Millions watch as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say ‘I do’ at star-studded wedding
Britain’s Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle became husband and wife in a star-studded Windsor Castle ceremony on Saturday as millions watched
Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle became husband and wife in a star-studded Windsor Castle ceremony on Saturday, 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 television star into the heart of the British monarchy.
As some 100,000 packed the sun-baked Windsor streets outside, Queen Elizabeth 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, honour 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 Thomas 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.
After the wedding, Thomas Markle said that he had watched the ceremony on television.
“My baby looks beautiful and she looks very happy. I wish I were there and I wish them all my love and all happiness,” he told US celebrity news website TMZ.
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.
Her tiara was a 125-year-old diamond bandeau designed to accommodate a brooch given to Queen Mary in 1893 to commemerate her engagement to then-Prince George. George was crowned - and she with him - in 1911.
Queen Elizabeth inherited the piece in 1953, where it has rested alongside hundreds of similar items in the royal vaults.
Tradition dictated that the queen lend her a piece for the wedding, and prior to the event there was speculation that she might wear the one that belonged to Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana.
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.
Waiting at the altar, Harry was wearing the blue doeskin frock coat 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, emphasising 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”.
Then it was Curry’s turn to speak, with a with a 14-minute, barnstorming sermon on the power of love that won smiles in the ancient British chapel and praise across the internet.
Curry, who has campaigned for LGBT rights despite some discomfort within the church, invoked the US history of slavery, quoting spiritual songs praising God, as well as quoting Dr Martin Luther King Jnr’s thoughts on the power of love.
“There’s power in love,” he said at the start of an address that jolted the congregation after a long period of serene choral music and formal ceremony. “Do not underestimate it. Anyone who has ever fallen in love knows what I mean.”
By the end, he was referring to Harry and Meghan as “my brother, my sister,” and telling them “God love you, God bless you” before the opening notes of Stand by Me began.
“Dr King was right. We must discover love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world,” Curry said in hushed tones, grasping the lectern.
“Imagine our neighbourhoods and communities when love is the way. Imagine our governments and countries when love is the way,” he said in a rare nod to politics in a highly orchestrated British state occasion.
The couple held hands and giggled at the altar and smiled as they heard Curry’s firebrand address.
Also in attendance were an array of stars from both sides of the Atlantic, with tennis champ Serena Williams, and celeb couple George Clooney and Amal Clooney among the American celebrities in attendance.
From the UK side were actors Idris Elba and Tom Hardy, singer James Blunt and comedian and chat show host James Corden. Also in the pews were soccer player David Beckham and his wife, Victoria – once known as “Posh Spice” and now in genuinely posh company.
Singer Elton John - who famously rewrote his hit single Candle in the Wind in memory of Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, was also in the crowd, along with his husband, David Furnish.
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.
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.
Following the wedding, the couple rode in a carriage around Windsor, waving to the crowds for around 25 minutes. Their parents followed the carriage in Bentley limousines.
While they toured the area, the guests moved to nearby Frogmore House for a reception lunch hosted by Queen Elizabeth and awaited the arrival of the royal couple.
The standing meal, attended by 600 people, featured canapés made from seasonal British produce and a nontraditional wedding cake.
Among the finger-foods were Scottish langoustines, grilled English asparagus and croquette of confit Windsor lamb, as well as bowls of chicken fricassee with morel mushrooms, pea and mint risotto and slow-roasted pork belly.
But the place of honour went to the wedding cake by California-raised London master baker Claire Ptak.
The layered lemon and elderflower cake featured ingredients including 200 Amalfi lemons and 10 bottles of elderflower cordial from Queen Elizabeth II’s Sandringham estate.
The cake was decorated with Swiss meringue buttercream and 150 fresh flowers, mainly British and in season, including peonies and roses.
The reception was hosted by Prince William, his brother’s best man, and included speeches by Prince Charles, and the bride and groom.
Elton John performed at the reception, Kensington Palace said, although it did not identify the songs that he played.
As the royal couple left the wedding, 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 they were to drive.
Thousands of fans arrived at dawn, bearing rugs and picnics, Union flags and royalist paraphernalia, and the prosecco was flowing freely well before the first guests arrived.
People from as far afield as Canada, Australia and the Philippines waved Union Jack flags, donned tiaras, royal t-shirts hats and scarves, cheering and dancing as they watched the ceremony on big screens.
“It’s like a dream,” said Theodora Torres, 71, who came from Los Angeles with her husband.
Karen Long, from Texas, said: “We planned to stay in a hotel but we got caught up in all the excitement and we stayed here last night, unprepared.”
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!”
Harry and Meghan drew huge cheers when they went past in an open-topped horse-drawn carriage after the wedding, escorted by soldiers in gleaming ceremonial uniforms.
Three royal fans in their fifties in wedding dresses waited for the prince at the castle gates, with signs on their backs saying: “Harry I’m here”.
“My husband knows I’m here but he doesn’t know what I’m wearing,” joked Lorraine Rains, 57, from St Helens in northwest England.
Two Canadians wore maple leaf onesies, while others were clad from head to foot in the British and American flags as a town crier barked out a congratulatory message.
“We have travelled a long way for a very, very exciting event,” said Jessica Kirsopp, a 31-year-old childcare worker from Australia.
“It’s something that is probably not going to happen for a little bit, until [Prince Harry’s young nephew Prince] George gets married or there’s another coronation.”
Some of the most fanatical supporters camped for days, seeking to secure the best spots to watch the happy couple ride by.
“I know it is going to sound very creepy but I would love to touch them – just shake their hand,” said Kristen Henry, 34, a radio host who had travelled from Australia.
Britons were similarly jubilant; perhaps an unusual feeling at a time when the country has been somewhat divided by pro- and anti-Brexit sentiment, and tensions over government austerity are high.
“It’s a nice way to bring everyone together... at least just for the day,” said Maha Khan, 22, watching the ceremony at a London pub called the Duke of Sussex – Prince Harry’s new title.
“I think solidarity-wise it’s a nice thing – everyone’s generally in a good mood.”
Cheers rang out as the first images of the wedding cars were screened inside the pub, and as the ceremony started it was standing room only in the main room with all eyes glued to the screen.
“I feel like the patriotic spirit is really prevalent in London because of where we are,” said the pub’s party organiser, Sam Smith, 25, draped in a Union Jack.
“And everyone loves an excuse for a party.”
Harry and Meghan 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.
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.”