The Wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales and Camilla The Duchess of Cornwall.
(Windsor 9th April 2005)
HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, HRH Prince William, HRH Prince Harry, Major Bruce Shand, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles
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HM Her Majesty
HRH: His Royal Highness or Her Royal Highness
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The Prince was the first member of the royal family to marry in a civil ceremony in England. Dr. Stephen Chetney, a Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford questioned whether Charles and Camilla could marry in a civil ceremony, as the Royal Family was specifically excluded from the law which instituted civil marriages in England (Marriage Act 1836). On 14 February the BBC's Panorama uncovered documents of official legislative research advice dating from 1956 and 1964, which stated that it was not lawful for members of the royal family to marry in a civil ceremony in England and Wales, though it would be lawful in Scotland. These documents' statements were dismissed by Clarence House on the advice of four unnamed legal experts. These experts' views that the 1836 Act had been repealed by the Marriage Act 1949 were upheld by the British Government. Acting through Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor, the sitting government issued a written statement published by the House of Lords in their debate record:
Quote from "Royal Marriage", Lords Hansard, 24 Feb 2005: "The Government are satisfied that it is lawful for the Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles, like anyone else, to marry by a civil ceremony in accordance with Part III of the Marriage Act 1949. ¶ Civil marriages were introduced in England, by the Marriage Act 1836. Section 45 said that the Act "... shall not extend to the marriage of any of the Royal Family". ¶ But the provisions on civil marriage in the 1836 Act were repealed by the Marriage Act 1949. All remaining parts of the 1836 Act, including Section 45, were repealed by the Registration Service Act 1953. No part of the 1836 Act therefore remains on the statute book. ¶... We are aware that different views have been taken in the past; but we consider that these were overcautious, and we are clear that the interpretation I have set out in this Statement is correct. We also note that the Human Rights Act has since 2000 required legislation to be interpreted wherever possible in a way that is compatible with the right to marry (Article 12) and with the right to enjoy that right without discrimination (Article 14). This, in our view, puts the modern meaning of the 1949 Act beyond doubt."
Eleven objections were received by the Cirencester and Chippenham register offices but were all rejected by the Registrar General (and National Statistician) Len Cook who determined that a civil marriage would in fact be valid.