In a statement that was designed to end an escalating debate over whether the heir to the throne and his long-time companion could have a civil wedding on April 8, the Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer attempted to quash concerns.

“The government is satisfied that it is lawful for the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Parker Bowles, like anyone else, to marry by a civil ceremony in accordance with Part III of the Marriage Act 1949,” he said.

The legislation updated the law on civil marriage, but one section — number 79 — stated that it did not affect the royal family, prompting some experts to argue that Prince Charles could not wed Camilla Parker Bowles.

Lord Falconer, however, said the clause merely referred to traditional procedures applying to royal marriages such as the requirement of the sovereign’s consent for certain weddings — as was given by the Queen Elizabeth II in the case of Prince Charles and his fiancee.

But it did not apply to the civil ceremony clause, the Lord Chancellor said.

“We are aware that different views have been taken in the past; but we consider that these were over-cautious, and we are clear that the interpretation I have set out in this statement is correct,” he said in a statement that was presented to the House of Lords.

In addition, he argued that since 2000 any legislation should be compatible with a couple’s right to marry, under the Human Rights Act.

“This, in our view, puts the modern meaning of the 1949 Act beyond doubt,” Lord Falconer said.

Some legal experts have argued that only a religious marriage between Prince Charles, 56, and Camilla Parker Bowles, 57, would be legal, but this is impossible according to Church of England law as both are divorced.

A former attorney general, Sir Nicholas Lyell, suggested this week that emergency legislation may be needed to clarify the legal position before the wedding.

He said Lord Falconer’s position risked being regarded as “tenuous” and that the government should introduce a short bill to clear up the matter.

“The Human Rights Act does help but it is an unsatisfactory state of affairs when the legality of the marriage of the Prince of Wales has to depend on that,” he was reported as saying on BBC News.

After it was revealed the Queen would not attend the marriage, both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House were quick to deny her non-attendance was a snub to her eldest son and Mrs Parker Bowles, saying it was intended to keep the civil ceremony at Windsor’s Guildhall a low-key affair.

Commentators have also suggested that, as Supreme Head of the Church of England, the Queen would have been reluctant to attend a civil marriage.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will attend a blessing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, followed by a reception.

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