Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha
History was made saturday as Prince Harry, now Duke of Sussex, married his American beau, actress Meghan Markle at a very emotional and unconventional wedding in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
The ceremony capped a week-long frenzy that engulfed the whole of England and the rest of world. Thousands of people, who travelled from far and near, camped on the open grounds of the Long Walk, the Carriage Procession route, outside the Windsor Castle ahead of the Big Day, just to catch a glimpse of their beloved Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The mixed multitude had white faces, blacks and Hispanics who wanted to be part of the history making ceremony, particularly at a time when the terms of diversity and inclusion have a very strong social voice.
On the eve of the wedding, Prince Harry in company of his older brother, Prince William the Duke of Cambridge stepped outside to greet well-wishers. Following the footsteps of her husband, Markle did same, even hugging some members of the crowd, a gesture that was frowned at by the conservative English establishment, who do not appreciate that owing to her being in the spotlight, the gesture was natural.
In more ways than one, Prince Harry who is the sixth in line to the throne has expressed his intention to modernize the British monarchy, and his wedding to a woman who is bi-racial, older and an American with no blue blood provided the antecedent to stir such an evolution.
Known for their strict principles which have seen the likes of King Edward VIII abdicate his throne to marry the love of his life, Wallis Simpson, a divorced American in 1936, there were doubts that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II would embrace a descendant of an American slave family as a future grand-daughter in-law. The royal wives of Windsor till saturday had come from a family of respectable standard in the British high society. But Markle’s emergence has changed everything.
She completely re-wrote the history of Windsor marriages as the first biracial bride to have an unconventional wedding ceremony within the high walls of the royal castle. Indeed, the ceremony was exceptional in many ways.
From Markle walking down the nave alone due to the absence of her father, Thomas, a former Hollywood lighting director who could not attend the wedding due to health issues, and later accompanied from the Quire to the altar by her Father-in-law, Prince Charles; the rousing speech of Bishop Michael Curry, the American preacher who is also the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, who quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. and mentioned slavery and the healing power of love; the reading by a black chaplain to the Queen, Rose Hudson-Wilkin; the soul-lifting rendition of Ben E. King’s 1961 song ‘Stand by Me’ by Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir; down to the cello performance by the first black musician to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year award in 2016, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the ceremony infused with a good dose of African-American heritage. Diversity never looked so beautiful as aristocrats of the British society mingled with different people of colour in the gathering.
Modern Day Cinderella
On all sides, the odds were stacked against Meghan, daughter of an African-American social worker and yoga instructor, Doria Ragland and a retired Hollywood lighting director, Thomas who is a Caucasian. Meghan may be described as the modern day fairy-tale character, Cinderella with her humble background, though no wicked step-mother, but she has older step-siblings, Thomas Markle Jr. and Samantha Grant who posted negative comments in the media about her.
Previously married to actor and producer, Trevor Engelson until their divorce in 2013, Meghan’s past made her the least candidate for the royal family. Yet, providence opened a new chapter for her when her path crossed that of the charming Prince Harry in 2016. Introduced by a mutual friend, the couple started dating in June, 2016 and by October that year, the royal family had released an official statement confirming their relationship while admonishing the media for defamatory remarks targeted at Meghan.
They announced their engagement in November, 2017, when Prince Harry gave her a ring that consists of a large central diamond from Botswana, with two smaller diamonds from the jewellery collection of his mother, the late Princess of Wales, Diana. Meghan embracing her new role deleted her social media accounts as well as quit her acting career.
As the day to the wedding drew near, critics weighed in on how the mixed-race actress will be accepted into the royal family. Will her strong beliefs as a feminist fade or will she impact on the British monarchy in her own way?
The wedding yesterday was proof that Meghan is not only accepted into the family but also in a subtle manner, entrenching her feminist beliefs into the royal system. Having planned the marriage service with her Prince, she ensured that her heritage was not swallowed by the British monarchy. It wasn’t aggressive but suitably planned to achieve the required balance at such a high-profile ceremony. From her wedding dress designed by the acclaimed British designer and first female artistic director at the French Fashion House, Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller to her decision to walk in unaccompanied, echoed her feminism beliefs even as she climbs the rungs of the ladder of British royalty.
The fanfare surrounding the royal wedding heightened the true meaning of the occasion as millions of people around the world watched the event. There was no doubt that the Duke of Sussex is really in love with his bride. Arriving earlier on foot with his older brother Prince William, who was also his best man, the Duke smiled and waved at the crowd. He was looking radiant in his frockcoat uniform of the Blues and Royals. The look of apprehension was visible on his face as he awaited the arrival of his bride. A breath-taking silence engulfed the high walls of the chapel as the royal bride of the day, Meghan Markle walked in alone to the chapel. Harry’s face beamed with pride as he watched his father walked his beau to the altar. He smiled beautifully more than once as they approached. Muttering a ‘thank you’ to his father, he looked into the loving eyes of his bride with all the sincerity in his heart and told her, ‘You look amazing’.
Intimate moments of sweet whispers and touching of hands including the awkward moment when the groom had difficulty slipping the ring on his bride’s finger marked some of the highlights of the day. The couple conveyed all the intimate confessions which they couldn’t say aloud at the service through their eyes and hands. The groom was often seen holding the hands of his bride as if someone would snatch her away if he let go. Their love was indeed sparkling and earned a few unshed tears from the guests, particularly Meghan’s mother who watched with misty eyes, looking all modest in her Oscar de le Renta lime and lemon dress.
The exchange of wedding vows which was taken from Common Worship, the Church of England’s standard liturgy, first published in 2000 was a break from tradition. Prince William and Kate Middleton chose a slightly amended version of the vows from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer at their wedding in 2011.
After the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby declared them husband and wife, the newlyweds stepped outside the chapel where about 2640 guests from different charities the couple had worked with including the 1200 members of the public selected by their Lord Lieutenants cheered them on. Under their full glare, Meghan and Prince Harry shared an intimate kiss, a tradition that was made popular by his late mother. It has become a fashion for the bride to turn to the groom and ask if they should kiss there since kissing was not allowed inside the church. Meghan did same and was kissed by the groom on the steps of the church. Louder cheers greeted them as they embarked on the carriage procession, a roughly two-mile procession, traveling along the High Street through the town of Windsor, before returning to the castle by the Long Walk. The couple travelled in an Ascot Landau carriage pulled by Windsor Grey horses. Windsor Grey horses have been pulling the carriages of British monarchs and members of the royal family since the 1900s.
The New Titles
On the morning of their wedding day as is customary of British blue blood, Her Majesty conferred dukedom titles to her grandson Prince Harry who is now known as the Duke of Sussex while his wife is addressed as the Duchess of Sussex.
Royal Couple Attire
Since the announcement of their wedding, fashion critics weighed in on which designer will dress the royal couple. Despite all speculations on whether he will wear a suit or a military uniform, Harry chose to wear the Household Calvary Uniform, as a recognition of his military days. The Prince served in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries until his departure in 2015. He is also recognised for introducing Invictus, a game for war veterans. His recent rank in the military is the post of a Captain.
Shortly after his arrival, his father Prince Charles arrived with his wife, Camilla, followed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II who walked unaided with Prince Philip. For this special occasion, the Queen donned a lemon suit with matching hat. The Duchess of Cambridge Catherine arrived last before Meghan with the pageboys and little bride maids. Meghan who left her hotel in the company of her mother chose to ride to the chapel with, Brian and John, the 7-year-old twin sons of her best friend, well-known Canadian stylist, Jessica Mulroney.
For her look, the former American actress chose to keep it simple. The double bonded silk caddy wedding dress had a train that was 16-metres long, and a veil that had hand-embroidered flowers from all 53 countries of the Commonwealth. Her veil was held in place by Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara, lent to Ms. Markle by The Queen. The diamond bandeau is English and was made in 1932, with the entre brooch dating from 1893. Her earrings and bracelet were made by Cartier while her wedding ring, a piece of Welsh Gold gifted by Her Majesty was crafted by Cleave and Company. The Prince wore a platinum band with a textured finish, Meghan. The bridal shoes were designed by Givenchy.
Prince Harry handpicked several flowers yesterday from their private garden at Kensington Palace to add to the bespoke bridal bouquet designed by florist Philippa Craddock for the bridal bouque. They include Forget-Me-Nots which were Diana, Princess of Wales’ favourite flower. The couple specifically chose them to honour the memory of the late Princess on this special day.
The myrtle sprigs which Meghan carried were from stems planted at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, by Queen Victoria in 1845, and from a plant grown from the myrtle used in The Queen’s wedding bouquet of 1947.
The tradition of carrying myrtle begun after Queen Victoria was given a nosegay containing myrtle by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Gotha in Germany. In the same year, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Osborne House as a family retreat, and a sprig from the posy was planted against the terrace walls, where it continues to thrive today.
The myrtle was first carried by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, when she married in 1858.
The new Duchess hair was styled by Serge Normant, with make-up by long-time friend and make-up artist Daniel Martin.
Famous Faces at the Ceremony
Only 600 guests who are closely known to the newly-weds, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were invited.
They included A-List celebrities stars media mogul, Oprah Winfrey, international tennis superstar Serena Williams, football star David Beckham and his wife Victoria, Hollywood star George Clooney and his wife Amal, Idris Elba, Priyanka Chopra as well as co-stars of the bride in the american legal TV series ‘Suits’, Patrick Adams and Gabriel Macht.
Other notable faces seen at the ceremony included TV host and comedian James Corden, and singer Elton John who performed at the wedding reception hosted by the Queen. A surprising visitor at the wedding is Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Due to the scandals that surrounded her divorce from the Duke of York, the former duchess was mostly uninvited to ceremonies of this capacity, notably the nuptial ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Catherine.
From colourful union flags, to other memorabilia of the couple, the enthusiastic fans played a major role in boosting the commercial activities in the region. Companies such as the Royal Tea seized the commercial opportunities to boost sales and of course, reposition their brand image. For companies like Royal Tea, a royal bus-tour of Windsor Castle for first-time visitors as well as residents was a good business strategy. Other small businesses sold out cups, t-shirts, and other accessories engraved with a smiling portrait of the newlyweds.
A lemon elderflower cake with butter cream frosting and decorated with fresh flowers was designed by London-based Californian, Claire Ptak.