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Camilla absent from royal banquet

Camilla Parker Bowles shows off her engagement ring at a party in London.
Prince Charles
Camilla Parker Bowles
Imperial, Royal Matters

LONDON, England -- Prince Charles has attended a Buckingham Palace state banquet without his fiancee Camilla Parker Bowles, just weeks ahead of their wedding.

Camilla's absence from Tuesday night's banquet in honor of Italian President Carlo Ciampi has added to mounting speculation that her presence at high-profile official events is not yet considered to be appropriate.

In contrast, Charles' first fiancee, Lady Diana Spencer, was his guest at a palace state banquet the month before their wedding in July 1981.

A spokeswoman for the prince said Parker Bowles' presence at the banquet was considered but that she was unable to attend, the UK's Press Association reported.

It remains to be seen how soon after their April 8 civil wedding the prince and Parker Bowles -- who will become the Duchess of Cornwall -- we be able to be together with the queen at a major royal engagement.

Earlier this week, royal officials said just 30 people would witness their marriage.

The heir to Britain's throne and his bride have decided their civil wedding ceremony in the town hall at Windsor, west of London, should be private -- without television or other media coverage.

The last time Prince Charles walked down the aisle -- in 1981 -- 800 million television viewers around the world watched him marry Diana at St Paul's Cathedral.

But on April 8, only a few witnesses, including Charles' sons Princes William and Harry as well as Camilla's son and daughter, are expected to be present.

A spokeswoman for the prince said: "It was never intended that the civil ceremony should be televised as it was always planned to be a relatively small, personal occasion."

Queen Elizabeth, who is reported to have been slow to accept her eldest son's 35-year affair with the now-divorced mother of two, will not attend the ceremony in what has been widely interpreted as a snub to the couple.

The wedding has hit several snags since it was originally announced that the couple would marry at Windsor Castle.

Planners discovered that under British law, registering the castle as a wedding venue would mean opening it up to commoners' nuptials as well -- prompting a move to Windsor town hall.

Constitutional experts also question the legality of a civil ceremony.

Earlier this month the registrar general for England and Wales dismissed 11 formal objections to the civil marriage. The objections mainly argued that the law did not allow the prince to marry in a civil ceremony.

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