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Royal wedding may open to public

Palace security fears for Charles and Camilla ceremony

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Would you queue for a public place at the wedding of Charles and Camilla?
Great Britain
Prince Charles
Camilla Parker Bowles

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles may be forced to allow total strangers into their wedding -- commoners who may be allowed to object to the match.

British newspapers reported Monday that under Britain's 1994 Marriage Act, the public must have unfettered access to witness a marriage so they can object if they wish.

The April 8 ceremony has already been switched from Windsor Castle to the local town hall after a legal complication. A wedding at the castle would mean opening it up for three years to commoners' weddings as well. (Full story)

On the issue of public admittance to the wedding, a spokesperson for Charles' office, Clarence House, told CNN Monday: "Obviously there are lots of security implications. A decision will be made nearer the time."

Asked if it may, under the law, become necessary to admit a limited number of members of the public to the ceremony, the spokesperson said: "If it's the law, it's the law."

Clarence House announced Thursday the union of the divorced heir to the throne and his divorced longtime love would take place at the Guildhall in Windsor, west of London (Full story)

Stephen Cretney, an emeritus fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, told Britain's Guardian newspaper that Britain's Marriage (Approved Premises) Regulations, which opened the way for civil marriages to be held in places other than register offices, made it plain that the public had to be admitted.

He pointed to a rule which said: "Public access to any ceremony of marriage solemnized in approved premises must be permitted without charge."

The Daily Mail newspaper on Monday quoted an unidentified former registrar of births, marriages and deaths as saying that the right to public access posed "a real problem."

He told the paper: "The law is the law and it is very clear in this case. There is no ambiguity about it whatsoever.

"That is why, for example, weddings are never permitted in private homes as people who have a legitimate right to object would not know they were taking place."

The ex-registrar said that some people in Britain had made it clear they objected to the marriage.

He said he believed there were pressure groups such as Fathers4Justice -- whose members threw powder at Prime Minister Tony Blair from the public gallery at the House of Commons -- that would "jump at the chance" to disrupt the royal nuptials.

The Guardian said preparations for the wedding had already taken "a farcical turn" after Cretney and other experts raised the question of whether the marriage was actually legal under existing law.

Cretney had argued that members of the royal family have no power under marriage law to contract civil marriages, calling on Blair's government to introduce a one-sentence bill authorizing royals to marry in civil ceremonies to remove any doubts about the legality of the marriage.

At the weekend Britain's Lord Chancellor, head of the judiciary, defended his view that Charles' forthcoming marriage to Parker Bowles would be will be legal.

Lord Falconer told the Mail on Sunday: "I remain confident that the prince and Mrs. Parker Bowles can marry in a civil ceremony. We have considered every aspect of this and taken all the appropriate advice."

He said the 1949 Marriage Act, which updated the law on civil marriages, did not exclude the royal family as a previous 1836 Act had done.

The Guildhall at Windsor is one of 29 approved venues for civil wedding ceremonies in the Windsor area. Local authorities charge £265 ($500) for a weekday ceremony -- plus £20 extra if, like Charles and Camilla, a couple wishes to wed on a Friday.

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