremony. An estimated 750 guests attended the ceremony, which was held at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor and was attended by both of Charles’ parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
Twenty years earlier, on July 29, 1981, Prince Charles married his first wife, Lady Diana Spencer, who, at 20 years old, was 12 years his junior. Their lavish wedding attracted a television audience of 750 million, making it the most popular program broadcast to that time. Diana’s shy manner and beauty charmed audiences, sparking the international admiration she enjoyed for the rest of her life.
It has since come to light that Charles and Diana’s “fairy-tale” marriage was less than happy, involving infidelity on both sides, and the pair separated in 1992. In an interview several years later, Diana said “there were three of us in the marriage,” referring to Charles’ drawn-out affair with Parker Bowles. In 1996, about a year before Diana’s death, the couple divorced.
Prince Charles met his second wife, then Camilla Shand, at a polo match in 1970. They began dating, but Charles soon joined the navy and the relationship fizzled. Though she married army officer Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973, she remained friendly with Prince Charles and it is widely believed that an amorous relationship continued between the two even after his 1981 wedding to Diana. Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles divorced in 1995.
Camilla’s lack of popularity with the British public made news long before 1999, when she made her first public appearance as his companion. Though she technically became the Princess of Wales with the marriage, Parker Bowles has announced her preference for the title Duchess of Cornwall, in deference to the beloved late princess. After the death of Queen Elizabeth and the ascension of Charles to King, Camilla became Queen Consort of the United Kingdom.
After the service, which ended with the singing of “God Save the Queen,” Queen Elizabeth hosted a two-hour reception in the State Apartments at Windsor Castle. The couple then left for a honeymoon at the Balmoral Estate in Scotland. Princes William and Harry, who were both said to be happy about the marriage, decorated the Bentley in which the couple left the reception.