Royal wedding 2018: Meghan and mom arrive at hotel, Harry and Will greet fans in Windsor
Royal bride-to-be Meghan Markle and her mother checked into their luxury hotel near Windsor for the night before her royal wedding Saturday, while her fiance Prince Harry and his brother and best man, Prince William, greeted fans in Windsor.
Markle said she was feeling "wonderful" on the eve of her wedding when she arrived at the hotel, while Harry told well-wishers in Windsor he felt "great" when he was asked if he was nervous, according to pool reports.
Harry still sported his ginger beard, the subject of much speculation about whether he would shave it off for the wedding.
The young royals and Harry's American fiancée arrived back in Windsor Friday for last-minute preparations and the couple's last night as an unmarried duo before saying "I do" at their nuptials, set to begin at noon local time in St. George's Chapel.
Among other items on their to-do list: Taking Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, to tea at Windsor Castle to meet Harry's grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
According to paparazzi pictures in the London media, the couple looked happy and relaxed as their Range Rover carried them from Kensington Palace west to Windsor in the morning.
They all, including Ragland, sported big smiles when photographers caught up with them Friday in Windsor and nearby.
The couple will spend the night before the nuptials at separate and nearby luxury hotels, he with his brother, she with her mother.
Mother and daughter looked sleek and glamorous, dressed in high heels, having just come from tea with the queen at the castle and their final wedding rehearsal. They were accompanied by a small team of helpers who will help the bride prepare for her appearance in front of a global television audience on Saturday
The pre-wedding "walkabout" by Harry and Will is not unprecedented: In 2011, when Will married the former Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London (Harry was his best man), he went to greet fans and well-wishers outside the palace the evening before.
The day before this royal wedding culminates a run-up week turbulent with family drama and on Friday, a new surprise: Markle picked her future father-in-law, Prince Charles, to escort her down the aisle when she marries his son.
Just days after announcing that her own father, Thomas Markle, would not be at the wedding due his health issues (reportedly he's recovering from heart surgery in his Mexican beach town south of San Diego), the palace released another statement early Friday, saying Markle had asked the Prince of Wales to escort her and he "is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way."
Meanwhile, the military, police and security services marched early Thursday through the streets of Windsor practicing their roles for the ceremonies, including a rehearsal of the much-anticipated carriage procession carrying newlyweds Harry and Meghan along the Long Walk to Windsor Castle after their nuptials in St. George's Chapel.
Here's what else we know:
The littlest royals have big jobs
We now know the precise roles of Harry's nephew and niece, Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 3.
On May 16, the palace released the names and ages of the children who will be pageboys and bridesmaids (these roles are typically filled by youngsters in royal weddings) and as expected, the little Cambridge royals will serve, as they did at their Aunt Pippa Middleton's wedding last May. (Their new baby brother, Prince Louis, born April 23, will be staying home in the nursery.)
The others include the offspring of friends of the bride and groom: Florence van Cutsem (3, Harry's goddaughter); Remi Litt (6, Markle's goddaughter); Rylan Litt (7, Markle's goddaughter); Ivy Mulroney (4); and Zalie Warren (2, Harry's goddaughter). The pageboys are Jasper Dyer (6, Harry's godson); Brian Mulroney (7); and John Mulroney (7).
The Mulroneys are the children of Canadian TV host Ben Mulroney and his wife, marketing consultant Jessica Mulroney, a close friend and style adviser of former Suits actress Markle, who lived in Toronto while filming the USA legal series.
Markle won't have the traditional maid of honor because she has a close-knit group of friends and didn’t want to choose one over the others, the palace has confirmed. At the last royal wedding, the 2011 nuptials of Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, the bride's sister, Pippa, served as her maid of honor.
Meanwhile, we snatch up every wedding tidbit the palace drops: Details about the cake, the flowers, the carriage procession, the music and the reception venue are now known, and more crumbs may still come. But we're going to be in the dark about the most tantalizing detail of all until the last minute.
Who will create the wedding gown for the most unprecedented royal bride in centuries? The palace says the description of the gown, the identity of the designer and the specifics about her hair and jewelry won't be announced officially until she steps from her car in front of St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle just before noon local time on May 19.
Until then we'll just have to speculate. When Markle, 36, walks down the aisle, will she be in a frothy princess-y confection of the sort worn by Harry's mother, Lady Diana Spencer, in 1981? Or will it be an elegant couture stunner by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen like that worn by Kate when she married Harry's brother?
As always when it comes to royal wedding speculation, let's go to the bookies.
In February, a sudden surge of wagers on McQueen caused London's bookmakers to suspend taking bets (in case a leak gave some punters unfair advantage) on that design house, still a favorite of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Then in March, after a similar flurry, Ladbrokes suspended bets on Britain's couture house Ralph & Russo. The team of Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo have been touted as front-runners ever since Markle wore one of their exquisite creations — which cost nearly $80,000 — in one of her official engagement photos.
Another designer with high odds is Roland Mouret, the London-based Frenchman who is a friend of Markle's. Some fashion-followers are convinced he dropped hints he might get the job in a recent interview with WWD when he was asked directly. “Mmmmm, I don’t want to say. No comment. It’s … there is no comment on that. She’s a friend. And that’s … I can’t say.”
He also told the New York Post that Markle "knows really well what she likes and the main thing with Meghan is to listen to her and work in collaboration with her." Then he clammed up, adding: "I've already said too much."
Another name on the speculation list: Erdem Moralıoglu, the Canadian-Turkish designer of the Erdem line and a favorite of Duchess Kate, her sister Pippa Middleton, and Harry's cousin, Princess Eugenie.
Meanwhile, some news outlets reported months ago the designer had been chosen. In January, ABC News cited a series of tweets by British royal reporter Omid Scobie about how Markle had chosen the designer and dress, had her first fitting at Kensington Palace and was relying on her Canadian pal/stylist Mulroney for help in planning the nuptials.
Here's a safe bet: It's more fun to wait until the moment she arrives at the chapel door.
Think spring: Lemon, elderflower, fresh flowers. The palace announced the wedding cake will be a lemon elderflower concoction incorporating “the bright flavors of spring,” covered with buttercream and adorned with fresh flowers.
And it will have an American flavor — California, specifically: Claire Ptak is the chosen confectioner. She was raised in California and worked as a pastry chef under the celebrated Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and now runs Violet Bakery in London.
Expect an update soon from Ptak and the chefs who have been working in the palace kitchens on final preparations, the palace promised at the media briefing.
They were in the mail at the end of March. Who got one? The palace hasn't released the guest list, and might not until the day of the wedding.
But now we know 600 people will be in the chapel for the nuptials and at the luncheon reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II later at St. George's Hall in the castle State Apartments.
The palace released pictures of the invites and they're mighty regal. Printed in gold and black American-made ink on English card stock and featuring the three-feathered badge of the Prince of Wales (Harry's father), they were made by Barnard & Westwood, which has supplied royal invitations since 1985.
Princess Diana's siblings will be there:
The palace confirmed that Harry's late mother's two sisters and brother are invited and her sister Lady Jane Fellowes will give a reading at the ceremony. Diana's siblings, including her brother, Charles Earl Spencer, and Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and their children are all close to their royal nephews.
The honeymoon will be later:
The couple will spend their wedding night at Windsor Castle and will delay their honeymoon because they have an engagement the week after the wedding, the palace said. It's doubtful they will announce where they're going on their honeymoon; Prince William and Duchess Kate didn't when they married.
The dinner reception venue:
This is the private sit-down dinner for 200 hosted by Prince Charles after the main reception at the castle. It's going to be at Frogmore House, the 17th-century manor on the castle estate best known as a former royal family home and the site of the royal mausoleum where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried.
Occasionally used for royal wedding receptions, Frogmore is a favorite of Harry and Meghan, who posed for some of their engagement photos there.
The night-before accommodations:
Although Harry and Meghan have been living together in Nottingham Cottage, his Kensington Palace digs, since she moved to London last year, they'll be following tradition and spending the night before the wedding in separate accommodations, the palace announced May 14.
Meghan, the American who will make history by marrying the prince, will be staying in the house where another American woman also made her mark on British history. Now a luxury hotel, the house is famous for its historic connections to political scandal.
She and her mother, Doria Ragland, will stay at Cliveden House Hotel on the National Trust's Cliveden Estate, about 10 miles from Windsor. Cliveden is infamous for the 1961 Profumo affair, where the serving war minister met a saucy call girl at a party and began an affair, almost bringing down the government when it was revealed she also slept with a Soviet naval attache. The scandal was recalled in recent episodes of the popular series The Crown.
Decades before, Cliveden was the country estate of Lord and Lady Astor. She was the former Nancy Langhorne of Virginia, who was the first woman to be elected and take her seat in Parliament — in 1919, before American women even got the right to vote. Between the wars, Nancy Astor presided at Cliveden over glittering weekend house parties that drew such high-profile guests as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, President Roosevelt, Henry James and Edith Wharton.
Harry and William will be at the Dorchester Collection's Coworth Park, a five-star luxury hotel nearby in Ascot.
A selection of choral groups, soloists and musicians will perform during the service, including the Choir of St. George’s Chapel (founded in 1348) and gospel group The Kingdom Choir.
Markle personally called 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who was named BBC Young Musician 2016, and asked him to play. (Prince Harry saw Sheku play at a charity event in London.)
"I was bowled over when Ms. Markle called me to ask if I would play during the ceremony, and of course I immediately said yes!!! What a privilege," tweeted the teen.
Decca Records announced April 25 that it has the gig to record the wedding live and will release it within hours of the end of the service. It will be available to listen to at home that same day via streaming services, then released into retail stores around the world on May 25.
Decca, one of Britain's oldest record labels, has a history of recording royal ceremonies, including the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997.
OK, it's not their personal china but the "official commemorative English fine bone china" sold to tourists and royal fans as souvenirs by The Buckingham Palace Shop.
According to the palace press release, the china is handmade in England using traditional methods unchanged for 250 years.
The design features a monogram of the couple's initials tied together with white ribbons and surmounted by the coronet of Prince Harry. The decorative borders are inspired by the mid-13th-century Gilebertus door at St. George's Chapel, one of the few surviving parts of the earliest chapel at Windsor Castle.
The collection prices range from about $15 for an official Harry and Meghan tea towel to about $70 for an official Harry and Meghan commemorative plate.
Sales proceeds will go to the Royal Collection Trust, the charity that cares for and manages the Royal Collection of art, museums and palaces open to the public.
Markle is now an official member of the Church of England, headed by her soon-to-be grandmother-in-law, the queen.
We know this because news of the private ceremony at the Chapel Royal in St. James' Palace in London leaked out to British media. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (the day-to-day head of the church) later confirmed it in an interview with ITV News.
Welby, who will be officiating the wedding and officiated at the baptism, said he could say almost nothing about that ritual but did describe it as "very special. It was beautiful, sincere and very moving. It was a great privilege.”
It used to be that British royals, especially those close to the throne, could not marry outside the Church of England, and especially not to a Roman Catholic, if they wanted to keep their place in the succession. (Harry is sixth in line.) But those rules have been somewhat relaxed recently.
Still, Markle, whose religious upbringing is unspecified (she attended a Catholic school growing up and her first wedding to a Jewish man featured Jewish traditions), chose to join the church as one of the most important symbols of joining the royal family: The Church of England would not exist but for Henry VIII in the 16th century and his determination to divorce Wife No. 1.
The officiants officiators:
Markle and her husband-to-be have asked presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church Michael Bruce Curry, a Chicago native, to give the address at their wedding, according to a press release from the palace.
Curry will join the Dean of Windsor, bishop David Conner, who will conduct the service, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who will officiate the couple's vows.
The military flourish:
You can't have a royal wedding without them: The country's armed forces will be parading in all their brightly colored ceremonial regalia on the narrow streets of Windsor for the wedding, Britain's Ministry of Defence announced Wednesday.
The Windsor Castle Guard and the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry will be there, along with members of the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army Air Corps, the RAF, and the Royal Ghurka Rifles. And don't forget musical support from the State Trumpeters and the Band of the Irish Guards.
There's a close relationship between royals and the military, especially for Harry, who has a connection to all of the units that will be represented at his wedding. Captain Wales spent 10 years in the Army, serving in the Household Cavalry Regiment during two tours of Afghanistan.
The crowd and the carriage:
Since they're getting married within the smaller confines of Windsor (instead of Westminster Abbey in central London), Harry and Markle sought to arrange their wedding so that as many people as possible could share the experience in person.
As earlier announced by the palace, the couple have invited 2,640 people to watch them and their guests arrive at and depart from St George’s Chapel, including 1,200 people nominated by authorities in nine of the United Kingdom’s regions, as well as charity workers, local school children, and employees of the queen.
After the noon wedding, the newly married couple will board a royal carriage outside St. George's Chapel and proceed via Castle Hill along the High Street and through Windsor Town, returning to the castle along the famous Long Walk.
Kensington Palace announced on May 2 the couple — weather permitting — will ride in the Ascot Landau carriage pulled by Windsor Grey horses, which play an integral role in royal ceremonies. The carriage is one of a handful of Ascot Landaus kept at the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace. A pair of the carriages were used in William's wedding to Kate, one of which transported best man Harry.
If the day brings rain, the couple will opt for the Scottish State Coach, which features a top with a set of see-through panels in its roof and sizable windows. The short procession will allow more of the crowd outside the castle walls to see the couple.
More details will be forthcoming about English floral designer Philippa Craddock, chosen to create the flower arrangements for the wedding, the palace promised. Craddock will direct a team that includes florists from St. George's Chapel and Buckingham Palace to create the displays at St. George's Chapel and St. George's Hall.
The arrangements are set to include locally sourced foliage as well as plants that are in season in May, including branches of beech, birch, hornbeam, white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves.
Once the wedding is over, the flowers will be given to charities.
The bunting and banners:
The town of Windsor outside the castle walls will be festive with royal-wedding bunting and ceremonial banners, and live entertainment on the day. Thousands of parking spaces have been marked out.
Food stalls will be set up. Viewing areas and giant screens showing live footage of the wedding and the post-wedding procession will be available on the route along Castle Hill, High Street, Sheet Street, Kings Road, Albert Road and the Long Walk.
Still unanswered but the focus of feverish speculation:
How many Markle pals will be in her bridal party? Will Markle make a speech at the reception? Will their honeymoon destination leak ahead of time?
What new royal title will the queen grant her grandson and his new bride?