Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle sealed their wedding vows with a kiss on the steps outside St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on Saturday, after a groundbreaking ceremony that didn’t challenge royal norms so much as drive a gilded coach and horses through them.
This 15th century royal peculiar — a church under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch — echoed to the sounds of a fiery Chicago preacher, a soulful gospel choir and the first black winner of a prestigious British music prize, as a constellation of A-list Americans rubbed shoulders with the bluest-blooded of British royalty.
If anyone came expecting a traditional high-church British state occasion, they must have left sorely disappointed. For everyone else, including the millions who tuned in across the world, this was an electrifying affair that will live long in the memory.
Convention was broken almost from the start. After ascending the 20 or so steps to the chapel’s West Door, the bride entered to a traditional fanfare by the State Trumpeters. But then, instead of the customary rousing organ voluntary — Bach or Wagner, perhaps — Meghan set off down the aisle to a haunting and ethereal cantata composed by Handel for the birthday of Queen Anne in 1714.
In a striking image, the outspoken biracial American divorcée walked unescorted, followed by her 10 bridesmaids and page boys.
Almost every part of the ceremony made a statement. Meghan’s elegant white dress with an open bateau neckline was by British designer Clare Waight Keller, the first female artistic director for the Givenchy fashion house. The 16-foot-long veil was held in place by a diamond bandeau tiara lent to her by the Queen.
Only when she reached the chapel’s Quire was Markle accompanied for her final steps to the foot of the altar by Prince Charles, Harry’s father. Even then, he stepped back. There was no one needed to “give her away.”
Harry, flanked by his brother and best man Prince William, looked emotional as he waited for Meghan, dressed in the frockcoat uniform of the Blues and Royals. As she reached his side, Harry appeared to say: “You look amazing. I missed you.”