Stamps, poem, and royal train lined up as 'low-key' affair goes off rails

Concern over titles, a court battle over the ceremony, controversy over the royal train: Charles feels the heat Down Under
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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales's forthcoming marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles is intended to be "a low-key, unfussy event". But it would appear to be becoming more lavish by the day after it emerged last night that the union will be commemorated with a set of Royal Mail stamps, a poem by the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, and speculation that the royal train will be used.

The Prince of Wales's forthcoming marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles is intended to be "a low-key, unfussy event". But it would appear to be becoming more lavish by the day after it emerged last night that the union will be commemorated with a set of Royal Mail stamps, a poem by the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, and speculation that the royal train will be used.

The stamp designs will be released next month and the poem is yet to be written, but Mr Motion has confirmed his intention to mark the occasion in verse. "I feel it is an important part of my work as Laureate to mark significant events in the royal calendar," Mr Motion said.

On his tour Down Under, the Prince was in jocular mood as he turned down a request yesterday from a member of the public for an invitation to his wedding with the words "there's not enough bloody room".

However, pre-marital stress is rising in Clarence House as it prepares for a court challenge to the Prince's proposed civil marriage to Mrs Parker Bowles. Len Cook, the Registrar General, is expected to rule on nine formal objections to the match within days. They claim that legislation specifically forbids members of the Royal Family to wed in civil ceremonies. And while it is thought that Mr Cook will uphold the official view that the wedding is legal because of the Human Rights Act, courtiers are expecting his decision to be challenged in the High Court. The Queen, meanwhile, is resisting the option of emergency legislation to remove any legal obstacle as well as formalise Camilla's preferred title.

As we report on page one, Buckingham Palace fears that such a Bill would provide a focus for republicanism in Parliament. Nor will the public relations challenge posed by the wedding have been made easier by speculation that the Prince is to use the controversial royal train, which costs £52 a mile to run, for his honeymoon.

The Prince is reported to want it pulled by a steam locomotive at an additional cost of £5,000. Duchess of Sutherland, a preserved member of the Coronation class, built in 1938, has been booked to haul the royal train according to The Railway Magazine.

A steam engine has pulled the royal train only once in the past 37 years, since steam officially ended on British Railways ­ for the Queen's Golden Jubilee tour in 2002. Clarence House officially says it cannot discuss travel arrangements.

The owners of the steam locomotive, the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust, in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, are also saying little. Brell Ewart, its chairman, said: "As far as we are concerned all future royal trains operations remain confidential. In line with current and past railway practice, we make no comment... unless we are instructed to do so."

Nick Piggot, editor of The Railway Magazine, said: "It's all a bit mysterious. The locomotive has been booked, but we have been told it is for prior to the wedding. One of our competitors was warned off. Officially it's not happening, but the grapevine is buzzing."

Normally royal train journeys are paid by the taxpayer as it is used for official engagements. But the wedding bill is to be entirely met by the Queen and Prince Charles, raising the prospect that the train, which is available for private hire, will be paid for out of Charles's own pocket.

Such an extravagant gesture ­ a trip to the honeymoon destination in Balmoral could cost tens of thousands of pounds ­ would fly in the face of the couple's claim they are having a "low-key" wedding.

The heir to the throne was given a low-key welcome in New Zealand yesterday on the latest stage of his first tour of the region for 11 years. Just 60 people had gathered to greet the Prince as he stepped off the plane at Dunedin airport.

Prince Charles flies back to Britain next Saturday after spending the week in New Zealand and Fiji. Although he received a sympathetic press for the causes he supported in Australia, his five-day visit to four cities suggested the relationship is special no longer. Allison Henry, director of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), said "several hundred" new members had joined after the marriage was announced.

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