Meghan Markle hoped her dad would walk her down the aisle when she married Prince Harry. But when that was no longer possible, she asked her father-in-law-to-be Prince Charles to give her away instead. And after the special moment, Meghan came up with the perfect way to repay him.
Prince Harry and Meghan announced their engagement on November 27, 2017. They were to be married in May 2018 at Windsor Castle, just outside London. And when it came to the big day, Meghan wanted her family to play their parts.
Two weeks before the ceremony, in fact, Kensington Palace announced that “both of the bride’s parents will have important roles in the wedding. On the morning of the wedding, Ms. Ragland will travel with Ms. Markle by car to Windsor Castle. Mr. Markle will walk his daughter down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel. Ms. Markle is delighted to have her parents by her side on this important and happy occasion.”
But things quickly unraveled after it emerged that the 36-year-old’s father Thomas Markle had staged paparazzi photographs. And Thomas then revealed that he required heart surgery and so would be in hospital on the big day. Two days before the wedding, Meghan confirmed that her dad would not be present.
“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health,” Meghan said in a statement. “I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support. Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you on Saturday.”
Many people speculated that Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, might give her away in her father’s place, as it’s customary for a member of the bride’s family or a friend to carry out this duty. However, the day before the wedding, the Palace made another announcement. Meghan would start her walk down the aisle alone and then be joined by her future father-in-law, Prince Charles.
“Ms. Meghan Markle has asked His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle of the Quire of St. George’s Chapel on her Wedding Day,” Kensington Palace stated. “The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way.” It was a decision that divided social media users.
Many royal-watchers seemed to feel it was sweet that Prince Charles was taking on the responsibility. “What a lovely thing,” Couch Bae told The Sun. “Charles himself has no biological daughters but he will definitely be gaining one tomorrow. It will be a very touching moment.”
And Toke Makinwa agreed. “Prince Charles is walking Meghan down the aisle. I love how the royal family are just rallying and supporting this union anyhow,” said Makinwa. However, others thought Meghan’s mother should have been the one to give her away.
“Was quite excited to see a change of tradition & see a woman walking Meghan down the aisle,” Em Sheldon stated. “So many of us don’t have a father to walk us down the aisle so as much as I love Prince Charles, it would have been very modern to see a woman giving her daughter away.” And that wasn’t the only break in tradition that took place during the day.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex drew on elements from both of their cultures for the wedding. While the ceremony was in a royal setting, it included an American preacher and a gospel choir. In addition, Meghan and Prince Harry also took a novel approach to their reception.
In the United Kingdom, it’s typical for speeches to be made by the father of the bride, the best man and the groom. But with her dad not present, Meghan decided to give a toast of her own. She used the opportunity to thank the royal family for being so accepting of her.
In particular, Meghan spoke of her deep gratitude to Prince Charles, who hosted the private evening reception at Frogmore House. “She has been so touched by how welcoming the Prince of Wales has been. So is her mother,” a source told Metro. “Honestly, they are touched beyond belief. It was important to her to make a point of thanking him publicly, although, of course, he knows privately how she feels.”
The source continued, “It is often said that he always wanted a daughter and I think he has been really moved by how well they have got on. There is definitely a special connection there. Meghan’s mother means more to her than anything, so it was lovely to see the way he was so welcoming to Doria, too.”
The Sunday Times reported that Harry praised Meghan at the reception for the way she “navigated everything with such grace” and told her, “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.” He apparently then added, “We make such a great team.” His words at the lunchtime event are thought to have brought tears to the eyes of some of the 600 guests.
But it’s Prince Charles’ speech that’s believed to have been the highlight of the evening. One of Harry’s friends informed The Times that the groom’s father made “the most lovely, moving speech welcoming Meghan to the family.” The friend added, “He was incredibly loving and touching about Harry and spoke of how his son had grown into a ‘big man with a big heart.’”
And wedding guest Peter Fearnhead told The Telegraph, “Prince Charles made a really gracious speech. It was really calming and amazingly endearing. He’s got a wonderfully dry sense of humor.” According to the Daily Mail, Charles ended his toast on a sweet note. “My darling old Harry, I’m so happy for you,” he reportedly said.
After the wedding, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex postponed their honeymoon so they could attend a garden party to celebrate the 70th birthday of Prince Charles. Meghan has seemingly formed a bond with her father-in-law, and the Daily Star has claimed that he’s given her the nickname “Tungsten” because she’s “tough” like the metal. And Meghan is also reported by the Daily Mail to have helped Harry improve his relationship with his dad.
And while Meghan’s father Thomas was sad that he’d missed out on her wedding, he told Good Morning Britain that he could not “think of a better replacement than someone like Prince Charles.” He added, “The unfortunate thing now is that I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history instead of a dad walking his daughter down the aisle. It was a very emotional moment. I regretted it because I really wanted to walk her down the aisle. But I’m thankful for how it all went.