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In Windsor, a Royal Pain

For Many Locals in Historic Town, It's Not Lovelier the Second Time Around

By Glenda Cooper
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page D07

WINDSOR, England, April 9 -- Nestled in the shadow of the royal castle and home to the final resting place of Queen Victoria, this town is not easily impressed by royal fanfare. Small wonder then that while an excited babel of Spanish, German, Japanese and Hindi emanated from the dozens of television news crews in the street, the response to Charles and Camilla's "I do's" among locals was mostly "We Don't."

"It's only the tourists who are getting excited about the wedding," sniffed Alex Beever, manager of Whittard's Tea Shop. "It's the second time 'round, so it's not the same. It's just annoying that so many people are blocking up the roads."

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry at the wedding ceremony in Windsor. (Pool Photo Alastair Grant)

Blame it on the queen's disapproval, the change of venue or even the papal funeral, but Charles and Camilla's nuptials were a very different affair from the pomp and ceremony that marked Charles and Diana's in 1981. Then 600,000 people flocked to London to watch the bride step out of a glass coach and walk down the aisle in St. Paul's Cathedral.

By contrast, Diana's successor got married in the local town hall, with her closest friends arriving on hired buses and the rest of the lucky guests queued in the bitter cold around the castle walls.

Still there were staunch supporters among the 20,000 who lined the route. "I have come because the sun is shining," said Glen Smith, a 60-year-old child psychologist. "But I've also come because I think Prince Charles has had a raw deal and I want to show him my support."

Dawn Parnell arrived at 7:30 in the morning to ensure a good view. "You have to admire Camilla," she said. "She has never spoken out, she has taken all the criticism and never retaliated. And now she has got her reward."

Posters greeting the newlyweds ranged from the patriotic "God Save the Queen: Good Luck to You Both" to the doom-laden "Illegal. Immoral. Shameful."

The few protesters couldn't whip up a decent fuss. Peter Tatchell, one of Britain's leading gay rights campaigners, restricted himself to displaying a poster that said: "Charles can marry twice. Gays can't marry once." (By comparison, in past protests he has stormed pulpits, invaded police stations and even attempted to arrest Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe.)

And the Dianaphiles maintained a low-key presence on the day they once swore should never happen. Margaret Collier, 84, stood outside the Castle Hotel holding a yellowing newspaper picture of Diana. "I'm making a silent protest," she said. "I'm not against the marriage but against Prince Charles himself. I can't stand him. He used Diana and I think he's a wimp."

In the Horse & Groom pub opposite the entrance to Windsor Castle, the television showing the service of blessing competed with people discussing their betting forms in preparation for the Grand National -- the country's premier horse race, which was to take place later in the afternoon.

There were snickers as the Archbishop of Canterbury asked Charles if he resolved to be faithful to his wife. As the prince agreed, there were shouts of "Yes, this time 'round!"

But as "God Save the Queen" was played at the end of the service about half of the drinkers stood up, and cheers and claps broke out as the couple was shown leaving the chapel.

"It was extraordinary," said Nick Long, the landlord of the pub. "People are more supportive than I thought they would be."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company