Written by Martin Kugler
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Sunday, 30 November 2003

image for Prince Charles to Marry Gay Bishop
Prince Charles (right)

The Prince of Wales and Bishop Gene Robinson have ended weeks of speculation with the sudden announcement that they are to be married.

With the following joint statement Buckingham Palace and the Diocese of New Hampshire made the engagement official: "It is with greatest pleasure that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh announce the betrothal of their beloved son HRH the Prince of Wales to the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of New Hampshire."

Prince Charles proposed to the Bishop some weeks ago at a private dinner at Buckingham Palace before he went to America.

Charles wanted him to use the trip to think over his proposal but he accepted immediately and Charles gave him a diamond and sapphire engagement ring.

Despite the intense public interest, the couple managed to keep their news a secret.

Gene Robinson recently hit the headlines when he was formally elevated to the position of Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. Both were described as the most controversial Anglican couple since Henry VIII.

The Prince will become titular head of the Anglican Faith when he becomes King. Bishop Robinson said that the Church must relax its views on morality or face "odd" situations such as the feud that erupted over his consecration or the controversial relationship between Prince Charles and himself.

He made the argument that for the time being the two were cohabiting rather than marrying because the rules of the Church of England stopped divorcees remarrying in church.

Bishop Robinson, who is 56, will leave his job at St. Paul's Church and move out of his quarters in Concord, New Hampshire to live in Clarence House, London until the marriage.

In an interview, the 55-year-old Prince said he was "delighted and frankly amazed that Gene is prepared to take me on".

Looking shyly up, sandy-haired Bishop Robinson said he too was "delighted and thrilled, blissfully happy".

Asked how he would cope with a dramatic change to his life she said: "I've seen this before and with Prince Charles beside me I cannot go wrong."

Tributes to the couple were made in both Houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said the news brought "great pleasure" to government and MPs.

They will be married later next year, but exactly when and where has yet to be decided.

Michael Jackson, who will attend the ceremony, said he was also very happy for the couple. Speaking outside his Las Vegas hotel, he said the Prince and the Bishop had handled the pressures of constant media attention over the last six months very well.

"It will be easier now. He will be under some protection whereas before he had to face it all on his own," he said. Michael Jackson has already announced that he will provide the music for wedding ceremony to the tune of "Vicky Gene".

Bishop Robinson's ex-wife, his two daughters Ella and Jamee and his current partner of 13 years were unavailable for comment.

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