| Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles kiss in public for the first time at Somerset House, London, on June 26, 2001. (Reuters)
London, Feb. 10: Prince Charles took everyone by surprise today by announcing he is to marry his long-time mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, who is still blamed by many for breaking up his marriage to the late, much loved and photogenic Diana, the People's Princess.
Charles and Camilla have agreed she will not be queen. If and when he becomes king, she will be called the Princess Consort.
In his announcement from Clarence House, the groom said he was 'absolutely delighted'. They have much in common, including a love of hunting.
Charles, 56, and Camilla, who is a year older, will marry on April 8, at Windsor Castle in a civil ceremony, with a service of prayer and dedication afterwards at St George's Chapel, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
The archbishop was not apparently madly keen on the marriage at first but Charles managed to talk him round.
Today, Williams said: 'These arrangements have my strong support and are consistent with Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage.'
Instead of playing the wicked mother-in-law, the Queen, too, has given her approval as required under the 1772 Royal Marriages Act.
The Queen said: 'The Duke of Edinburgh and I are very happy that the Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles are to marry. We have given them our warmest good wishes for their future together.'
Charles' sons William and Harry said they were 'delighted'.
The Queen consulted Tony Blair before giving her consent. The Prime Minister sent his good wishes.
Realising that the public is willing to put up with Camilla but not ready to take her to heart, she will not be called the Princess of Wales after marriage. She will have an 'HRH' title ' which Diana was stripped of after divorce in 1996 ' and be called the Duchess of Cornwall.
Indians in the UK and Asians generally are happy with the news. Charles has always stuck up for the ethnic minorities.
Sooner rather than later, the couple will come to India but perhaps give the Taj Mahal, where Diana once posed alone, a miss.
| Mama says yes
An Indian point of view was given by businessman Srichand Hinduja, who called Charles 'a good man, always concerned about the ethnic minorities'.
He held up Vedic principles: 'From 50 to 75 is a period of semi-retirement, and from 75 onwards renouncement. Charles is 50-plus so maybe a companion, a partner, a wife will help.'
Some critics cannot forgive Charles for carrying on with Camilla while he was still married to Diana.
Charles and Camilla first met in 1971 in their early twenties ' she was Camilla Shand at the time and went on to marry her army officer boyfriend, Andrew Parker Bowles. That ended in divorce, as did the Charles-Diana fairytale. After Diana's death in 1997, Charles and Camilla have been living together as man and wife, so it should be no surprise he has decided to make an honest woman of her.
But surprise there is today, even from 'royal watchers'.
Judy Wade of Hello! Magazine admitted: 'I thought they would marry but not so soon.'
Royal biographer Robert Lacey said: 'It is pretty clear that people are not enormously enamoured by Camilla. People in the future will say that when you compare her style with Diana's, it is very different.'
Diana had blamed 'rottweiler' Camilla and the prying media for her marriage breaking up.