Children, wider family members and close friends – all were all present and correct for the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.
Quite right, too. This was not just the formal union of two people very much in love but an occasion to be set down for the historical record.
Amid the smartly tailored throng packing the Windsor Guildhall in April 2005, however, two distinguished guests were notably missing.
The Queen and Prince Philip – mother and father of the groom – were nowhere to be seen when the civil ceremony took place.
Where were they? Why would the monarch choose to stay away from the wedding of her own son?
Prince Charles with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, leaving their civil ceremony at the Guildhall, Windsor, in 2005. There was an impressive guest list. Yet his own mother was missing
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh did attend the blessing which followed at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The Queen wore white, but by this time Camilla was wearing grey
A portrait of newly married Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle
There was no lack of speculation.Did she suppose a mere ‘town hall’ wedding to be beneath her dignity?
Others speculated that Queen Elizabeth disapproved of her son’s relationship.
Charles was still married, of course, when he embarked upon the affair with Camilla (although Diana, too, had affairs.)
At one stage the Queen referred to Camilla as ‘that wicked woman’.
Yet the real reason why The Queen was absent is much simpler than many might suppose.
Asmonarch, The Queen was Head of The Church of England. And bothCharles and Camilla had previously been married – and subsequently divorced.
While recognising divorce as a sad fact of life, the Church of England does not encourage it.
The Queen, herself a devout believer, could not be seen to question the Church’s values in any way.
And on the weeks before to the wedding, the Telegraph reported that she had told one of her friends: ‘I am not able to go. I do not feel that my position permits it.’
There was also family history to consider: just one generation before Elizabeth’s reign, the monarchy had been thrown into chaos, perhaps even jeopardy, by her uncle Edward VIII’s insistence onmarrying a divorcee despite the strictures of the Church (of which he, too, was head).
Queen Elizabeth certainly wished the married couple well. With Prince Philip, she attended the religious blessing at St George’s Chapel, which followed the civil ceremony at the Guildhall.
The Queen could not attend Charles’s wedding because the Church of England discourages divorce. But she attended the blessing at St George’s Chapel and is pictured here as they left
Prince Charles and Camilla surrounded by their family. From the back left: Prince Harry, Prince William and Camilla’s children, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles. From front left: the Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen and Camilla’s father Bruce Shand
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh then held a wedding reception for the couple.
Her relationship with Camilla, now Queen Consort had not always been an easy one.
With less than a year gone following the shocking death of Diana, Charles had wanted to be seen in public together with Camilla – and had asked for his mother’s approval.
The response from The Queen was a snappy reference to that ‘wicked’ woman.
Charles was taken aback. A former courtier previously told the Mail: ‘He simply couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see that this request to the Queen so soon after Diana’s death was much too premature.
‘He was devastated. He couldn’t understand why she had taken so bitterly against the woman he loved.’
Later, though, Queen Elizabeth grew fond of Camilla, so much so that in 2022 the late Monarch publicly announced that she would like her daughter-in-law to become Queen Consort when Charles took over the throne.
Speaking at her Platinum Jubilee, just a few months before her, The Queen said: ‘I remain eternally grateful for, and humbled by, the loyalty and affection that you continue to give me.
‘And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.’
The Queen’s decision to wear white while greeting the newlyweds was another, if more minor, point of controversy.
For some, this might have been viewed as a needless distraction from the bride.
In this case, however, Camilla had already changed into a grey dress for the reception, so there was no question of being upstaged.