Couple exchange vows in Windsor Castle chapel before celebrity-studded congregation
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have become husband and wife after exchanging their wedding vows before an altar that has sealed royal unions for centuries, and a global television audience of millions.
Markle, 36, a former actor, also exchanged her Ms prefix for the style HRH and the title Duchess of Sussex as her marriage to the 33-year-old prince made her an official member of the royal family.
The couple emerged into the sunshine, her long train covering the chapel steps, and kissed in front of a cheering crowd.
Then the new Her Royal Highness Princess Henry, Duchess of Sussex, Countess of Dumbarton and Baroness Kilkeel, and her husband, were driven through Windsor and up the Long Walk back towards the castle in a horse-drawn Ascot Landau.
The service was conducted before a congregation of 600 in the 15th-century St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, a key symbol of the British monarchy from which the modern royal family has taken its name.
Markle walked with her bridesmaids and pageboys, up the nave of the chapel to the quire, where she then took the arm of Prince Charles. As she arrived at Harry’s side, her groom turned towards her and whispered: “You look amazing.” She replied: “Thank you.”
The Rev Michael Curry, the first African-American presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church made a passionate address on the power of love, in which he quoted the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Bishop Curry’s informality – “We gotta get y’all married!” – was of a style not often experienced in a royal peculiar such as St George’s Chapel, with an energetic delivery unusual for an aristocratic wedding.
Atop the tombs of Harry’s ancestors, and beneath the banners of Garter knights, Markle became a significant footnote in royal history.
Buckingham Palace had announced the Queen’s wedding gift four hours before the nuptials, conferring the title Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel on her grandson, the sixth in line to the throne.
Markle, who was accompanied by her mother Doria Ragland, 61, in a vintage Rolls-Royce limousine, loaned for the day by the Queen, made her entrance through a floral arch of white peonies, white foxgloves, white stocks, beech, birch and hornbeam topped with blue delphiniums.
She wore a white veil and Givenchy dress with a boat neck and was accompanied by six bridesmaids and four page boys, including Harry’s nephew and niece, Prince George, four, and Princess Charlotte, three.
The couple made their declarations using their full names: Henry Charles Albert David and Rachel Meghan. Their chosen pledge was “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part”.
She chose not to include the word “obey”, while he chose to wear a wedding ring. Her ring, as has become traditional for royal brides, was fashioned from a piece of Welsh gold gifted by the Queen, while his was platinum bond. Both were crafted by Cleave and Company, which made Markle’s engagement ring.
The 600 guests began arriving from 9.30am for the midday service. The celebrities present ranged from the US TV host Oprah Winfrey and tennis player Serena Williams to the British singer James Blunt and and actor Idris Elba. Markle’s co-stars from the US legal drama Suits, and the actor George Clooney and his lawyer wife, Amal, were present.
About 30 members of the royal family, including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who is 96 and recovering from a hip operation, were also in attendance for the 16th royal wedding to be celebrated at Windsor Castle since 1863
Tens of thousands of royal fans sporting sunglasses, union flags and phone cameras, took over Windsor, hundreds having slept in the streets overnight to get the best spot on the route along which the newlyweds would travel in horse-drawn carriage with a military escort.
In the first train out of London Waterloo to Windsor, four Canadian air cabin crew said they had come because they wanted to be part of history. Nancy Botelho and Cara Bonhage said they had got the “golden ticket” after flying in from Calgary and having a 48-hour stopover. “We have been planning this for weeks,” said Botelho. “Our captain just told us to enjoy ourselves and make sure we are fit to fly back to Vancouver tomorrow.”
The ceremony, with an expected global television audience of several millions, came at the end of a stressful final week, when it emerged the bride’s father, Thomas Markle Sr, 73, who lives in Mexico, would be unable to give his daughter away due to ill health.
Her father-in-law-to-be, Prince Charles, stepped in at the last minute – though too late for his enhanced role to be included in the order of service, which had already been printed.
A no-fly zone over Heathrow was agreed for the 15 minutes it would take Markle to approach the chapel and make her entrance.
The couple sought to fuse the traditional and the contemporary in their choices for the service, including the soul classic Stand by Me, and the African American church favourite This Little Light of Mine, performed by a gospel choir, alongside the Welsh rugby anthem Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, known as Bread of Heaven.