Prince 'home and dry with woman he loves'

 

Britain: Queen Elizabeth compared the long and finally consecrated love affair of her son and his bride to the running of the Grand National, in a speech following Prince Charles's wedding on Saturday that welcomed the new Duchess of Cornwall into the "winner's enclosure" of the royal family.

The queen opened her speech to the 800 assembled guests with an announcement that Hedgehunter, ridden by Ruby Walsh and trained by Willie Mullins, had won the historic race, before comparing the 34-year course of Charles's and Camilla's relationship to the infamously difficult terrain of the Aintree steeplechase track.

"They have overcome Becher's Brook and the Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles," the queen told the gathering of international crowned heads, literary and artistic luminaries, family and old friends of the couple. "They have come through and I'm very proud and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves."

Her words summed up the consensus on the wedding, which took place in the royal town of Windsor and drew an estimated crowd of 20,000 flag-waving well-wishers.

Many dressed up for the day, with some men wearing morning suits and top hats, the dress code for the wedding party and invited guests.

Much of the town's main street was festooned in red, white and blue, with Union flags and the cross of St George flying from the windows of the Georgian facades lining the main street to Windsor Castle, the queen's favourite residence.

Some establishments made an effort to capture the spirit of the occasion by adopting a wedding theme and hanging portraits of the couple in their windows. Royal lookalikes waved from balconies opposite the castle's Henry VIII gate.

The local souvenir shop sold 500 commemorative mugs and even the tea-towels on display were spoken for.

The Theatre Royal concocted a "Chamilla" cocktail, a bright green mixture of vodka, chartreuse, pineapple juice and lemonade, and had three wedding cakes decorated with computer-generated portraits of the couple. A piece of dry sponge with a cup of coffee cost £3.

A few dissenters joined the throng, determined to keep alive the memory of the prince's first wife, Diana, and blame Camilla for the misery she demonstrated in the years before her death in a car crash in 1997.

Some jeering was heard as Prince Charles and Camilla arrived at the Windsor Guildhall in the queen's Rolls-Royce for the 12.30pm civil ceremony, but the mood was overwhelmingly in their favour and people leaned forward to shake hands and take photographs when the couple later emerged for a walkabout.

One elderly man leaned over the barricades to grab Camilla and hug her close in a display of support.

Nevertheless, the results of a YouGov poll, published in the Sunday Times, showed that a majority of 1,500 people surveyed - 60 per cent versus 21 per cent - favoured the succession passing over Charles to his elder son, William.

Perhaps reflecting the modern obsession with photogenic youth, 68 per cent of women, compared to 18 per cent of men, preferred the throne to skip a generation.

Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry, appeared relaxed throughout the wedding events, with William taking a role in organising the arrival at the Guildhall of the 28 guests and, with his new stepbrother, Tom Parker-Bowles, handing over the wedding rings.

Reports of the queen's supportive and welcoming words for the woman who now ranks as one of the most senior members of Britain's royal family contrasted with initial reports that she had snubbed the wedding first by not attending the civil celebration and then by not lingering on the steps of St George's chapel, inside the castle, after the religious blessing.

One report said the queen's choice of white for her outfit was a further indication of her disapproval of her heir's marriage to the divorcee. But photographs showed her standing behind the couple smiling and she hosted the reception, a "finger buffet", at Windsor Castle.

Camilla's choice of outfits received the thumbs-up from fashion commentators, with one noting that her hats - designed by Irish milliner Philip Treacy - symbolised weather vanes: the anti-clockwise direction of the feathers on her Guildhall hat indicative of the hard times leading up to her big day, and later replaced by a clockwise spray of ostrich feathers signalling fair weather to come.

Meanwhile, the designs' Irish connection was highlighted yesterday when Galway county councillor Michael Connolly claimed that the feathers used on one of the head-dresses definitely came from a grouse in Moylough.

Sources close to the royal family denied this, but Mr Connolly says his sources suggested otherwise.

He insisted he had it on good authority that the feathers came from a grouse in Carnagopple bog between Moylough and Mountbellew.

"This is the information that I have and it is from very reliable sources. Even the dogs in the streets in Moylough have this information," he said.

The President, Mrs McAleese, sent greetings to the couple on Saturday.

In a short letter to Charles, Mrs McAleese said: "I have pleasure in sending warm greetings to you and your family on the happy occasion of your wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles."