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UK legal experts say Prince Charles marriage may be illegal

[JURIST] British legal experts on the BBC news program Panorama have warned that a civil marriage between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles might not be allowed under existing legislation. The 1836 Marriage Act, which permitted marriages outside the church, contained an exemption for the royal family. Experts are divided on whether the 1949 Marriage Act, which did not contain that exemption, should be considered as an addition to or a replacement of the earlier Act. Statements to Panorama from Clarence House, the prince's official residence, express the view that the 1949 Act does not specifically prevent members of the royal family from having civil marriages; the government and the Queen have been advised by counsel that the marriage would be legal. However, Dr. Stephen Cretney QC, Emeritus Fellow of Legal History at Oxford University, disagrees: “There is no statutory procedure whereby members of the Royal Family can marry in a register office. Although there may be this ceremony and public rejoicing it could be the Prince of Wales is not married... and constitutionally it’s important to know whether they are married or not.” According to Panorama, if civil marriage in England is not an option, the couple could either appeal under the Human Rights Act, get married in Scotland [PDF], have a common law marriage, which was abolished for everyone except the royal family, or have Parliament amend the law. Downing Street and the UK Department of Constitutional Affairs have refused comment on the matter. Read the Panorama program transcript; the BBC has posted an associeted report. The Scotsman has more.

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