Announcement of engagement
Henry, Duke of Sussex, better known as Prince Harry,[note 2] is the second son of Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales. He and Meghan Markle, an American actress best known for her role in the American legal-drama television series Suits, have been in a relationship since June 2016. The relationship was first acknowledged on 8 November 2016, when an official statement was released from the royal family’s communications secretary addressing the “wave of abuse and harassment” directed toward Markle.
On 27 November 2017, Clarence House announced that Prince Harry would marry Meghan Markle in the spring of 2018. They were engaged earlier the same month in London, with the Prince giving Markle a bespoke engagement ring made by Cleave and Company, consisting of a large central diamond from Botswana, with two smaller diamonds from his mother’s jewellery collection. At the same time, it was announced that they would live at Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace following their marriage.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh expressed their delight at the news, while congratulations came in from various political leaders, including the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. After the announcement, the couple gave an exclusive interview to Mishal Husain of BBC News.
Markle will be the second American[note 3] and the first person of mixed race heritage to marry into the British royal family. The engagement announcement prompted much comment about the possible social significance of Meghan Markle becoming a proudly mixed-race royal.
The Queen consented to the marriage under the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which allows the monarch to approve or disapprove marriages of the first six persons in the line of succession. Harry was fifth in line at the time of his engagement. The Queen‘s consent was declared to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 14 March 2018.
Although Markle attended a private Catholic school in her early years, she did not identify as Roman Catholic. On 6 March 2018, she was baptised and confirmed into the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at St. James’s Palace. The Church no longer denies marriage to divorced persons with a living spouse. After the engagement, Markle began the years-long process of becoming a British citizen. She will retain her U.S. citizenship during the process, but Kensington Palace have indicated that the decision on whether she will retain dual nationality has not yet been made. The couple was invited to celebrate Christmas 2017 with the royal family at the Queen’s Sandringham estate. The official engagement photographs were taken by Alexi Lubomirski, a former assistant to Mario Testino, at Frogmore House, and were issued by Kensington Palace on 21 December 2017.
The wedding took place on Saturday, 19 May 2018 at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The venue was previously the site for the weddings of Prince Harry’s uncle, the Earl of Wessex, and his cousin, Peter Phillips, as well as the blessing for the marriage of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, Harry’s stepmother.
Experts expect the wedding to cost around £500,000; the royal family have announced that they will pay for the wedding. The costs for the cake, the florist, and the catering have been estimated to be £50,000, £110,000, and £286,000 respectively, and the overall cost is expected to be around £32 million. The security costs are expected to be lower than that of the 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The municipal government in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has reportedly spent £2.6 million on cleaning the town and roads. It has also been predicted that the wedding would trigger a tourism boom and boost the economy up to £500 million.
The wedding dress was designed by Clare Waight Keller.
The British government decided that the wedding day would not be a bank holiday, as was done for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. The wedding was on the same date as the FA Cup Final, which Prince Harry’s brother William normally attends in his role as President of the Football Association. Holding the royal wedding on a weekend is a break with the royal tradition of having weddings on a weekday. On 12 February 2018, Kensington Palace announced that the ceremony will occur at 12:00 Midday BST. Following the ceremony, there was a carriage procession through Windsor. Two receptions are bring held; the first, for those attending the ceremony, will be hosted by the Queen and will take place in St. George’s Hall after the carriage procession. A second reception at Frogmore House, for family and close friends and hosted by the Prince of Wales, will occur later in the day.
The wedding cake is a layered lemon and elderflower cake and decorated with peonies in shades of white and cream. The cake designer Claire Ptak based in London was chosen in March 2018.
Approximately 250 members of the British Armed Forces were involved in the wedding, the majority coming from units that have a connection with Prince Harry:
- Members of the Household Cavalry formed a staircase party at the chapel, and also rode as escort.[note 4]
- Street liners came from:
- 1st Battalion, Irish Guards
- 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles[note 5]
- 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps[note 5]
- Royal Navy[note 6]
- Royal Marines[note 7]
- Royal Air Force[note 8]
On 26 April 2018, Kensington Palace announced that Prince Harry had selected his older brother, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, as best man. There was initially no confirmation as to whether Prince William would miss the FA Cup Final, which he would normally attend in his role as President of The Football Association, or if he would be able to attend both the wedding and the football. A statement from Kensington Palace that the timing of the wedding would not clash with the match was released in December 2017. However, it was confirmed in March that the Duke would not be attending the final that day.
There were suggestions that the bride’s friend Jessica Mulroney would be her maid of honour. In early May 2018, there was confirmation that there would be no maid of honour, and that the bridesmaids and page boys would all be children. A total of ten bridesmaids and page boys were chosen, with the bride and groom each selecting five: two of Meghan Markle’s godchildren, seven-year old Rylan Ritt and her six-year old sister Remi, as well as Brian, John and Ivy Mulroney, the three children of her friend Jessica Mulroney, were chosen by the bride, while Prince Harry’s niece and nephew, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge, as well as his godchildren Florence van Cutsem, Zalie Warren and Jasper Dyer, were selected by the groom.
On 18 May 2018, Kensington Palace announced Prince Charles would accompany Meghan Markle down the aisle, after she confirmed her father, Thomas Markle, would not be attending the wedding due to heart surgery. The bride spent the night before the wedding at Cliveden House along with her mother, while the groom stayed at Coworth Park Hotel with his brother. Markle made her way to the church accompanied by her mother.
From 8.00 am, the public started to arrive at the grounds of Windsor Castle. The main congregation and the guests all arrived at the abbey at 9.30 am followed by members of the Royal Family. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were the last members of the Royal Family to depart for the ceremony, as is tradition, arriving at the church at 11.52 am. Shortly after, Markle arrived with the party of junior attendants. She proceeded down the aisle followed by the attendants, where the Prince of Wales met her to escort her through the quire. He accompanied her to the altar, where Prince Harry was standing.
Prince Harry’s aunt, Baroness Fellowes, sister of Harry’s mother the late Diana, Princess of Wales, delivered a reading. The Dean of Windsor, David Conner, conducted the service with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, performing the marriage ceremony. The sermon was delivered by The Most Reverend Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church (the American member church of the Anglican Communion). Curry’s address emphasised the redemptive property of love. The Queen’s chaplain, The Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, and the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, Anba Angaelos offered the prayers.
In the marriage vows, the couple promised to “to love and to cherish” each other. This was sealed by the exchange of rings. After the signing of the registers, Harry and Meghan walked down the aisle, pausing briefly to bow and curtsey to the Queen. They were followed in procession by other members of the bridal party, and their families.
Two choirs, an orchestra and fanfare trumpeters provided music for the service. The orchestra was made up of musicians from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. In addition to the Choir of St George’s Chapel, the Kingdom Choir, a gospel group, also sang, while the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry gave a fanfare. The State Trumpeters included Kate Sandford, thus making her the first female state trumpeter at a British royal wedding. The music was under the overall direction of James Vivian, the chapel’s Organist and Director of Music; the Kingdom Choir was conducted by Karen Gibson, and the orchestra was conducted by Christopher Warren-Green.
Music during the service included “Eternal source of light divine” (from the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne) by George Frederick Handel; the motet “If ye love me” by Thomas Tallis; the song “Stand by me” by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Ben E. King, arranged for choir by Mark Delisser; and “The Lord bless you and keep you” by John Rutter. Works performed during the signing of the register included Sicilienne by Maria Theresia von Paradis, Après un rêve by Gabriel Fauré and Ave Maria by Franz Schubert (soloist was the cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason). During the procession, the musicians performed the Allegro from Symphony no. 1 in B-flat by William Boyce and “This Little Light of Mine” by Etta James, Jester Hairston and Harry Dixon Loes.
In April 2018, it was announced that an “official list” of domestic and international political leaders was not required for the wedding and that Prime Minister Theresa May, Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, and other leaders would not attend the ceremony. President of the United States Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama were also not invited. This is in contrast to the wedding of Prince Harry’s elder brother, which had a large number of such guests due to his position as a future monarch. The decision not to invite political leaders to the wedding was taken in part because of the limitations of the venue, and also took into account Prince Harry’s position as sixth in line to the throne.
With a smaller ceremony and reception at St George’s Hall, the guest list included approximately 600 people, most of whom have a “direct relationship” with the couple. Also, 200 close friends of the couple were invited to attend the evening reception at Frogmore House. Approximately 1,200 members of the public were invited to greet the couple outside the chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. The invitees outside the chapel were “people from charities, Windsor Castle community members, people from the royal households and the Crown Estate, and local school children.”
Sarah, Duchess of York, the former wife of Prince Andrew, was invited to the wedding even though she had not been invited to the weddings of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011, Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly in 2008 or Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall in 2011. However, she was not invited to the evening reception at Frogmore House hosted by Prince Charles and was reportedly “deeply upset” by her omission.
Amongst the non-royal guests were Meghan’s Suits co-stars Patrick J. Adams (with wife Troian Bellisario), Gabriel Macht, Sarah Rafferty, Gina Torres and Abigail Spencer, actors George Clooney (with wife Amal Clooney) and Idris Elba, actresses Oprah Winfrey, Priyanka Chopra and Carey Mulligan, Late Show host James Corden, tennis player Serena Williams (with husband Alexis Ohanian), David and Victoria Beckham, musicians Elton John, James Blunt, Joss Stone and Marcus Mumford, and rugby players Jonny Wilkinson and James Haskell. Harry’s ex-girlfriends Cressida Bonas and Chelsy Davy were in attendance as well.
In April 2018, the couple requested that, rather than sending wedding gifts, people should make a charitable donation. They announced a list of seven organisations, none of which they had a formal association with, that they had nominated to benefit from such donations:
- CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association): The small charity supports more than 1,000 young people living with HIV in the UK and Ireland.
- Crisis: The national homeless body works with thousands of people a year to help rebuild their lives.
- The Myna Mahila Foundation: The organisation, based in Mumbai, helps empower women through offering stable employment and breaking cultural taboos around menstrual hygiene. Myna Mahila also teaches women life skills such as maths, English and self defence.
- Scotty’s Little Soldiers: The charity supports children who have lost a parent while serving in the British Armed Forces.
- StreetGames: The organisation uses sport to help young people and communities become healthier and safer.
- Surfers Against Sewage: The national marine conservation body works to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife.
- The Wilderness Foundation UK: Vulnerable teenagers from urban communities are taught about the great outdoors and rural employment opportunities.
Coverage of the royal wedding was shown on BBC One, ITV, Sky News and E! (Europe) in the UK. In the United States coverage aired on CBS, NBC, ABC, E!, PBS, BBC America, TLC, FOX, and HBO. CBC will broadcast the programme in Canada, while TVNZ screened it in New Zealand along with SBS and Nine in Australia. The wedding was also streamed live online on YouTube via the British Monarchy‘s official The Royal Channel.
Huw Edwards hosted coverage for BBC TV with Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young and BBC Radio 2 DJ Dermot O’Leary. The BBC Radio coverage was co-hosted by Chris Evans and Scarlett Moffatt. Phillip Schofield and Julie Etchingham hosted coverage for ITV. Kay Burley, Anna Botting and Alastair Bruce, among others, hosted coverage for Sky. CBS’s coverage began at 4 a.m. EST with CBS Presents “The Royal Wedding”. Gayle King provided commentary during the broadcast. ABC began its coverage at 5 a.m. EST with a special edition of Good Morning America. NBC aired the ceremony at 4:30 a.m. EST with a special edition of The Today Show. The pay subscription network HBO hosted a live broadcast titled “The Royal Wedding Live with Cord and Tish!” starting at 7:30 a.m. EST. The parody hosts were Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan, the alter egos of actors Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon. BBC America provided a live and simulcast of BBC ONE’s coverage, albeit with limited commercial breaks.
It also aired on the Republic of Ireland‘s national broadcaster RTÉ, despite the fact that the British royals no longer rule over that part of Ireland. Sinn Féin TD John Brady said “As an Irish Republican living in a so called ‘Republic’ I totally oppose RTE using my TV license money to broadcast the wedding of a privileged English monarch [sic].” Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile also spoke against the broadcast. A group called “Anti Imperialist Action Ireland” also opposed the broadcast, saying “the decision by RTÉ to broadcast the wedding live is part of a wider agenda to portray the struggle for Irish National Liberation as finished, and to present the relationship between Ireland and Britain as a normal one […] the illegal presence of British Imperialism in Ireland will continue to be resisted and Irish Socialist Republicans are committed to challenging and smashing the Normalisation agenda.” RTÉ defended its decision, citing “huge public interest” and that the coverage was being provided for free.