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A low-key royal wedding

By Hasan Suroor

WINDSOR, APRIL 9. When Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were married on Saturday after one of the longest and most controversial royal romances of modern times, there was widespread relief that an event which had been dogged by so many glitches had gone off without any further ado.

It was a freezing and blustery afternoon but the Prince smiled warmly as he stepped out of the majestic Rolls Royce that deposited him and his bride-to-be at the local registry office where they were married at a brief civil ceremony behind closed doors with only close family members present.

Neither the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh attended the marriage, claiming that it was in accordance with the couple's wish to keep it ``low-key'' though some saw it as a ``snub''. However, they attended a church service and hosted a lavish reception. Nearly 800 people attended the church service whose high point was a confessional prayer in which the couple acknowledged their ``manifold sins and wickedness'' in what was seen as a pointed reference to their ``infidelities'' in their previous marriages.

A 30-year wait

Prince Charles and Ms. Bowles had been waiting for this day for some 30 years and it got rolling exactly at 12.25 p.m. when the two left Windsor Castle for Guildhall. As their car wound its way through the High Street they waved to the crowd that had gathered on either side of the road. Barely five minutes later, they were at the Guildhall, with people complaining to TV reporters that they had barely managed to have a glimpse of the couple.

``I saw only top of his head,'' said one woman while a tourist from Florida said that she had missed the couple altogether.

The Prince held the door as Ms. Bowles, dressed in a white chiffon dress and an elaborate hat, gingerly got down from the limousine.

The two then shyly waved to the crowd before being escorted into the Guildhall, accompanied, among others, by Princes William and Harry and Ms. Bowles' son, Tom Parker Bowles.

The doors were firmly closed the moment they were inside, shutting out the world's media from one of the day's most important stories.

When they came out, it was as husband and wife with Camilla Parker Bowles as Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall, with the prospect of becoming the Queen one day. Much to the disappointment of the people they quickly got into their waiting car and whizzed past the crowd.

The occasion, described as ``depressingly low-key'' by a royal commentator, inevitably prompted comparisons with the Charles-Diana ``fairy-tale'' wedding in 1981 when 5,00,000 people had turned up and there were street celebrations all over Britain. This time, the media hype did not quite reflect the public mood, which, at the best of times, remained subdued and the shadow of Diana clearly hung over the event.

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