Now the Grand National falls at lofty hurdle of royal wedding

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The Independent Online

It is a glamorous event of national importance that has been generating gossip for weeks and requires exhaustive preparations to house VIP guests.

It is a glamorous event of national importance that has been generating gossip for weeks and requires exhaustive preparations to house VIP guests.

But even the Grand National has found itself added to a growing roll call of chaos caused by the postponed wedding of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles - as well as Windsor shopkeepers and dozens of officers in the Thames Valley Police.

Organisers of the 166-year-old steeplechase, which is worth £250m to the British economy, announced they were delaying the start of the race on Saturday afternoon after negotiations with the BBC about the clashing coverage of the day's two big events.

The alteration to the start of the famous horse race from 3.45pm to 4.10pm was forced after it was decided to show the royal wedding on BBC1 from midday until 3pm and start broadcasting from Aintree just 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the big race.

The delay to the Grand National was forced after Clarence House announced that the royal nuptials at Windsor's Guildhall council chamber, postponed for 24 hours to avoid coinciding with the funeral of Pope John Paul II and allow the Prince to attend, would take place at 12.30pm on Saturday, an hour earlier than planned for Friday.

Apparently unaware of the knock-on effect on the nation's racing fans, among others, a spokesman for the Prince said: "Our aim is to ensure that we cause the minimal amount of disruption, in particular to those couples who are also getting married on the same day."

But disruption there will be.

Thames Valley Police, which will deploy 550 officers onto the streets of Windsor, said it expected to have to cancel rest days to ensure it had enough staff meet requirements.

The 30-minute civil ceremony, attended by 30 guests, will be followed by an hour-long service of prayer and dedication inside St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle at 2.30pm.

In Windsor, where traders reported a roaring trade in souvenirs bearing the original date for the wedding, there were grumbles from some shopkeepers who will suffer the disruption of road closures on the busiest shopping day of the week.

One retailer on high street, who asked not to be named "because I supply the castle", said: "I'm the first to stand up for the royals but this wedding really takes the bloody biscuit.

"Half the town is going to be shut down from 7am and I doubt half our customers will bother trying to get near us on our most important day of the week. Why Charles and Camilla couldn't just say 'I do' inside the castle and come out to give us a wave afterwards I'll never know."

The BBC, which will have up to 200 staff working on coverage, insisted it had not been forced to make large changes, although its programme will now be anchored by Dermot Murnaghan rather than Huw Edwards, who will be in Rome.

WHAT ELSE CAN GO WRONG?

Prince William loses the couple's rings 25-1

Camilla changes her mind and fails to turn up 33-1

Charles gets cold feet 40-1

Aaron Barschak, the "comedy terrorist" who gatecrashed Prince William's 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle, returns disguised as the late Princess Diana 50-1

The Queen issues a last-minute ultimatum disinheriting Charles if the wedding proceeds 100-1

Prince Charles picks up a spare ride in the Grand National and attends Aintree instead 250-1

Nicholas Witchell, BBC royal correspondent and the heir to the throne's favourite journalist, interrupts the ceremony with a sensational objection 500-1

Aliens land in Windsor Park on Saturday morning and take over the royal borough 10,000-1

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