Today marks the 6th anniversary of HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, pictured here on their wedding day, leaving St. George's Chapel after the blessing of their union. It was a day over 30 years in the making, starting from the infamous day that the royal couple met in 1970, through the ups and downs (her marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles, his to Lady Diana Spencer, Camillagate, Andrew Morton's book, the Jonathan Dimbley interview, Diana's death and their mutual divorces). For awhile it looked like it would never happen, but Prince Charles was determined to make Camilla his wife. With the help of Mark Bolland who was hired to make Camilla more palatable to the British people, the day finally came.
The engagement was announced in February 2005 that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles would be wed initially on April 8, 2005 (Pope John Paul II's death meant that it was postponed by one day). Camilla's engagement ring is a Windsor family heirloom that once belonged to Charles' beloved Grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It is a 1920's platinum setting with a square-cut central diamond flagged by six diamond baguettes (see the picture above). Stunning isn't it? After the engagement announcement, the couple were congratulated by the Queen and Prince Philip ending speculation that Charles would be marrying Camilla over the Queen's dead body. I suppose the Queen finally gave her consent because it would be churlish to refuse. Camilla wasn't going to go away no matter how much the Queen might want her too. It probably helped that Prince William and Prince Harry were resigned to the marriage. Apparently they get on well with her, because she never tried to replace their mother, and they could see that she made their father happy. Public opinion which had unanimously been against Camilla just after Diana's death had subtly changed. The couple were no spring chickens (the groom was 56, and the bride 57) when they wed, and no doubt most people thought led the two lovebirds get married.
For awhile, it looked like the marriage might be cursed. First the venue for the ceremony was changed from Windsor Castle to Windsor Town Hall (it turned out that if the castle had been licensed for a civil wedding, that meant that they had to open it up to other couples for at least 3 years). Then it was announced that the Queen would not be attending the civil service, although she would be attending the blessing. Rumors flew that the Queen wasn't attending the civil ceremony because of her hatred of Camilla. The palace stated that the engaged couple wanted to keep the ceremony low-key but nobody was buying it. The real reason was that the Queen is the Head of the Church of England, and it wouldn't do for her to be seen at a civil ceremony. Then came the final hit, the death of John Paul II on April 4th. Since Prince Charles would be attending the funeral as the Queen's representative, the wedding was postponed until the next day.
Finally on April 9th, 2005 at 12:30 pm BST (7:30 our time), the wedding took place at the Windsor Guildhall. Although the crowds weren't quite as large as those when Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, people began to gather in the streets starting at dawn to greet the happy couple. The Duchess looked lovely in a cream-colored dress and matching coat with a wide-brimmed hat, while the groom wore morning dress. The couple's witnesses were Princes William and Harry, and Camilla's son and daughter Tom and Laura Parker-Bowles. Continuing a royal tradition, the rings were crafted from 22 k Welsh gold (nothing but the best for royalty!) The Prince wears his wedding ring on his pinkie finger underneath his signet ring.
For the blessing later at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle (where Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones were married), Camilla wore a stunning floor-length embroidered pale blue and gold coat over a matching chiffon gown with a dramatic spray of gold flowers in her hair. Both of her wedding ensembles were designed by Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine. Her hats were by the go-to milliner for British aristocrats and society Philip Treacy.
The wedding was televised both in the UK and in the States on WE!. Since the wedding was not a state occasion, the usual plethora of royals were not in attendance. The guests were mainly friends and family of the royal couple. To placate people, it was announced that Camilla would not be known as the Princess of Wales (although that is automatically her title on marrying the Prince of Wales) but as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. It was also announced that when Charles becomes King, Camilla will be the Princess Consort but by the time that happens (if it happens) no doubt Camilla will take her place alongside Charles as Queen Camilla.
Since the wedding, Camilla has undertaken royal tours with Charles to the United States, Spain, India and the Middle East as well as solo engagements around the UK. She seems to have relaxed into the role of royal Duchess, although she still keeps the home that she had bought after her divorce as a kind of bolthole whenever she needs to get away from all the royal pomp and circumstance. A place where she can put her feet up on the furniture and let her hair down.