For those of you not following on social media, you might not have known that I did, in fact, travel across the pond to be a spectator to the Royal Wedding. Prince Harry, the renegade royal and sixth in line to the throne, found his mate in an American actress, Meghan Markle, a woman of biracial ethnicity and an ex-husband to boot. My, how times have changed from the days of Edward VIII.
Back in February, my sweet husband cautiously hinted that it would be okay with him if I had been secretly planning to go (which he fully suspected I was already planning). I had checked some flight costs, just out of curiosity, but I really had not been planning to make the trip.
But as the conversation continued, I realized this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The next big royal wedding (not counting those York girls) would be 20-plus years in the future, when young Master George or one of his siblings gets married, and who knows what could happen to the monarchy by then. So I dialed up my ready-for-adventure friend Cheryl and we booked flights and an Airbnb and started researching just how to watch the royal spectacle without arousing Scotland Yard.
Through the magic of social media, I was allowed entry into a Windsor ‘neighborhood’ group and a group for those travelling to the wedding. Each group had insider information on how exactly to see the royals. As information came out from the official sources, those who lived in the area and those who have witnessed royal events in the past shared additional hints and information. It boiled down to this: sleep would be sacrificed.
So, on the big day, Cheryl and I got up at 2:30 a.m., found ourselves at the Waterloo Train Station at 4 a.m. (before it opened) to be able to get on the first train from London to Windsor at 5 a.m. and make our way to the Long Walk to find a good spot along the procession barricade.
The Long Walk is basically a park with a paved, narrow road through it, not intended normally for automobiles. It leads to one of the entrances to Windsor Castle where the wedding took place. Windsor Castle is a series of buildings, which includes St. George’s Chapel. The castle dates back to the 11th century, long before the USA was even a glimmer in any settler’s eye. Windsor is a small town, similar to Rome in many ways, but larger (at least in population), though it felt smaller. Oh, and there’s a LEGOLAND in Windsor.
The procession is basically a parade, but only included the bride and groom in a horse-drawn carriage. It would pass us for about one minute, for which we staked our spot for seven hours. It was totally worth it.
Now that you have all the necessary background, here’s the key take-aways from this incredible experience.
Family comes first. In the days leading up to Meghan’s big day, her father was creating a hailstorm of press with the will-he or won’t-he show up for the wedding. Maybe he had a heart problem. Maybe he was embarrassed. But all of it played out very publicly. Whatever the reason for his absence, his daughter should have been his priority. But enough about him – let’s give a cheer for the not-always-loveable Prince Charles. His tumultuous relationship with the beloved Princess Diana and subsequent marriage to the lukewarm Camilla, his public persona has not always been popular. Well, Mr. Markle gave him a moment to shine and shine he did. He put his son’s happiness (and future daughter-in-law’s) ahead of any protocol or tradition. He also graciously included Meghan’s mother in many moments, offering her an arm for the recessional, along with Camilla. If ever there was a public “welcome to my family”, Prince Charles extended it. For anyone who has ever had a strained relationship with a parent, you know how warm it feels to be welcomed into a family. Well done, Charles.
The second “deep thought” I came to was that plain is pretty. Meghan’s dress, the plainest wedding dress I’ve ever seen, was just perfect for her. It matched the medieval feel of the castle, suited her status as a future royal, but also as a woman who had been married before, and accented her best feature, her smile. I know many critics thought the dress too plain, but plain is pretty. Simple truly is elegant. Her poise and smile were showcased by the simplicity of the design on the gown, and she wasn’t competing with distractions like too much skin, or too much glitter, or too much anything.
Lastly, and most importantly, was this lesson: love is way more important than race or nationality.
Cheryl and I had the fortune of being interviewed for a BBC radio program about the wedding, and the conversation inevitably turned to race. While sitting in the park in Windsor, we met two ladies from the town itself, who came out to see Prince Harry and the American, whom they didn’t expect would make it in the royal marriage for more than three years.
They good-naturedly teased me about having an American flag along with the UK flag to wave as the newlyweds passed, saying she was becoming a British citizen, so we only needed the UK flag (but if the marriage tanks, however, they said we could have her back). While all these conversations are true (Meghan is an American and she is mixed race), for me, none of it mattered. I knew her first as an actress in a television show that I loved (and still do). When her relationship with Prince Harry was announced, I was surprised but then delighted he had finally “settled down” with someone who seemed equal to the challenge of marrying into the royal family. In all photos and interviews, they seem genuinely in love.
Like the business I find myself in, the wedding business, the celebration of love is a marriage created by ceremony and tradition. And so we went to celebrate that love – the love for Prince Harry, his love for Meghan, my love for the royal family, and all of our shared love for the pageantry.
The streets of Windsor had a party for two people we truly don’t know but who we care for. Like Bishop Michael Curry said, “Two young people fell in love and we all showed up.” The magic of the day was the love felt all around – from security guards at an early-morning train station to the very drunken revelers who decided to go to Windsor in the wee hours of Saturday (after a Friday night of revelry). From the welcome ambassadors in Windsor to the kind shop-keepers opening early, there was an excited aura of love. On the park, with the Pimm’s double-decker bus to the people in the porta-loo line, we celebrated. And when the happy couple made their way through town, smiles abounded, tears flowed and cheers shouted because two people fell in love. Congratulations, Meghan and Harry! Thanks for the magic!