The big day finally arrived for Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as the couple married Saturday in the town of Windsor, outside London.
Prince Charles, Prince Harry’s father, walked the bride down the aisle.
The American former actress confirmed earlier that her father would not attend the ceremony, owing to ill health, after days of speculation over whether he would make the journey across the Atlantic.
Throngs of people descended on the historic town as well-wishers tried to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. Thousands of police officers mounted one of the biggest security operations in recent years, paid for by the public — a bill resented by some opposed to the monarchy.
Supporters argued the wedding was likely to attract big spending by visitors and those watching in bars and big screens across the country.
The ceremony began at midday in the stunning 14th century Saint George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry was baptized in 1984.
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Some 600 guests were invited, mainly those who have a direct relationship with the couple.
In addition, more than 2,500 members of the public were invited onto the castle grounds — the prime spot to watch the guests come and go.
“To me, that was surprising, and it was very touching. Because for as much as they don’t like the media intrusion, the royals, they’ve invited media in, they’ve invited the public in, and they’re wanting to share their special day,” said Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills of the British Monarchist Society and Foundation.
Four members of the Mumbai city-based charity the Myna Mahila Foundation were invited. The non-governmental organization provides sanitary products in the slums of the Indian capital and was visited by Meghan Markle last year. It’s one of seven charities that the couple have asked guests to make donations to instead of providing wedding gifts. The charity’s founder, Myne Mahila, says the invitation came as a huge shock.
“We are representing not just ‘Myna,’ but also the women across the urban slums in the city and India as well. I think there is a lot on the plate and a lot of pressure,” she said.
More than 100,000 people were expected to line the streets of Windsor. Many arrived early to bag the best spots for a look. Donna Werner is a self-confessed royal “superfan” who flew over from her home in the U.S. state of Connecticut and camped out for four nights on a Windsor sidewalk.
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“Every little girl has read fairy tales from her childhood on by her mother and she always dreams of becoming a princess and living in a castle. And I mean, this is it. This is a real-life fairy tale,” she said.
In a break with U.S. tradition, Meghan Markle did not have a maid of honor. All of the six bridesmaids and four page boys were children of friends of the couple. Harry’s nephew, Prince George, was a pageboy, and niece, Princess Charlotte, a bridesmaid.
In the kitchens of Windsor Castle, 30 chefs prepared a banquet for the reception guests.
“The couple … tasted everything, they’ve been involved in every detail,” says royal head chef Mark Flanagan.
That could mean some stateside surprises among the British fare.
“Are we going to see hot dogs and these sorts of American things? I’m sure there will be a nod to the American culture where food is concerned,” said Mace-Archer-Mills.
As well as the home crowds, millions were expected to watch on television around the globe, with the promise of British pomp mixed with plenty of Hollywood glamour.
Fern Robinson contributed to this report.
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