By PAUL WALDIE
Thursday, May 17, 2018
WINDSOR, ENGLAND -- The biggest royal celebration since the Queen's Diamond Jubilee six years ago takes place on Saturday when Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. More than 100,000 people are expected to descend on Windsor to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds while millions watch the ceremony live on television.
The couple has broken royal convention by holding the wedding on the weekend instead of a weekday, and they aren't planning to go on a honeymoon right afterward, preferring to do their first public engagement as husband and wife next week.
Ms. Markle's background as a divorced American actor with mixed-race parents has also attracted much attention along with her recent confirmation in the Church of England. Kensington Palace says 5,000 members of the media will be covering the event, including 160 photographers and 46 television stations from the United States.
The event has not been without controversy, including a public row over calls in Windsor to round up homeless people before the wedding and attempts by some locals to cash in on the craze by renting out rooms for more than £500 a night, or $868. Ms. Markle's father, Thomas Markle Sr., has also caused a stir by reportedly wavering on whether to attend the service. It's still unclear if he'll show up to walk his daughter down the aisle, leading royal officials to call it a "difficult situation."
And while the Royal Family is paying for the cost of the wedding, taxpayers won't be off the hook. The government will have to foot the bill for roughly £30million to cover security costs.
But the wedding could provide an estimated £80-million ($138,517,600) boost to the economy in increased tourism and added business for pubs and restaurants.
The ceremony starts at noon local time in St. George's Chapel, which dates back to 1475 and is the resting place of 10 monarchs including King Henry VIII. Members of the Royal Family will arrive around 11:20 a.m. by car and on foot, including Harry, who will be accompanied by Prince William, his brother and best man.
Ms. Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland, will stay at Cliveden House Hotel in Windsor the night before the wedding, where cottages go for up to £2,000 ($3,462.94) a night. Harry will stay that night with William at another Windsor-area hotel, the Coworth Park, where premium suites start at £1,270 ($2,198.97) a night.
On Saturday morning, Ms. Markle will arrive by car at the chapel with her mother. Once there, she is supposed to be greeted by Mr. Markle, who was to walk her down the aisle.
However, doubts have emerged about whether Mr. Markle will attend the wedding because of controversy over staged photos of him trying on a suit for the occasion near his home in Mexico. Mr. Markle has reportedly said he doesn't want to go to the wedding for fear of embarrassing the Royal Family and his daughter. If he doesn't show up, Ms. Ragland may walk her down the aisle.
The ceremony will last about an hour and it will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor, Right Rev. David Conner, and Most Rev.
and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, who officiates as the couple take their vows. There will also be an address by Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church of the United States, which is part of the global Anglican Communion.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds will board a horse-drawn carriage for a short ride through the streets of Windsor and back to the castle for a private reception.
THE MULRONEY CONNECTION
Ms. Markle won't have a maid of honour at the wedding, but her BFF, Canada's Jessica Mulroney, is playing a starring role in the ceremony.
Not only are Jessica and her husband, Ben Mulroney, guests at the wedding, but their four-yearold daughter, Ivy, will be one of six bridesmaids, and their two sons, seven-year-old twins Brian and John, will be page boys alongside Prince George and Harry's godson, Jasper Dyer.
Ms. Mulroney, a 37-year-old, Toronto-based bridal expert, stylist and public-relations manager, was reportedly flown to Kensington Palace in January to help Ms. Markle pick her dress for the big day. The two are believed to have been friends since 2011, when Ms. Markle moved from Los Angeles to Toronto to film Suits. They reportedly bonded over a shared love of yoga.
In 2016, Harry and Ms. Markle hunkered down at the Mulroneys' Toronto home to escape the intense media scrutiny of their relationship. The four hit it off smashingly, as the Brits might say. That same year, Ms. Mulroney and Ms. Markle took a trip to Italy's Amalfi Coast, posting pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #MJxItaly.
Last year, Ms. Mulroney was one of only three people to join Harry and Ms. Markle in the royal box at the Invictus Games in Toronto, the multisport event for armed-services personnel and veterans founded by Harry.
So if they're besties, why isn't Ms. Mulroney appointed Ms. Markle's maid of honour, as many thought she would be? Ms. Markle is opting not to have one. "She has a very close-knit group of friends and she did not want to choose one over the other," according to a statement from Buckingham Palace.
There is no official guest list, but about 600 people will be inside the chapel, all friends and family members. Most of the Royal Family is expected to attend, including the Queen. However, it's not clear if Prince Philip, 96, will make it and palace officials have said Prince Louis, born last month, won't be there.
The 600 guests will attend a lunchtime reception at St. George's Hall hosted by the Queen and, in the evening, about 200 will be invited to the private reception hosted by the Prince of Wales at Frogmore House, near Windsor Castle.
Another 2,640 people have been invited inside the castle grounds to watch the arrival of the wedding party and the newlyweds' departure by carriage (these guests will be standing outside the chapel). Roughly 1,200 have been selected by local officials for their charity work and the remainder consist of students from local schools and members of the royal staff.
Windsor has a reputation for being snobbish given that it's home to Windsor Castle, Eton College and the annual Royal Ascot horse race which is a favorite of the Queen. That reputation wasn't enhanced when the head of the borough council, Simon Dudley, called on police to round up the city's few homeless people before the wedding.
During a Twitter tirade in January, while he was on a ski holiday at Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Mr. Dudley said the town faced "an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy" and he demanded police "focus on dealing with this before the Royal Wedding."
In a letter to police, he wrote: "Obviously, the level of tourist interest is set to multiply with the Royal Wedding in May, 2018, and there are increased concerns from our residents about their safety. ... The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light."
Mr. Dudley faced a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May, whose riding includes part of Windsor, and groups that work with the homeless. Police also responded by saying that all levels of government needed to work together to solve homelessness. Mr. Dudley later apologized and said he was not referring to genuine homeless people.
"They don't care about us," said Keith, who lives in a bus shelter opposite the castle and declined to give his last name. Keith has been living on the streets of Windsor for 10 years, ever since he lost his job and his relationship. Despite Mr. Dudley's apology, he's still convinced the council will try to get the police to clear the streets of the homeless before the wedding.
"Why should I move just because they want to spend millions of pounds on a wedding?" he said indignantly. "This is the real world. This is what's happening out here."
Almost everyone is trying to cash in on the wedding, from pubs and restaurants to souvenir sellers and even the Royal Family. The Royal Collection Trust, a charity that looks after the royal art collection, is offering a wide range of wedding memorabilia, including china sets, cakes, truffles, shortbread, candles, almonds, Champagne and jewellery.
Sales of the trust's royal trinkets have been soaring in recent years and reached a record £19million ($32,897,930) last year, up 20 per cent from the previous year. The wedding is expected to smash that tally.
Pauline Jack and her husband, Albert, are among those snapping up wedding souvenirs. "I'm a strong royalist and I'm very excited about the wedding," Ms. Jack said during a recent visit to Windsor where she bought a souvenir bag, tea towel, scarf and a baby mug for the couple's granddaughter, all featuring pictures of Harry and Ms. Markle.
The couple lives near Portsmouth and Mr. Jack said they plan to host a wedding day party at their home, decorated with souvenir wedding bunting they bought at another store.
Another charity, the Windsor Homeless Project, is also hoping to cash in on the wedding and the controversy caused by the local council. It's selling a line of wedding souvenirs called "For Richer, For Poorer" that includes a commemorative plate for £5,000 ($8,657.35) that will help furnish a new flat for a homeless person.
Some homeowners in Windsor are also trying to cash in with many renting rooms for £600 ($1,038.88) a night on Airbnb. One enterprising homeowner promised that for nearly £500 ($865.73) a night, visitors would be able to see "three to five minutes" of the royal carriage procession from the balcony.
But not everyone is so eager to profit off the wedding. Roger Gaywood and his wife, Dolly, live on the route of the carriage procession, giving him one of the best views in Windsor. He wouldn't dream of missing the wedding and he's invited some friends over to watch Harry and Ms. Markle pass by.
A British television station asked to put a camera on his front step and Mr. Gaywood obliged.
"They gave me a case of Champagne," he said. "That's enough payment." With a report from Dave McGinn
Top: Union flags decorate Regent Street, London. Above: Royal fans sit on a street corner near Windsor Castle, along the wedding procession route, to secure their viewing spots for the wedding day.
TOP: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; ABOVE: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Top: Craftsman Richard Wright makes Smith-Watkins fanfare trumpets, ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding. Above: A four-year-old boy named George is dressed as a soldier as he walks past a decorated shop window in Windsor.
TOP: DANNY LAWSON/PA; ABOVE: FRANK AUGSTEIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS