LONDON – Prince Charles announced Thursday that he will marry his lover Camilla Parker Bowles, putting an official seal on a long romance that Princess Diana blamed for the breakdown of her tempestuous marriage to the heir to the throne.
The announcement ruled out the possibility that she would become queen.
The Prince of Wales and Parker Bowles will marry on Friday, April 8, at Windsor Castle (search), said Clarence House, Charles' residence and office.
They will be married in a largely private civil ceremony at the palace, not in a Church of England service.
"There will subsequently be a service of prayer and dedication in St. George's Chapel at which the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside," said Clarence House (search).
The decision on the type of service reflects the fact that both are divorcés, and that Parker Bowles' former husband is still living.
In general, the Church of England (search), the legally established faith of the nation, disapproves of remarriage of divorced people in church.
As Britain's monarch, Prince Charles would be the supreme governor of the Church of England. Some Anglicans could oppose him holding this role as a divorcé who remarried outside the church.
Parker Bowles will use the title Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall after the marriage — but when Charles becomes king, she will not be known as Queen Camilla but as the princess consort, Clarence House said. That decision by the prince appeared to be a nod to public opinion, which has never warmed to Camilla.
The announcement received the blessing of Queen Elizabeth II, who said she was very happy that her son and Camilla Parker Bowles will marry.
Prime Minister Tony Blair also said he was "delighted."
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (search), said the wedding service plans "have my strong support and are consistent with Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage."
Neither Charles nor Camilla possess the star-power of Diana, whose memory remains strong in Britain, but theirs has been a peculiarly deep love story — one that has endured time, scrutiny, and such intense criticism that Parker Bowles was once regularly insulted in the street.
Charles, 56, divorced from Diana in 1996, a year before she was killed in a Paris car crash. Camilla, 57, obtained her divorce from army officer Andrew Parker Bowles (search) in 1995.
Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, first met Camilla at a polo match in Windsor in 1970 and over the next few years they became very close. The relationship cooled after Charles joined the Royal Navy and Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles, a long-standing admirer.
Throughout the late 1970s Charles and Camilla kept up contact and became close friends again toward the end of the decade. They remained so after Charles' 1981 marriage to Diana.
In the early days of their romance, when Parker Bowles was still single, she reportedly told the prince: "My great-great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress, so how about it?"
Diana blamed the friendship for the failure of her marriage to the Prince of Wales.
"There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," Diana said in a 1995 TV interview.
While the saga of the disintegrating royal marriage played out publicly, Parker Bowles was often cast as the villain, the object both of invective for being a "marriage breaker" and of ridicule over tapes of intimate conversations between her and the prince, in which he likened himself to a feminine hygiene product, that emerged in 1992.
In 1994, Prince Charles admitted in a TV documentary that he had strayed from his marriage vows, but insisted the infidelity happened only after the marriage was "irretrievably broken down, us both having tried."
It was widely assumed, but never confirmed, that Camilla was the other woman.
Camilla soon became a recognizable figure and in April 1997 took a tentative step into public life when she became patron of the National Osteoporosis Society. An official photograph was released to mark the occasion. In July that year, Charles hosted a party for Camilla to celebrate her 50th birthday.
The couple appeared less frequently in public after Diana's death in August 1997, but in 1999 Camilla met Charles' sons Prince William and Prince Harry for the first time.
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 his Clarence House residence in central London.
Last year, a poll indicated that more Britons support Prince Charles marrying Parker Bowles than oppose it.
Thirty-two percent of respondents to the Populus poll said they would support Charles if he remarried, while 29 percent were opposed. Thirty-eight percent said they didn't care and 2 percent had no opinion.