| ROYAL REBUFF'
London, Feb. 23: Buckingham Palace today denied that the Queen had snubbed her son by refusing to attend the April 8 wedding of the Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker Bowles, but that is the way it is looking to 99.99 per cent of her baffled subjects.
The wedding, which is already mired in endless controversy partly because many Britons hold Camilla responsible for breaking up Diana's marriage and partly because some constitutional experts question the very validity of a civil wedding ceremony for a royal, took a turn for the absurd last night.
The Queen will boycott the marriage ceremony but come to the British version of the boubhat and even pay for the feasting, it was revealed.
Buckingham Palace said last night: 'The Queen will not be attending the civil ceremony because she is aware that the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles wanted to keep the occasion low-key. The Queen and the rest of the royal family will, of course, be going to the service of dedication at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. She is very pleased to be giving the wedding reception at the castle.'
It could be that the statement is absolutely accurate. But, sadly for Elizabeth II, regarded by many as an excellent queen but a lousy mother, no one believes her.
Commenting on the Queen's alleged snub, David Starkey, a historian said: 'We are into unknown territories with this decision, and one can only speculate on the reason why. It could be security, that she doesn't approve or that she doesn't care, a position which would unite her with the majority of her subjects.'
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman insisted: 'The Queen is attending the service of dedication and paying for the reception ' this is not a snub.'
'The Queen's prime concern is that the civil ceremony should be as low key as possible, in line with the couple's wishes,' said the spokeswoman. 'Clearly, if the Queen were to attend, the occasion would no longer be, by definition, low key.'
However the Sun's royal photographer, Arthur Edwards, a cheerful cockney, said the arrangements for the wedding have so far been 'a catalogue of cock-ups'.
'It is just another snub,' he observed. 'This is your mother. Mothers always go to your wedding whoever or wherever you are.'
Public relations expert Max Clifford said: 'The whole thing just becomes more and more farcical and more and more embarrassing as the days go by. You would have to be an absolutely dedicated monarchist not to see this as a snub. She is his mother. What mother would stay away from her son's wedding other than a mother who isn't happy about that wedding'
Prince William and Prince Harry, along with Camilla's children from her first marriage, Tom and Laura, will be present at the civil wedding ceremony, however. But neither Princess Anne nor her brothers, Andrew and Edward, will come, although they are expected to be at the party afterwards.
The problem for Charles and Camilla appears to be that under the 1836 Marriage Act, members of the royal family are explicitly barred from marrying in a civil ceremony.
The 1949 Marriage Act, which formalised civil marriages, superseded the 1836 act but included a clause saying: 'Nothing in this act shall affect any law or custom relating to the marriage of members of the royal family.'
In a written parliamentary answer, the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC stated today: 'The government is 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.'
Lord Falconer continued: '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.'