Charles gives Camilla royal heirloom ring

The 56-year-old Prince of Wales went down on bended knee to propose to her, Camilla Parker Bowles said Thursday night.

The 56-year-old Prince of Wales went down on bended knee to propose to her, Camilla Parker Bowles said Thursday night at their first public appearance since the engagement was announced.

"I'm just coming down to earth again," said Parker Bowles, 57, as she and Charles hosted a dinner at Windsor Castle.

Parker Bowles wore a long red dress and showed reporters her engagement ring, a large diamond and platinum piece that is a Royal Family heirloom.

She and her fiancé smiled happily as they spoke briefly to the media, with Charles saying the two were "absolutely delighted" to be getting married on April 8 in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle.

Some of Britain's newspapers were equally delighted, with one headline in the Sun tabloid reading: "Love Has Conquered All."

Others were more cheeky or downright hostile, with the Daily Star announcing "Boring Old Gits to Wed" and the Daily Express exclaiming: "What Would Diana Say?"

Having played a significant role in chronicling Charles's first marriage to the former Diana Spencer, the tabloids continued to influence the prince's life over his second engagement.

It was announced suddenly on Thursday, four days ahead of a planned Valentine's Day statement, because the newspapers had gotten wind that something was afoot.

About 250 guests are expected to attend that wedding, which will be followed by a blessing from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in St George Chapel inside Windsor Castle.

After the marriage, Parker Bowles will use the title Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, 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.

Charles met Parker Bowles at a polo match in 1970, at which point she reportedly reminded him that her great-grandmother Alice Keppel had been the longtime mistress of Charles's great-great-grandfather, Edward VII.

The two dated for a while, but after Charles went off to take up his duties in the Royal Navy, she married Andrew Parker Bowles and bore two children.

The friendship with Charles continued, however, and it's said that Charles proposed to Diana in the Parker Bowles's vegetable garden.

Parker Bowles divorced in 1995, a year before Charles and Diana divorced.

Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997.

Parker Bowles has been the prince's constant companion for the past several years, and now lives with him at Clarence House in central London.

The Queen and his sons William and Harry have released statements saying they welcome the engagement.