Charles and Camilla to wed

Prince Charles will marry his long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony on April 8.

Prince Charles will marry his long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles in a private civil ceremony on April 8, the prince's office announced Thursday.

She will use the title Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall after the marriage, since one of Charles's titles is the Duke of Cornwall.

Bowing to public opinion in Britain, Parker Bowles will not be known as Queen Camilla when Charles becomes king. She will be referred to as the Princess Consort.

The Prince of Wales, 56, and Parker Bowles, 57, are both divorced.

"Mrs. Parker Bowles and I are absolutely delighted. It will be a very special day for us and our families," Charles said in a statement.

The announcement that her oldest son will wed again has received the blessing of the Queen.

"The Duke of Edinburgh and I are very happy that the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Parker Bowles are to marry," the Queen said in a statement posted on the royal website. "We have given them our warmest good wishes for their future together."

Charles' sons, William and Harry, are also said to be pleased about the nuptials.

Blair congratulates couple

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had been expected to call a national election on April 7 for May 8, offered his own congratulations Thursday.

"It's very happy news, and when the cabinet heard it this morning, they sent congratulations and good wishes on behalf of the government," Blair said. "We all wish them every happiness for their future together."

Canadian monarchists were also pleased. "I think it's great. Why not?" said Marg Harrison, chairperson of the New Brunswick branch of the Monarchist League of Canada. "I mean, this poor girl has been sort of a nothing up to this point. I mean, no one knew what to call her. You know, it's obvious they're a couple, so why not make it legal?"

Charles said the marriage will be a civil ceremony, not a Church of England service.

"The wedding will be a largely private occasion for family and friends," said a statement from Clarence House, Charles's residence and office.

"There will be a civil ceremony in Windsor Castle. There will subsequently be a service of prayer and dedication in St. George's Chapel at which the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside."

Millions watched prince's last wedding

The heir to the throne was previously married to Lady Diana Spencer in a lavish ceremony televised worldwide. Millions watched as Charles and Diana exchanged vows at St. Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981.

But what had been billed as a fairy tale romance ended in divorce in 1996.

Diana was killed a year later in a car crash in Paris, along with the man she was seeing at the time, Dodi Fayed. A police inquest is still being conducted into the princess's death.

Charles had dated Parker Bowles, the daughter of a wealthy wine merchant, after they met at a polo match in 1970. Although she later married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles and had two sons with him, she and Charles remained close. The Parker Bowleses divorced in 1995.

Diana had blamed Charles's continued relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles for the failure of their marriage, saying on national television: "There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

In 1994, Charles admitted in a TV documentary that he had strayed from his marriage vows, but only after the marriage was "irretrievably broken down, us both having tried."

Charles and Parker Bowles appeared less frequently in public after Diana's death. In recent years, she has regularly accompanied Charles to galas and become accustomed to appearing in front of the media. She now lives with Charles at Clarence House in central London.

Parker Bowles has never received the same public adulation as Diana and has been scorned by many as being a marriage breaker. But last year, a poll indicated that more Britons support Charles marrying Parker Bowles than oppose it.

Thirty-two per cent of respondents to the Populus poll said they would support Charles if he remarried, while 29 per cent were opposed. Thirty-eight per cent said they didn't care and two per cent had no opinion.

The possibility of remarriage has been a sensitive issue. When Charles becomes king, he will also assume the role as the supreme governor of the Church of England and the title, "Defender of the Faith."

Some Anglicans are opposed to divorcees being remarried, although the church is officially neutral on the subject.

In recent weeks, Parker Bowles's role in Charles's life has come under scrutiny from a parliamentary committee studying the prince's finances.

Some parliamentarians wanted to know whether taxpayers were paying for her share of staff costs now that she has moved in with Charles at Clarence House.

Charles's office replied that staff used by Parker Bowles are funded out of the prince's after-tax income from the Duchy of Cornwall.