Camilla Parker Bowles ‘had to be coaxed out of bed’ on her 2005 wedding day

by Susan Ryant

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall’s wedding anniversary was April 9th. They’ve now been married 17 years. They’ve been together through two marriages, multiple affairs and mountains of tabloid drama since the 1970s. In the Telegraph’s first excerpt of Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers, Brown focuses on everything around Charles and Camilla’s 2005 wedding, from the chaotic choice to actually get married, to the death of a beloved pope, to the Queen popping out of the reception to watch a horse race. You can read the full excerpt here (if you subscribe). Some highlights:

By 2004, Camilla had a dual life: When the Prince travelled, Camilla made festive escapes from royal dullness to her rambling Wiltshire bolthole near Highgrove. She had refused to give it up, for here at least she could loll around, eat peas straight from the garden, enjoy a cigarette without furtively smoking up the chimney as she did when Charles was around, and have raucous dinners in the kitchen with her now-adult kids. But she felt marooned. Despite all the patient manoeuvring into royal acceptance that seemed to be gathering steam after the death of the Queen Mother and the Golden Jubilee, all her sweet-talking of a succession of private secretaries to the Queen and the Prince of Wales, all the careful overtures to the still guarded Prince William and an outright sullen Prince Harry, there was always some fresh debacle not of her making that drove her underground again.

Camilla almost had empathy for Diana: For a while, Camilla had thought that there was an upside to not being Charles’s wife. She had always hated flying, speaking in public, dressing up and getting press attention. She had never had a calendar filled with things she didn’t want to do, which essentially defines the royal way of life. The Prince’s routine was relentless. He never ate lunch, and breakfasted on the same birdseed and peeled fruit every morning. Punctuality had never been Camilla’s strong suit, but Charles expected her to be ready for engagements at his own regimented pace. When she asked where they were going, he would snap: “Haven’t you read the brief?” One of her friends at that time told me that she had even started to feel some empathy with Diana’s manifold discontents.

Charles dithered about proposing: The Prince, in his usual tormented fashion, dithered about what a second marriage would do to his popularity. The gossip columns started to imply that Charles’s interest in Camilla was waning. There were lots of winking references to the oft­-quoted Jimmy Goldsmith aphorism that “when you marry your mistress, you create a job vacancy”.

The proposal: Charles proposed to Camilla at last, on bended knee at Birkhall, on the Balmoral estate, over the New Year. They had each spent Christmas with their families, and Charles had briefed his mother and his sons at Sandringham on what he planned to do. The Queen, softened up by the prelate and rising public ap­proval, agreed that “regularis[ing]”, in royal parlance, Camilla’s role was the only course that now made sense for the working efficiency of the Firm. HM even signed off on Charles choosing Camilla’s engagement ring from the Queen Mother’s collection.

The days before the wedding: Then the Pope died. And not just any pope. John Paul II, the most consequential pontiff of the modern era. His funeral convened the single most august gathering of heads of state outside the United Nations. The Queen insisted that Charles represent her at the funeral, which happened to be on his wedding date. “Can anything else possibly go wrong?” whooped the Daily Mail. The wedding was postponed for 24 hours. But the televised blessing was now scheduled to clash with the Grand National. The solution was to move the start of the race, allowing viewers to see both. The otherwise stalwart Camilla went into meltdown. She developed a chronic case of sinusitis and spent the week with girlfriends ministering to her shredded nerves. On the day of the wedding, she had to be coaxed out of bed.

The actual civil wedding ceremony: Camilla, dressed in a delicate cream chiffon dress and wide-brimmed, white-feathered Philip Treacy hat, had her own muted dazzle on her wedding day. Aged 57, unvarnished, unblushing, un­svelte, she was someone that Diana had never been: the woman whom the Prince of Wales had wanted all along. The crowds lining Windsor’s narrow, winding streets were respectable enough, and at least they weren’t hostile. Twenty-eight guests, including Prince William and Prince Harry, witnessed Charles and his new Duchess’s vows in the modest Ascot Room of the Guildhall. Bride and groom exchanged wedding rings made of special Welsh gold. When a cut of it was requested from the family’s remaining reserve from the Clogau mine, the Queen remarked: “There is very little of it left – there won’t be enough for a third wedding.”

The Queen enjoyed Charles Camilla’s reception: The Queen sat through all this with her customary wedding face (to wit, no expression at all), but one of the guests told me there was a marked difference in her demeanour at the after-party, where she exuded genuine affection for both Camilla and her son. Nothing kept Her Majesty from her first love, however. When Charles and Camilla emerged to cheers in the sunshine outside the chapel, the Queen disappeared into a side room to watch the Grand National. She emerged into the buzzing reception taking place in the State Apartments at Windsor Castle to make an unusually inspired toast that led the headlines the next day.

[From The Telegraph]

Brown also says that the reception had a wonderful energy, that Charles and Camilla’s longtime friends were genuinely happy for them, and that the Queen kept ducking out to watch replays of the horse race. The only part about this I question is the idea that Charles didn’t have a real plan for “Camilla’s acceptance.” I think he had been working on that for years before he even proposed, and everything was timed specifically with an eye towards polling numbers and Camilla’s makeover. Anyway, what a horsey day it was. I can acknowledge that they make sense together and probably make each other quite happy, but what a f–king messy-ass journey.

One of my favorite details: Andrew Parker Bowles went to his ex-wife’s wedding and apparently he was happy as a clam, with some remarking that he was behaving like the mother of the bride.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, WENN.

Britain’s Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall leave St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, England following the Service of Prayer and Dedication following their marriage, April 9, 2005. Prince Charles and his long-term partner Camilla Parker Bowles, who became Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. Date: 09.04.2005. Ref: B68_087753_0009 COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot,Image: 505697188, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: – NO UK USE – For queries call UPPA + 44 (0)20 7421 6000, Model Release: no, Credit line: UPPA / Avalon The Prince of Wales and his new bride Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle Saturday April 9 2005, after their wedding ceremony. Officail Photograph courtesy of Clarence House. Date: 09.04.2005. Ref: B68_087753_0003 COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot,Image: 505697192, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: – NO UK USE – For queries call UPPA + 44 (0)20 7421 6000, Model Release: no, Credit line: Hugo Burnand/Clarence House / Avalon The Prince of Wales and his new bride Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with their families (L-R back row Prince Harry, Prince William, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles (L-R front row) Duke of Edinburgh, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla’s father Major Bruce Shand, in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle Saturday April 9 2005, after their wedding ceremony. Officail Photograph courtesy of Clarence House. Date: 09.04.2005. Ref: B68_087753_0002 COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot,Image: 505697249, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: – NO UK USE – For queries call UPPA + 44 (0)20 7421 6000, Model Release: no, Credit line: Hugo Burnand/Clarence House / Avalon WEDDING OF HRH PRINCE CHARLES TO MRS CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES. THE GUILDHALL, WINDSOR, 9TH APRIL 2005. PICS: / PRINCE CHARLES AND MRS PARKER-BOWLES,Image: 539886019, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: WORLD RIGHTS – Fee Payable Upon Reproduction – For queries contact Photoshot – sales@photoshot.com London: +44 (0) 20 7421 6000 Florida: +1 239 689 1883 Berlin: +49 (0) 30 76 212 251, Model Release: no, Credit line: Marc Larkin / Avalon WINDSOR ENGLAND 9-4-2005 WEDDING OF PRINCE CHARLES AND CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES Prince Charles and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall after their marriage at St Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. Â WINDSOR ENGLAND 9-4-2005 WEDDING OF PRINCE CHARLES AND CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES Prince Charles and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall after their marriage at St Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. The bride CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES arrives at the Windsor Guildhall for the Royal Wedding Windsor, England – 09.04.05 Where: Windsor, United Kingdom When: 09 Apr 2005 Credit: Daniel Deme / WENN Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and his bride Camilla Duchess of Cornwall leave St George’s Chapel in Windsor, England following the church blessing of their civil wedding ceremony, Saturday April 9, 2005. Photo: Anwar Hussein Where: Windsor, United Kingdom When: 09 Apr 2005 Credit: WENN Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and his bride Camilla Duchess of Cornwall leave St George’s Chapel in Windsor, England following the church blessing of their civil wedding ceremony, Saturday April 9, 2005. Photo: Anwar Hussein Collection Where: Windsor, United Kingdom When: 09 Apr 2005 Credit: WENN WEDDING OF HRH PRINCE CHARLES TO MRS CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES. THE GUILDHALL, WINDSOR, 9TH APRIL 2005. PICS: WEDDING OF HRH PRINCE CHARLES TO MRS CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES. THE GUILDHALL, WINDSOR, 9TH APRIL 2005. PICS: