TWO people fell in love and we all showed up.
The words of preacher Michael Curry summed up the joy of Harry and Meghan’s wedding. It was a day of history.
And as the couple kissed on the steps of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, it felt like a new beginning.
Here, we celebrate the day in words and pictures.
It will always be remembered as the day worlds collided – and changed the course of the monarchy for ever.
In St George’s Chapel, Windsor, surrounded by the long-buried kings and queens of England, British ceremony and American soul were put centre stage, blending centuries- old tradition and a forward-looking future.
But for all the spectacle, for all the significance of a blue-blooded prince marrying a mixed-race divorcee, it boiled down to a lovestruck young couple who couldn’t keep their eyes off each other, who pledged themselves to each other like they just couldn’t believe their luck.
As fiery Episcopal preacher Michael Curry later said in his soaring sermon on the power of love: “Two young people fell in love and we all showed up.”
And didn’t we just.
Across the country, in homes and pubs and parks, huddled around TVs or crowded in front of big screens, the British gathered to do what we do best.
Armed with bottles of prosecco and supermarket sausage rolls, patriots prepared to swell with pride while cynics expected to laugh at those silly posh people and their stuffy old manners.
In the event, of course, one and all were blindsided with emotion as a lovely young couple publicly declared their love.
In Windsor the well-wishers stood 20 deep. They hoped to glimpse that cheeky prince who had lost his mum and lost his way, but who had grown into a fine young man — and had now found his soulmate.
Bigwigs at the local tourist board must have been rubbing their hands in glee as pictures of the Berkshire town, looking resplendent in the dazzling May sunshine, were beamed around the world to a TV audience of 1.9billion.
In fact, it was the kind of morning that couples who plan to marry in England — in the springtime — don’t dare to dream of.
Perhaps Meghan is too American to have made the much-voiced wish of all British brides: “I don’t mind if it’s not sunny as long as it’s dry.”
But if she did, her wish was more than granted.
It must have been a relief to the VIP guests — and the handpicked normos who Meghan and Harry had invited to stand in the chapel grounds — that the weather had decided to put on its wedding best.
It meant there were no umbrellas to ruin a fashion parade which would give the Oscars and the Met Ball a run for their money.
The great, the good and the downright unexpected from the worlds of showbiz and sport joined bonafide aristocrats on the walk to the chapel, which was only missing a red carpet.
Who on earth would have expected Chloe Madeley — daughter of Richard and Judy, and who insists she and rugby-player fiance James Haskell have sex every single day — to wangle an invite to a royal wedding?
But there she was, alongside America’s very own version of the queen — Oprah Winfrey — as well as Idris Elba, Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford, James Blunt and the assorted cast of Suits.
The male guests wore new suits, new shoes, new shirts, new ties. One, Mike Tindall, even had a new nose.
The women had put as much thought into their hats as their outfits, and there were plenty of creations that you’d not have been happy to sit behind in the chapel for fear of them blocking your view.
Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie turned up in disappointingly subdued hats — determinedly sidestepping a repeat of the furore over the outlandish designs they wore to William and Kate’s 2011 nuptials.
Instead, Eugenie looked like a Fifties air hostess, while Beatrice channelled a Tudor peasant.
Chelsy Davy, who dated Harry on-off for seven years, wore the kind of facial expression you would expect of any woman about to endure the wedding of her ex.
At least she had moral support from another of Harry’s former flames, Cressida Bonas, and the two girls apparently arrived together.
Britain’s alternative royal couple — the Beckhams — were naturally in attendance, with Posh accessorising her funereal navy shift dress with the sort of scowl that only someone who hasn’t eaten a carb since 2001 can really pull off.
To Victoria’s undoubted dismay, she and David were upstaged by one of the few celebrity couples who can eclipse the Beckham star power – George Clooney and wife Amal, who was resplendent in mustard yellow Stella McCartney.
While the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Tom Hardy and even Sir Elton John had to sit behind the rood screen in the nave — which could be cruelly deemed the “cheap seats” — Amal and George were ushered into pole position in the quire, alongside the Royal Family.
Was this Meghan, previously a relatively obscure star of a middling cable drama, pulling off the ultimate power move to cement her new status on the Hollywood A-List?
As the guests took their seats — some more quickly than others, with Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson working the room like Tom Cruise — Meghan was preparing for the most nerve-racking drive of her life.
Nine miles away at sumptuous Cliveden House, she was folding herself into the Queen’s 1950 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, alongside her mum, Doria Ragland.
When she was a youngster voraciously devouring Andrew Morton’s book on Princess Diana, or posing on the railings outside Buckingham Palace aged 15, could Meghan ever, even in her wildest moments, have imagined it might lead to this?
When she was toiling to get a foot in the door in the acting profession, constantly boxed in by her so-called “ethnically ambiguous identity” — could she have dreamed that one day she’d be one of the most famous women in the world?
Who knows what went through her head on the 26-minute drive to the chapel, and who knows what she may have said to her mum, who had raised her alone and who was at her side as she has always been?
All we got was a glimpse of Meghan’s veiled face, looking remarkably composed as she waved to the crowd.
Her American dream was about to come true — proof you really can be anything you want.
Meanwhile, back at the chapel, Meghan’s beloved was arriving — in a laughably understated people carrier.
Harry and best man Wills piled out — it really is impossible to get out of one of those cars elegantly — and the crowd whooped at the first glimpse of them in their dashing Blues and Royals uniforms.
Harry looked nervous, but seemed to relax a little when his brother joked: “My trousers are too tight.”
Those who remember the same princes as solemn young boys, walking grief-stricken behind their mother’s coffin, will have thrilled to see their easy intimacy as grown men, born from supporting each other through so much. Diana would have been delighted.
With William and Harry in their seats at the front of the chapel — William keeping up a steady flow of whispered banter, just as Harry did when he was his best man — it was time for the mother of the bride to make her entrance.
Doria, in mint green Oscar de la Renta, offset by her nose ring and dreadlocks, looked overcome with emotion as she took her place at the front of the church.
Things don’t get much more surreal than arriving shortly before the Queen of England to watch your daughter marry a prince.
But Doria also looked alarmingly alone – the only member of Meghan’s family to attend following a turbulent week which had ultimately resulted in the no-show of Meghan’s dad Thomas.
Then Harry caught Doria’s eye and gave her a reassuring nod, and it was clear that she didn’t need anyone with her because she had a new family right here. That family could surely never have imagined that someone like Doria — a yoga teacher from California — would one day be their in-law.
And yet here were Charles and Camilla — wearing what looked like a dead flamingo on her head — ready to cement that relationship.
Finally, the Queen arrived, wearing lime green, accompanied by her ever steadfast husband, Prince Philip, who displayed the best of British stoicism by walking himself unaided down the aisle in his first public appearance since hip replacement surgery six weeks ago.
Her Majesty was here to preside over the marriage of her grandson to an American divorcee — and it was down to another American divorcee that the Queen is the monarch at all.
When Edward VIII fell in love with Wallis Simpson the Royal Family went into meltdown and the nation lost a king to exile and ignominy because tradition and the powers-that-be deemed it impossible he could marry such a woman.
Yet here was Edward’s niece, 82 years later, ready to welcome Meghan with the closest the British upper class get to open arms.
By her side was Philip, a man often seen as the old guard, but who has in fact spent his life fighting the whispering, back- stabbing traditionalists who had often treated him as an outsider too.
If that parallel shows how far the Royal Family has come in embracing modern life, then they were about to get dragged further forward still by the arrival of the most modern bride in royal history.
But first, the entrance of an adorable gaggle of page boys and flower girls, mainly children of Harry and Meghan’s closest friends — and of course four-year-old Prince George and his sister Princess Charlotte, three, who stole the show by sticking her tongue out at the crowds.
The Duchess of Cambridge, generously in a cream Alexander McQueen coat dress she had worn three times before to make sure all eyes were on Meghan, was an earth mother in sharp tailoring as she ushered the children inside.
Miraculously, the charming band of under-sevens all behaved themselves impeccably.
Then finally — the moment the world had been waiting for.
The bride stepped from her car and took away the collective breath of 1.9billion television viewers.
After months of speculation, she revealed her gown to be the sort of showstopper that takes extortionate amounts of planning, time and money to make, but somehow manages to look effortless.
Designed by British Givenchy boss Clare Waight Keller, the £200,000 ivory white gown demurely showed off Meghan’s figure to perfection.
The look was completed with Queen Mary’s bandeau tiara, loaned to Meghan by the Queen, and a 16ft organza veil and train.
It was embroidered with flowers from all 53 Commonwealth countries, as well as Meghan’s two favourite plants, the California poppy and wintersweet. Watching at home, her dad Thomas Markle declared: “My baby looks beautiful.”
With her hair swept back in an elegant bun and a boat neck that showed off her delicate clavicles, Meghan had more than a little Audrey Hepburn about her. Which was appropriate, given that she was about to embark on the greatest screen moment of her life.
Meghan was to become the first royal bride to walk herself down the aisle — before meeting Prince Charles half way for the final steps up to her betrothed. Before she set off on her momentous journey down the aisle, Meghan took a breath and gave a small smile, a picture of poise and composure.
Who else in the world could have been so calm, so elegant, at such a moment?
Watching Meghan’s progress on the arm of his dad, Harry – reddening with nerves – bit back tears, then met her eyes with a massive grin.
As she reached the altar, Harry turned to Charles and murmured: “Thank you, Pa.” Then gazing at Meghan, he told her: “You look amazing, absolutely gorgeous.”
Eagle-eyed viewers on Twitter were convinced that he added “I’m s***ting it” — easy to believe of a prince famous for his irreverent sense of humour.
But it seems he actually told her “I missed you”, in reference to the night they had spent apart.
Holding each other’s gaze, the air between Meghan and Harry crackled with chemistry that you could almost taste through the TV.
It was as if they were the only people in the world — while across the globe, viewers at home found their eyes pricking with tears of joy.
The tension was broken by the Dean of Windsor’s opening address: “The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together in the delight and tenderness of sexual union and joyful commitment to the end of their lives.”
To their credit, the congregation managed to keep a straight face at the words “sexual union” — the rest of the British public, watching at home, were not so composed.
There was further levity when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, asked the couple if they knew of any reason why they could not marry. As is practically the law at British weddings, this provoked a wave of nervous laughter.
Then it was time for the vows. Harry lifted Meghan’s veil to reveal her beautiful face, flawless in restrained make-up that showed off those trademark freckles, her eyes filled with wonder that this was actually happening.
In the quintessentially English setting of St George’s Chapel, it felt almost incongruous — but wonderfully refreshing — to finally hear Meghan proclaim “I will” in her soft American accent.
The couple promised to love, comfort, honour and protect each other with the sort of sincerity which would move even the hardest heart.
If you weren’t bawling already, then surely the sight of Lady Jane Fellowes, sister of Harry’s beloved, lost mum Diana, arriving to deliver the reading would set you off.
Taken from the Book of Solomon, the passage proclaimed that “love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave”.
Then the vaulting voices of the St George’s Chapel Choir delivered Thomas Tallis’s If Ye Love Me, British choral tradition at its finest.
But traditions are there to be broken, and that’s where the Most Reverend Michael Curry came in.
Theatrical, fire-breathing and entirely unrestrained by time, the man chosen to give the sermon was about as un-British as they come.
The first African-American bishop to lead the Episcopal Church in the US, 65-year-old Curry was reportedly recommended to the couple by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
He had described him as a “brilliant pastor, stunning preacher and someone with a great gift for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.”
This, it transpired, was an understatement.
In a barnstorming address which ran to more than 13 minutes, Curry waxed lyrical about “harnessed fire” and “the redemptive power of love.” He quoted Martin Luther King and referenced justice, poverty and slavery in a room full of some of the planet’s richest and most privileged people.
His passionate delivery was hailed on social media as the highlight of the service, but inside the chapel the faces of the senior royals, not used to this sort of unrestrained thundering, were a sight to behold.
Beatrice and Eugenie got the giggles, Camilla and Charles seemed to be stifling laughter, and Kate looked like she had swallowed a wasp.
The Queen was impassively stoney faced while Zara Phillips was open-mouthed.
Meanwhile, the congregation were being wowed by a sublime cello performance from Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Young, gifted, British and black, and playing some of the most beautiful classical music ever written, Sheku epitomised how effortlessly Meghan and Harry had pulled together the old world and the new.
The bride and groom returned for a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, then it was out into the dazzling sunshine as the choir sang the Etta James version of Amen/This Little Light Of Mine and the crowd whooped and hollered.
On the steps of the chapel, underneath an Instagram-worthy floral arch, Meghan turned to her new husband and asked: “Do we kiss?” No prizes for guessing that he replied with an enthusiastic: “Yeah!”
And just like that, there it was, sealed with a kiss — proof that fairytales really do come true. Everyone wanted a taste of the magic, and the newlyweds obliged with a thrillingly romantic carriage ride through the streets of Windsor, aboard the 13ft-long Ascot Landau.
Meghan couldn’t quite believe the sea of people all there to wish them well, repeatedly mouthing “Wow.” Harry, meanwhile, told her: “I’m ready for a drink now.”
It was a spectacular sight — the open-topped carriage, pulled by four Windsor greys and flanked by the household cavalry Blues and Royals.
British pageantry at its best, but in typically British fashion most viewers were distracted by a rather lively looking horse at the front, which seemed ready to make a break for it.
Thanks to the efforts of its rider, the horse’s behaviour remained just on the right side of disastrous.
The feelgood atmosphere was infectious, with crowds singing “Harry and Meghan sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”
Those thousands of well-wishers may not have been invited to the wedding reception, but you can be certain they carried on the party for many hours to come.
Meghan and Harry were headed for St George’s Hall state room in Windsor Castle, where they treated 600 guests to a spread of canapes including Scottish langoustines and croquettes of Windsor lamb.
Charles gave a speech praising how Harry had grown into “a big man with a big heart”, while Harry provoked cheers when he introduced Meghan as “my wife.”
In a speech that had his guests in stitches, Harry gently ribbed the Americans by warning them not to steal the swords, and implored them to leave quietly so as “not to wake the neighbours”.
Speaking from the heart, he praised Meghan for “navigating everything with such grace” and added: “We make such a great team.”
Few would disagree with that sentiment.
Later, a privileged 200 friends and family were invited to an evening reception compered by James Corden at nearby Frogmore Hall, on the grounds of the Windsor estate.
Harry and Meghan were pure Hollywood glamour as they made their journey to the do in an open E-Type Jaguar, she in stunning Stella McCartney halter neck gown and he in sharp tuxedo.
Their ride is said to be the world’s most sought-after car, a blue 1968 model that has been converted to electric.
With the number plate E190518 — the date of their marriage — it was the perfect transport for the world’s most sought-after couple.
There was one guest missing from the day who Harry will surely have longed to be there, but she made her presence known nonetheless.
Princess Diana would have loved the deeply personal touches the couple brought to their wedding, and the way they breathed new life into centuries of tradition.
When Diana married into The Firm, the monarchy was still living in the past, and she was suffocated by the pomposity and stuffiness.
Her legacy was to leave her sons with the thirst to modernise and humanise the institution they were born into, and that desire was writ large across this unique Royal Wedding.
On his engagement to Meghan, Harry said that his mother and his fiancee would have been “best friends.”
She may not have been there to share his joy at marrying Meghan, but Diana was there in spirit. Meghan and Harry — now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, thanks to new titles bestowed by the Queen — are back to reality tomorrow.
They return to work undertaking their first royal engagement as man and wife, co-hosting a garden party at Buckingham Palace alongside Prince Charles.
It may have been brief, but their wedding was the shining moment that we all needed amid the troubles and challenges of a world seemingly more divided than ever.
For one glorious weekend we came together and felt good, celebrating the love and hope of two people at once so different to us, and so much the same.
Across the country, on buses and in supermarket queues and in sunlit parks, it was all anyone could talk about.
It was the same infectious cheerfulness and celebration of our common decency that Britain last experienced at the 2012 London Olympics.
How strange that it took a royal wedding to prove that the values of tolerance and optimism are alive and well.
Thank you, Harry and Meghan — it was magnificent.
Curry, ignoring his prepared text on the iPad in front of him, ploughed on undaunted.
At one point he seemed to be coming to a close, saying “we’re gonna sit down, we gotta get y’all married” — before continuing for a further three minutes. Meghan liked it, though — she turned to Harry and mouthed: “Wow!”
Just when you thought it couldn’t get less British, the address was followed by a spine-tingling rendition of Ben E King’s soul hit Stand by Me, by the London-based Kingdom Choir.
The message was clear — Meghan and Harry intend to do things their way, and that includes looking forwards, and embracing Britain’s multicultural identity.
Improbable as it may seem, Meghan and Harry are uniquely placed to do this. With Meghan, a proudly bi-racial woman, inside the fold, the Royal Family is finally starting to look a little more like the nation they represent.
More than this, Meghan knows what it is to strive, to graft, to have a career and to have a marriage that doesn’t work, just like tens of thousands of Brits.
Harry, while immensely privileged, is the most human face of the Windsors. He has known great personal tragedy but maintains his mother’s easy charm with ordinary folk.
We’ve all watched him make very public mistakes — the booze, the hot-headed temper, the naked japes, the distasteful fancy dress.
But it is precisely because of his flaws that Harry is our most beloved royal after the Queen — because it seems like he’s one of us.
Together Meghan and Harry can make real changes — you need look no further than the rapt faces of the guests listening to the gospel choir to know this is true.
Apart from former PM Sir John Major, who was appointed William and Harry’s special guardian after the death of Diana in 1997, and Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames — there on virtue of being a close family friend rather than his political career — there were no staid politicians in attendance.
Instead, Harry and Meghan invited the representatives of causes they cared about, in a signal of what they plan to prioritise once they were married.
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There was Karl Lokko, a former gang leader turned youth community activist, Suhani Jalota, whose Myna Mahila Foundation attempts to improve women’s menstrual health hygiene in India, and Dave Henson, who helped Harry build his Invictus Games.
It is an exciting taste of things to come — and do not doubt the power of this extraordinary couple. When Harry publicly took an HIV test, self-testing increased by 500 per cent. The impact he and Meghan may have is boundless.
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But they are more than a power couple — they are starstruck lovers, too. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the moment they swapped wedding bands, when Harry tenderly stroked Meghan’s finger as he slipped a Welsh gold ring on it.
The delight on their faces when the Archbishop finally pronounced them husband and wife would be familiar to giddy newlyweds everywhere.
After Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer — Diana’s favourite hymn, which was played both at her funeral and at William and Kate’s wedding — Meghan and an emotional Prince Harry slipped off to sign the register.
How they must have treasured those few private moments. All of us who had witnessed them unable to tear their eyes off each other were hoping they put the privacy to good use, by indulging in some passionate snogging.
One brief shining moment: Snapshot of a historic day
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