HEIR to the throne Prince Charles announced yesterday he will marry long-time lover Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman blamed for destroying his “fairytale” marriage to the late Princess Diana. Aware of public misgivings over his lover, Charles ruled out Camilla becoming queen once he assumes the throne. His mother Queen Elizabeth, who had been slow to accept the divorced mother of two, wished the pair well for their April 8 wedding in Windsor Castle. The couple - lovers during Charles' tumultuous marriage to Diana - plan a quiet, civil ceremony, in sharp contrast to the dazzling church wedding to Diana, which was beamed worldwide from London's St. Paul's Cathedral. “It will not be huge like St Paul's. It is a largely private, family affair,” a senior palace official said. Camilla, 57, will take the official title of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall after marriage. Once Charles becomes king, his wife will be called Princess Consort, a fudge aimed at killing off constitutional controversy. “She would have to take the status of Prince Charles and ultimately queen unless there is legislation passed to the contrary.
You would have to pass a special act of parliament,” constitutional expert David Starkey said. Royal aides insisted there was no need for new legislation and said her title was chosen because “they feel it is right”. Charles, 56, was divorced in 1996 from Diana, who blamed “rottweiler” Parker Bowles and the prying media for the break-up of what had promised to be a dream union. Charles' sons William and Harry, next in line to the throne, wished the couple “all the luck in the future.” Parker Bowles is the love of Charles' life - the pair met over 30 years ago at a polo match and share a passion for country pursuits but she has faced an uphill struggle to rival his former wife in the public's affection. “They decided now is the right time. They have known each other for quite a long time and the possibility of marriage has always been there,” said a senior royal aide. Opinion polls show most Britons have gradually accepted the idea of their marrying but baulk at Camilla ever becoming queen. Once Charles succeeds his 78-year-old mother, he will be titular head of the Church of England, which had been bitterly divided over the prospect of Charles marrying a divorcee. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who heads the world's Anglicans, will preside over “a service of prayer and dedication” after the civil ceremony, bestowing establishment approval on their controversial union. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who famously mourned “People's Princess” Diana after her death in a 1997 Paris car crash, welcomed Charles's marriage as “very happy news”. Charles and Camilla had a two-year love affair after first meeting in their 20s; Camilla then married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles, divorcing him in 1995. Charles admitted in 1994 that he and Camilla had resumed their affair after his marriage had irretrievably broken down.
Diana memorably said on national television “there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded”, while he was secretly taped sharing intimate pillow talk with his lover. Tourists outside Buckingham Palace wondered what all the fuss was about in a land where one in three marriages fail.