WINDSOR: Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle became husband and wife in a star-studded Windsor Castle ceremony yesterday, filled with traditional pomp and modern twists-and watched the world over. The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex exchanged vows at the altar in St. George’s Chapel in an emotional event that brought the biracial US TV star into the heart of the British monarchy.
As some 100,000 packed the sun-baked Windsor streets outside, Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family were joined by stars including Oprah Winfrey, Elton John, George Clooney and David Beckham. The couple held hands throughout and exchanged vows in a traditional Church of England wedding featuring unusual turns. US pastor Michael Curry delivered an impassioned address and a gospel choir sang “Stand By Me”.
With the words “I will”, 33-year-old Harry, and Meghan, 36, declared they would love, comfort, honor and protect each other. Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, looked visibly moved.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Church of England’s spiritual leader, declared them legally wed, saying: “They have declared their marriage by the joining of hands and by the giving and receiving of rings. “I therefore proclaim that they are husband and wife.”
With her father recovering from a heart operation in Mexico, Markle walked down the aisle on her own, before being accompanied to the altar by Harry’s father Prince Charles. Her flowing white dress was designed by Clare Waight Keller at the French fashion house Givenchy. Made from a double bonded silk cady, it contains floral designs from all 53 Commonwealth countries. The new duke and duchess will spend much of their time working with youth in the Commonwealth. Her bouquet included flowers hand-picked by Harry from the gardens of Kensington Palace.
Smiles at the altar
Waiting at the altar, Harry was wearing the blue doeskin frockcoat uniform of a major in the Blues and Royals, the regiment he served with in Afghanistan during his 10 years in the British army. His brother and best man Prince William wore a matching uniform, emphasizing the brothers’ close bond.
Harry looked at Meghan and smiled as they heard how marriage is “the foundation of family life in which children are born”. The couple held hands and giggled at the altar and smiled as they heard Curry’s firebrand address.
Stars in the pews included Serena Williams, Idris Elba, James Blunt, Tom Hardy and James Corden. Harry’s ex-girlfriends Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas also attended.
Up to 100,000 people, many decked out in patriotic paraphernalia, packed the streets of Windsor to get a glimpse of the newlyweds on their open-top carriage tour through the town afterwards.
Some well-wishers had camped overnight. Revellers also packed into bars to watch the wedding as far afield as Sydny and Hong Kong. Many in the Windsor crowds offered particular good wishes to the bride after her father had to miss the wedding. “After the week she’s had, she needs some support,” said Karen Wallace, 53, from Chicago.
Markle’s ring has been made with Welsh gold, as is traditional for royal weddings, while Harry’s is made of platinum. Before the wedding, Queen Elizabeth conferred the title Duke of Sussex on her grandson Harry, meaning Markle will be known as the Duchess of Sussex.
Breaking the barriers
Windsor was decked out with flags and bunting, and there was a carnival area on the Long Walk, the sweeping tree-lined avenue down which the royal couple were to drive. Thousands of fans arrived at dawn, bearing rugs and picnics, Union Jack flags and royalist paraphernalia, and the prosecco was flowing freely well before the first guests arrived. “We planned to stay in a hotel but we got caught up in all the excitement and we stayed here last night, unprepared,” said Karen Long, from Texas.
She said the fact that Markle was mixed-race was a huge moment, saying: “We all wanted to be a princess, we thought we couldn’t and there she is, breaking all the barriers!”
The couple met on a blind date in July 2016 and had a whirlwind romance, criss-crossing the Atlantic as she continued filming in Toronto. Harry has had his own troubles and recently admitted he was close to a breakdown at one point in his youth.
He was scarred by his mother Diana’s death in a Paris car crash in 1997 when he was just 12, and he had to mourn in the full glare of the world’s media. His wedding featured a hymn used at Diana’s funeral, at which he and William had walked behind her casket.
‘Going to change things’
Sixth in line to the throne, Harry is one of the most popular royals, while Markle, a divorcee, is seen as a breath of fresh air for the monarchy. “I think it’s really nice that he’s marrying someone that’s representative of modern society,” said Sam Lukes, 28, who came from nearby Reading to see the procession.
“They are going to change things,” said Irene Lennon, a 72-year-old from Edinburgh. Retired nurse Cynthia Osborne, from Cardiff, said of the international attention: “I think they’re a little bit envious of us, not just the Americans but the Europeans too.”
The event is a welcome respite for a country still burdened by austerity and divided over Brexit. Despite the meticulous palace preparations, feuding in Markle’s fractious family overshadowed the wedding build-up. Her estranged older half-siblings, who were not invited, have vented widely in the media. – AFP