February 10, 2005 08:00 AM

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are to wed, his office has announced.

After a relationship that has spanned decades and, as Princess Diana claimed, was instrumental in the break-up of her marriage to the prince, the couple will walk down the aisle on April 8.

Arriving at an event at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the city of London, Charles told reporters who congratulated him: “Thank you very much, you’re so kind. I’m very excited.”

The couple are set to wed at Windsor Castle in a civil ceremony followed by a blessing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. It’s likely to be at St George’s Chapel, the venue for the 1999 wedding of Charles’s brother Prince Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones.

One thing is certain – it will not match the pomp and ceremony of Charles’s wedding to Princess Diana at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. The wedding will be attended by a congregation largely made up of “family and friends,” a senior palace official says.

They will follow the service with a short honeymoon of a week to 10 days at Charles’s Scottish hideaway, Birkhall, on the Queen’s Balmoral estate.

Parker Bowles will be given the title Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, removing any chance of her being called the Princess of Wales, which would be problematic so soon after Princess Diana’s death in 1997.

Moreover, when Charles, 56, becomes King, Camilla will be known as Princess Consort. This irons out any issue of the Camilla being called Queen – something that has never been popular with the British press.

The engagement ring that Charles gave to Parker Bowles is a Royal Family heirloom, the palace says. The platinum ring has a square-cut central diamond with three diamond baguettes on either side.

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles

Prince Charles’s sons, Princes William, 22, and Harry, 20, released a statement Thursday saying, “We are both very happy for our father and Camilla and we wish them all the luck in the future.”

His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, said in a statement, “The Duke of Edinburgh (Elizabeth’s husband) and I are very happy that the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Parker Bowles are to marry. We have given them our warmest good wishes for their future together.”

Charles was described by aides as being in a “great mood. It’s happy news and everyone is thrilled here at the palace.”

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called it “very happy news” and “wished them every happiness for the future.”

The news was set to be released next week, but the palace was beat to the punch when word was leaked to a London newspaper, the Evening Standard.

Officials say they don’t know when Charles popped the question. But it has been discussed for sometime. “This issue of marriage has been considered by them for a long time and they, like every couple, felt it was the right time,” an official says.

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