Prince Charles to Wed Camilla Parker Bowles

LONDON -- Britain's heir to the throne, Prince Charles, revealed on Thursday that he would marry Camilla Parker Bowles, sparking intense debate about whether his divorced, longtime lover should become queen.

A top aide confirmed the shock news. Charles' office promised to announce more details soon. The ceremony is expected to take place at Windsor Castle on April 6.

Parker Bowles is the great love of Charles' life -- the pair met in their 20s at a polo match -- but the 58-year-old mother of two has faced an uphill struggle to rival his former wife, the late Princess Diana, in the public's affection.

Charles, 56, was divorced in 1996 from Diana, who blamed "rottweiler" Parker Bowles and the prying media for the breakup. Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997.

Since then, and after years of choreographed appearances, Parker Bowles has been accepted as Charles' partner.

Charles is due to assume the throne after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. He would also assume a titular role as head of the Church of England, which is divided over the propriety of marrying divorcees.

Charles' sons, William and Harry, in line to assume the throne after their father, have now accepted Parker Bowles, who shares rooms with Charles at his London residence.

"The issue is whether she will take the full style and title of Princess of Wales and whether any children would have any place in the succession," said David Starkey, a historian and constitutional expert.

"She would have to take the status of Prince Charles and ultimately that of queen unless there is legislation passed to the contrary," he said.