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Friday, January 29, 1999 Published at 10:49 GMT


Charles and Camilla get positive press

Charles and Camilla: Blanket coverage

The first public appearance of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles together has prompted a warm reaction from Friday's papers - and sparked tabloid speculation that they could eventually marry.

The BBC's Jennie Bond: "The picture the world's media had been waiting for"
An army of photographers waited outside the Ritz Hotel in London on Thursday evening for the couple to appear in what is seen as an informal acknowledgement of their longstanding relationship.

Photographs of the two emerging from a 50th birthday party at the Ritz for Mrs Parker Bowles' sister Annabel Elliott dominated the front pages of almost every national newspaper, even though they only appeared for a brief few seconds together before being driven away.

The Mirror devoted six pages of coverage to the event, under the headline "At Last", referring to speculation that the prince and Mrs Parker Bowles have enjoyed a relationship for at least 25 years.

The paper said it was now up to the couple to win the approval of the British public, adding in a two-page headline "It will all end in ... marriage".

[ image: Papers hailed the appearance as
Papers hailed the appearance as "historic"
The Sun also gave six pages of coverage under the slightly less respectful banner "Meet The Mistress".

But in an encouraging editorial, the paper praised Mrs Parker Bowles' bravery in the face of intense media interest, saying: "She'll never replace Diana. But many will think better of Camilla having seen her courage last night."

The middle-market tabloids were no less positive with the Daily Mail running the headline "Together" and describing the event as "the culmination of a carefully-laid strategy that completes Camilla's coming out and anoints her officially as Charles's escort".

[ image: Camilla arrives at the Ritz]
Camilla arrives at the Ritz
The Express stated the significance of the first appearance more bluntly under the headline "It's Official, We're A Couple", while the weightier broadsheets concerned themselves with how the event would be interpreted by the clergy and supporters of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Daily Telegraph said: "The decision of the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles to be photographed in public will be regarded by many as long overdue.

"It will also bring renewed criticism from some quarters of the Church of England and the more partisan followers of the late Diana."

The Times underlined the careful staging of the photograph with proper consideration to the memory of Diana, saying: "Now that the first anniversary of that tragedy is well past, the couple finally appeared to feel that the time was right."

The Guardian described it as "the latest - albeit most significant - step in Charles's long campaign to persuade the public to accept the enduring fact of his relationship with Mrs Parker Bowles".

The Independent ignored the story with the exception of a large front-page photograph above the caption: "Photographers' stepladders outside the Ritz hotel in London yesterday before the 50th birthday party of Annabel Elliot, an art dealer."

The Star also chose not to cover the story on its front page.

An estimated 200 photographers and journalists from around the world were there to witness the occasion, having set up 60 ladders lined three-deep in anticipation outside the hotel.

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