Royal wedding fiasco
Feb. 25, 2005 | More from Ann MacMillan
Veteran journalist Ann MacMillan signed on as a reporter-producer for CBC TV in London in 1981.
She is now Managing Editor of the CBC London Bureau.
While based in London, MacMillan has reported on a variety of events for The National, including the Royal Weddings, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, major anniversaries of The Second World War, peace efforts in Northern Ireland and other European stories.
Tabloid headlines are a fascinating barometer of the public mood in Britain, especially when it comes to royal stories. After Prince Charles' surprise announcement that he was marrying Camilla Parker Bowles, the headlines were unusually subdued.
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles (AP Photo)
"Don't They Make a Lovely Pair" cooed The Daily Mirror. "The Wife He Always Wanted" purred The Daily Mail. The only discordant front page was The Star, which declared "She'll Never Be Queen." The headlines reflected a growing acceptance of Parker Bowles, the woman Prince Charles once said is "non-negotiable."
Not so long ago, the infamous royal mistress was publicly reviled. Many blamed her for the breakdown of the marriage of Prince Charles and his wife, Diana, Princess of Wales. When Diana died in a car accident, it looked as if Camilla was doomed to remain a figure of hate for years to come, but thanks to a clever campaign orchestrated by Prince Charles and his advisors, the royal consort has been rehabilitated.
It started six years ago when Parker Bowles and her prince appeared in public together for the first time. Two years later came the first photographed kiss. Then she started turning up at royal events like the Queen's 50th Jubilee concert in 2002, seated a few rows behind Prince Charles but very much in the picture. Slowly but surely opinion polls changed. The majority against marriage became a minority, although most of those surveyed said no to Camilla being queen.
The benign media reaction to the royal wedding announcement was short lived. The prince and his long-time companion are both divorced and, since they were responsible for their respective marriages ending, they cannot be married in the Anglican Church. The plan was to have a civil ceremony in a room of the Queen's favourite palace, Windsor, followed by a prayer service in the palace chapel.
It soon emerged that someone in the prince's office had slipped up. If the couple got married in Windsor Castle, the licence would be valid for three years. That meant members of the public could marry there until 2008.
The Queen was not amused and the venue was quickly changed to the nearby Windsor Guildhall. "Queen's Fury At Common Wedding" screamed a headline in The Sun. The accompanying article claimed "The Queen was livid last night with Charles and Camilla after they were forced into switching their wedding to a TOWN HALL" (their capitals, not mine).
Four days later, came another bombshell. Prince Charles' mother announced she would not attend the marriage ceremony. "Queen Snubs The Wedding," cried The Daily Mail. So do "Philip, Andrew, Edward and Anne," added The Mirror helpfully. "Queen's Anger At Wedding Shambles" exclaimed The Evening Standard.
Buckingham Palace denied such headlines. A spokeswoman said the Queen was respecting the couple's wish to keep the wedding low key, that she would be at the prayer service after the wedding and was footing the bill for a reception for 700 family, friends and members of the prince's staff.
On a roll, the papers continued the headline assault. It was "A Bloody Farce" in the Daily Mirror. "Humiliated" was plastered across front page of the Daily Mail above a picture of Camilla Parker Bowles "looking upset." The paper claimed a "royal insider says she is battered and hurt." There has also been ongoing speculation about whether it is legal for members of the Royal Family to get married in a civil ceremony. The government says it is. Some constitutional experts say it's not.
Amid the hundreds of pages of copy that have been written about this royal wedding there are two recurring themes. One is, how could Prince Charles and his advisors allow what started as a positive story to degenerate into what the Evening Standard called "A Royal Cock-Up"?
There has also been widespread criticism of the Queen. She has been accused of being "hardhearted," "old fashioned" and "snobbish" because she is not attending her son's town hall wedding. In the 21st century, when many of her subjects are divorced and remarry in civil ceremonies, why, some ask, doesn't the Queen move with the times?
The official line at both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, Prince Charles' London residence, is that the wedding is going ahead and that relations between the Queen and her son and heir are "just fine, thank you." Friends of Camilla's say she "has never been happier."
But with headlines like The Daily Mail's "The truth is that the Queen has never really liked that 'wicked woman' Camilla," it's difficult to find fault with the The Daily Express view that this has been a "Royal Wedding Fiasco."