As they knelt together on creaky knees, and the nervous bride reached out a trembling hand to that of her groom, it was almost possible to believe that this was just "two old people getting hitched".
Those were the words Camilla Parker Bowles was using in the troubled weeks before the service, her friends had let it be known - and yesterday there she was at last, where most people thought she would never be, in church alongside her new husband, the Prince of Wales.
For all the splendour of St George's Chapel, Windsor, where 10 former sovereigns are buried, this was a little bit like a normal wedding; the guests, awkward in their formal clothes, craning their necks to see who was sitting where ("Is that the Prime Minister? No, it's the Crown Prince of Norway"); the young men cracking jokes and making faces in their pews - although few wedding guests are unlucky enough to be caught on camera scratching their nose, as Prince Harry was.
The House of Windsor must have been pleased. Its continuing existence depends on the public seeing the Royal Family as "just like us" - and yet special enough to justify castles, banquets and the huge diamond ring on the hand of the new Duchess of Cornwall. It was nothing like a normal wedding: the future of the family was at stake.
All the best betrothals include a spat with the mother-in-law. While Prince Charles and Camilla nipped off to the Guildhall in Windsor yesterday lunch-time, the Queen was lunching with friends from other royal families back at the castle. This was because, Buckingham Palace said, she was "aware" the couple wanted to keep the civil ceremony low-key. They had wanted to hold the wedding behind the walls of the castle, before somebody realised that would mean giving members of the public the right to be married there. So the centre of Windsor had to be sealed off. Perhaps the announcement of this deterred the crowds; one veteran of royal occasions in the town said this was the poorest attendance he had ever seen.
Some were there to protest. The human rights activist Peter Tatchell held up a banner reading: "Charles can marry twice! Gays can't marry once." He was moved on. Across the road patrolled by armed police, another banner urged the Queen to make William her successor. It was confiscated and thrown into the gutter.
The police had no problem with the white sheet on which the sisters Norma and Lenny Southwood had written in felt-tip: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Norma, 54, a nurse from Blackpool, said: "It's about time we gave Charles and Camilla a break. They have loved each other since they were young people. Let them live the rest of their lives in peace." She also had some harsh things to say about the late Diana, Princess of Wales, whose memorabilia were on sale nearby. Nobody was buying.
The Windsor Boys' School band played "Mustang Sally" - "... all you wanna do is ride around, Sally" - as the claret Rolls-Royce carrying the Prince of Wales and his bride approached the Guildhall. Then the musicians, wisely, changed their tune to "Congratulations" instead. Some people in the crowd cheered gustily; others booed. Charles half-turned to wave, but his bride did not. Her dress was described in an official press release, handed out within seconds, as "an oyster silk basket-weave coat with herringbone stitch embroidery and a chiffon dress with appliqué woven lacquered disc detail". The Prince was wearing a black morning coat with grey pinstripe trousers.
During the 20-minute civil ceremony, the crowd was entertained by the sight of the fashion gurus Trinny and Susannah leaning out of the window of an estate agency opposite, where an impromptu television studio had been set up. Inside the Guildhall, Prince William and Tom Parker Bowles were acting as witnesses to the marriage and signing the register in front of the 30 guests.
Clarence House would not say which form of words the couple were using inside. The Prince might have said: "I give you this ring as a token of my love and a symbol of our marriage." Or he might have said: "Camilla, I take you to be my wife. I promise to love you, honour and respect you. I will stand by you and be true to you always. I will care for you, laugh with you when you are happy, comfort you when you are sad. Whatever life will bring I will always love you." Since this is a man who responded to the question of whether he loved his first wife by replying, "Whatever 'love' means," it is safe to assume he chose the former. But it is a measure of his obvious affection for Camilla that you can just about imagine him choosing the latter.
The newly-weds did not kiss for the cameras. Instead, they walked arm-in-arm, pausing to wave to the crowd. Then the new Duchess of Cornwall gave her first royal wave from the back of the Rolls - a stiffer, reversed version of the backhander favoured by the Queen. The flat of the palm was presented to the crowd, like a boxer asking for the beating to stop.
Among the guests waiting back at the castle for the service of blessing were the author Jilly Cooper, the American broadcaster Joan Rivers, the musician Jools Holland, an ambassador for The Prince's Trust and the former husband of the bride, Andrew Parker Bowles. The politicians included the Prime Minister, the leaders of the opposition parties and the first ministers of Scotland and Wales.
After a quick change (and perhaps a stiff drink), the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in "a porcelain blue silk dress with hand-painted ikat design, hand-embroidered with gold thread" and a gold-leafed feather headdress. She carried a cluster of flowers including lilies of the valley, which traditionally symbolise the return of happiness. Camilla could not have kept on her cream outfit, because the Queen was wearing that colour.
Much had been made of the service including confession, but this was a prayer led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and said by the whole congregation of 800. Dr Williams then told the couple: "The church of Christ understands marriage to be, in the will of God, the union of a man and a woman, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till parted by death." He asked the divorcees: "Is this your understanding of the covenant and promise that you have made?"
Charles glanced at Camilla, then they answered in barely audible voices: "It is." As the Archbishop prepared to bless the rings exchanged in the register office, Camilla placed her right hand on that of Charles. Her hand was shaking.
After the 45-minute service, the couple emerged from St George's Chapel, the Prince now smiling, with the Duchess and the Queen. This moment had been a very long time coming.
It is 30 years since a young Camilla first met Charles at a polo match and told him that since their ancestors had been lovers they ought to give it a try too. Her confidence and sense of fun bowled him over - but not enough to dissuade the Prince from the advice of his elders that he sow his wildoats before taking a virgin for his future queen. That way he might follow ancestral example and acquire both a dutiful wife and a passionate lover.
Camilla fulfilled one of those roles for a long time, and now has the unforeseen chance to take the other as well. She stood on the steps with her new husband, clutching her hat in the wind, and there alongside her was the Queen. The family photograph had seemed impossible until very recently. Except that Her Majesty did not stand next to Camilla: she took two steps to the side to be sure that Charles went between them.
Around them in the castle grounds were 2,000 handpicked well-wishers - most from charities and organisations to which the couple are connected, including the Poultry Club of Great Britain, the Specialist Cheesemakers' Association and the National Hedgelaying Society. On the parade ground, pressed against the front of the crash barriers was an arthritic scrum of fleeces, flags and sensible shoes.
The Queen made off early for the reception in the state apartments where, according to comedian Stephen Fry, who was a guest, she told 750 guests: "I've got two things to announce to you of the greatest importance. The first is that the Grand National was won by Hedgehunter. The second is to say to you that despite Becher's Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles, my son has come through and I'm very proud and wish them well."
Princes William and Harrywere boisterous as they left, cheered to see their father visibly relaxed. And they had a surprise in store: they had festooned the couple's Rolls-Royce with red, white and blue balloons, drawn the initials "C+C" and three hearts in shaving foam on the side of the car, and written "Prince and Duchess" on the windscreen and "Just Married" on the rear window, to the couple's obvious delight. Later, the newly-weds flew from RAF Northolt to Scotland.
They will interrupt their honeymoon to open a school playground together on Thursday, another little sign that this was not a normal wedding. The future of the Family depended on the nation liking it and saying, "Ah well, good luck to them." Whether that was the case and whatever damage they have done to the royal cause in the past, Charles and Camilla now have each other, in public, at last.
Additional reporting by Julia Stuart
The Windsors and the Crappers
It all began with the corniest line in the pick-up business, but it ended yesterday in the wedding of Tom and Deborah Crapper. In between were months of preparations, spoiled only by incessant requests from the British media. But determined not to join the celebrity set, Tom, a major in the Royal Signals, and businesswoman Deborah, both 34, decided to share the details of their wedding and its build-up with the IoS.
THE FIRST ENCOUNTERS
It was 30 years ago. Camilla said: 'My great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress - so how about it?' Had affair during Charles's marriage.
Neither of the Crappers has been married before. Thomas first told Deborah in a bar: 'You are the most beautiful woman I've seen for quite a time.'
According to the bride, Charles went down on one knee. Other details remain private.
Thomas put the question during the interval at a Rod Stewart concert while on holiday in Las Vegas.
Prince Charles is the eldest son of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth IIand Prince Philip. Camilla is the daughter of Major Bruce Shand and Rosalind Cubitt.
Thomas is a descendant of the brother of Thomas Crapper who invented the WC. Deborah is the daughter of Dave and Jackie Biltcliffe.
THE PRESS ATTENTION
A change of venue, a change of date, the Queen refusing to attend, and an unfortunate photo opportunity with the 'bloody awful' press.
'We've been doorstepped by the tabloids,' said Major Crapper, 'but we have said no to them all.'
THE GUEST LIST
The Queen, the groom's mother, did not attend the Guildhall. Princes William, Harry, Andrew and Edward, and Princess Anne were there. No best man.
Parents of the groom, family friends. Major Alun Crapper, Thomas's brother, was joint best man with Daniel Lumbard, a close friend.
A harpist played for 800 guests as they entered the state rooms at Windsor Castle after the blessing.
A band called Pop Fiction played a selection of Eighties hits during the reception at the home of Mr and Mrs Biltcliffe.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall flew to Scotland after the reception. They are staying at Balmoral, where Charles has a house.
Mr and Mrs Crapper will leave tomorrow for a honeymoon in Rome. No further public appearances have been scheduled during this time.
THE FUTURE HOMES
The Windsors have three to choose from: Clarence House in London, Highgrove in Gloucestershire, and Birkhall on the Balmoral estate.
After their honeymoon, the Crappers will return to Bath, but due to Major Crapper's army commitments, they will be moving soon.
Camilla will become known as the Princess Consort and the Duchess of Cornwall. When, if, Charles accedes to the throne, Camilla will be his queen.
Deborah Biltcliffe will henceforth be known as Mrs Deborah Jane Crapper, although she prefers to use the title 'Debs'.
When Charles dies, his eldest son, Prince William, will become King. Camilla's eldest, Tom Parker Bowles, has no title.
Mrs Crapper has made a public statement to the effect that she is keen to start a family and have 'lots of little Crappers'.Reuse content