21 May 2018

UK: Sussex wedding

HRH The Duke of Sussex, younger son of the Prince of Wales and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, married at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on 19 May 2018 Rachel Meghan Markle, daugher of Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland. I was away for the weekend, so I could not post my observations before now.

From a constitutional and genealogical point of view, and that is usually what I focus on, there is not much to write about. The engagement was announced on 27 November 2017 and the Queen expressed that she was «delighted» for the couple. The formal declaration of consent was given on 14 March 2018. From the Court Circular of 19 May we learn that «The Marriage of Prince Henry of with Ms. Meghan Markle was solemnized in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, today».

In the Court Circular the Duke of Sussex was still referred to as Prince Henry of Wales.  Earlier the same day the following announcement was given:
Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle: Announcement of Titles

Published 19 May 2018

The Queen has today been pleased to confer a Dukedom on Prince Henry of Wales.  His titles will be Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.

Prince Harry thus becomes His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex, and Ms. Meghan Markle on marriage will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.
The title «Duke of Sussex» was for unknown reasons always the favourite of the bookmakers and they got it right this time, just like in 2011 when the Queen conferred on Prince William the title «Duke of Cambridge». Harry's new title was created for the first time in 1801 for Prince Augustus Frederick, the sixth son and ninth child of King George III and Queen Charlotte. The prince married twice in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act (the first time before the title creation), so there never was a Duchess of Sussex. Meghan has thus become the first one. And of course, Prince Harry has become the 2nd Duke (1st Duke of the 2nd creation).
 https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/997736471154122752
So, when the constitutional aspects have been touched upon, as well as basic genealogical facts of the marriage, I could move on to the guest list. But as far as I know such a list has not been released. In the Court Circular we only learn, following the sentence of the solemnization:
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, with The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall and other Members of the Royal Family, arrived at St. George's Chapel and were received at the Galilee Porch by the Dean and Chapter of Windsor.

Prince Henry of Wales, with The Duke of Cambridge, was received at the West Door by the Dean and Chapter of Windsor and Their Royal Highnesses were conducted to the Bray Chapel.

Ms. Meghan Markle drove to St. George's Chapel and was received at the West Door by the Dean of Windsor.

The Service was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Dean of Windsor.

At the conclusion of the Service the Registers were signed in the Ambulatory.

The Bride and Bridegroom drove to Windsor Castle in an Ascot Landau, processed through the town of Windsor and returned to the Castle where The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh gave a Reception in their honour.
And that is not much to go by. Of course I watched the whole broadcast and as far as I know all the members of the British Royal Family were present except for Prince Louis of Cambridge, who was born earlier this year. Prince Philip, who will be 97 next month, had a hip operation earlier this year, but still walked without crutches. Very impressive.

Members of  Prince Harry's mother's side were of course also present. From the bride's family only her mother Doria Ragland was in attendance. Two days before the wedding Kensington Palace confirmed that Meghan's father, Thomas Markle, would not attend, and his health problems was given as an explanation. It had earlier been revealed that he had  had posed for staged photos with a paparazzi photographer and the embarrassment of it all might have made him feel too uncomfortable to attend. One can only feel sorry both for Meghan as well as for her father. She clearly wanted both her parents present for her wedding. Instead of her father, Ms. markle was accompanied to the altar by the Prince of Wales.

It appears that Meghan has had little or no contact with her half-brother Thomas Markle and Samantha Grant and their families for many years. They have created quite a few headlines before and after the engagement was announced, so it is not difficult to understand that they were not invited. That no uncles and aunts or other family members were invited was perhaps more surprising. It might say something about Meghan's priorities regarding family, but then again one should be careful not to jump to conclusions. She surely has her reasons.

The only royals who attended the royal wedding besides the members of the British Royal Family were Prince Seeiso and Princess Mabereng of Lesotho. Prince Harry has known Prince Seeiso, who is the youngest brother of King Letsie III of Lesotho, for many years. In 2006 the two princes founded Sentebale, a charity that «supports the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana,» to quote the charity's own website. Prince Harry has had little personal contact with members of the European royal family, which probably explains to some extent why no-one was invited. Of course he is only the younger son of the Prince of Wales and thus not in the direct line to inherit the throne, so his wedding could not be as grand as his brother's was. But I still felt something was missing. We already knew that no politicians would attend, but I still find it strange that the 6th in line of succession did not even invite the prime minister. One former prime minister attended, though – John Major – apparently because he following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales had played the role as guardian to Prince William and Prince Harry, being responsible for legal and administrative matters.

Instead of royals and representatives of the official UK, Harry and Meghan had invited representatives of charities and organisations Harry has endorsed as well as a long and impressive list of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, George Clooney and his wife Amal Alamuddin,  David and Victoria Beckham and Elton John and his husband David Furnish, to mention a few.

It was a great and enjoyable wedding ceremony, though. The couple looked a bit nervous, but very much happy and in love, the weather was great and the church was beautifully decorated. So much could be said about the dresses and the hats. Oh, the hats! But I will leave it at that. The ceremony had many highlights, including the introit, the hymns and the song «Stand by me» performed by Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir. Not to mention the address by the American Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. How he could preach! The full text of his address can be read here, while the order of service is available here.

The service was lead by the Dean of Windsor, David Conner, while the marriage was solemnized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Postscript Tuesday 22 May 2018 at 23.35: When commenting on non-British royals attending the wedding last Saturday, I obviously focused on reigning families. That is why I only mentioned the princely couple of Lesotho. But there were members of former reigning families and/or «Gotha members», including Princess Xenia of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (a grand niece of Prince Philip and thus Prince Harry's second cousin) and Hereditary Prince Franz-Albrecht and Hereditary Princess Cleopatra of Oettingen-Spielberg (others would have to enlighten me concerning the motivation for inviting them – they certainly are not close relatives of Prince Harry, but obviously have learnt to know eachother somehow).

Besides the family members, representatives of charities and organisations and the celebrities – I could have mentioned many more than I did – there were of course also many friends of the couple in attendance, including Meghan's colleagues from the TV series Suits. I decided to give only a few examples. No full guest list has been released, but Netty Leistra and other contributors have assembled a survey in the guestlist section at the forum Nobiliana. Please go there if you want more names and details!

Updated last time on Tuesday 22 May 2018 at 23.35 (postscript added).

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