Queen's wedding toast brims with wit
By LEE-ANNE GOODMAN
Sunday, April 10, 2005 Updated at 5:43 PM EST
Windsor, England — The mother of the groom made a funny speech that cracked up her grandsons, the groom expressed wonderment that his bride agreed to marry him, the youngest son of the groom happily kissed his new stepmother.
Could be any family wedding — but these were scenes from the Saturday nuptials of the heir to the British throne and the newly minted Duchess of Cornwall, now, by virtue of her marriage, the second most powerful woman in the British Royal Family.
“My darling Camilla, I can't believe you married me,” Prince Charles is reported to have said repeatedly during his speech to his bride as she gazed on in tears.
The Queen, for her part, drew frequent parallels to the Grand National steeplechase race and the couple's 35-year love affair. The National is an annual British sporting obsession that was held shortly after Charles and Camilla exchanged vows in Windsor's town hall on Saturday.
“Despite Becher's Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles, my son has come through and I'm very proud and wish them well,” said the Queen, making reference to some particularly treacherous jumps on the race course, prompting giggles from William and Harry.
“The couple have finally arrived in the winner's enclosure.”
Prince Harry — such a heartbreaking figure at the funeral for his mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales, in 1997 as he walked solemnly behind her casket at just 12 years of age — was so happy for the couple, he gave his new stepmother a hug and kiss at one point.
“Harry and William get on tremendously well with Camilla,” said the broadcaster Lord Bragg, a guest at the reception. “It is a miracle how close they seem. They all seem extremely fond of each other.”
There were other details to emerge on Sunday, including the menu served to some 800 guests at the wedding reception at Windsor Castle following the marriage's blessing in the majestic St. George's chapel.
No Beluga caviar or truffles at this posh event — just a simple English afternoon tea featuring finger sandwiches, Cornish pasties, cakes and the treat adored by Brits rich and poor: scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The sea of fragrant spring flowers, almost 35,000 in all, that decorated the castle's state rooms came from the Queen's own gardens.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful event,” said Canada's guest at the festivities, Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson. “We all wished them well and it buoyed them up and they seemed very happy.”
Charles and Camilla, honeymooning on a rural Scottish estate, emerged Sunday to attend a small church service with about 200 villagers — and appeared as relaxed and relieved as they apparently were during the reception.
The couple beamed and waved to dozens of well-wishers as they entered the chapel. Locals waved back and snapped pictures of Charles, clad in a kilt, and his bride, wearing a matching fuchsia hat and coat.
“I think she's lovely,” said Lynn Hutchings, 56, a nurse visiting her sister in the Scottish highlands. “I didn't think he should marry her but I've changed my opinion.”
Camilla, 57, is now officially the Princess of Wales, although she will be known as the Duchess of Cornwall in deference to enduring public affection for Diana. When Charles is crowned, she will be queen — but the prince's office says she will use the title “princess consort” instead.
It's been a long and at times tortured love affair for the couple, who met at a polo match in 1970. Charles was apparently heartbroken when Camilla Shand wed Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973, but Camilla was not considered marriage material by royal courtiers in those days.
The daughter of a wealthy wine merchant, she was neither a virgin nor a blueblood — two qualities considered essential for the bride of the young Prince of Wales, considered in the 1970s to be one of the world's most eligible bachelors. Courtiers were hoping to hook him up with one of the daughters of another European royal family to create a kind of royal super-dynasty.
By Charles's own admission, their romantic relationship resumed in the mid-1980s while they were both married to other people.
At the blessing of their marriage conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Saturday, both Charles and Camilla apologized for their sins and vowed to stay true to one another.
“That is my resolve, with the help of God,” they both pledged.
The couple's eight-week engagement was filled with twists and turns as well, prompting the tabloids to repeatedly refer to the wedding as jinxed. The tabs directed much of their venom Camilla's way — and Charles, said to be fiercely loyal and protective of his bride, apparently noticed.
“God bless my parents, God bless my family, God bless my friends, God bless my beloved wife,” he said in a toast at the wedding reception.
“But damn the British press.”