On November 27, 2017, a long-expected announcement came from representatives of the British royal family. The 33-year-old Prince Harry had become engaged to his girlfriend, 36-year-old American actress Meghan Markle. Ever since that day, the eyes of the world have watched the couple’s public actions intently. They appear to represent a new kind of royal couple, and one happy – it seems – to break the rules every now and again. Even their wedding ceremony may feature at least one major rejection of a royal wedding tradition.
Just by becoming engaged to Markle in the first place, Prince Harry was breaking a long-standing “rule” of British royalty. The head of the royal family – Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II – is also the head of the Church of England. That religious institution believes marriage is for life and is firmly against divorce, and yet the actress herself is a divorcee.
Markle married American film producer Trevor Engelson in 2011, but legally dissolved the union two years later. To most people that is quite an insignificant factor, but not to the British royal family. The Queen takes her responsibilities as leader of Church of England very seriously. When her own son, Prince Charles, remarried in 2005 after divorcing Princess Diana, the monarch did not attend the civil wedding ceremony.
In fact, there has been no official confirmation whether the Queen will be present for Prince Harry’s wedding either. Nevertheless, she reportedly got along with Markle very well when they were first introduced. “When I met her I had such a deep understanding and, of course, incredible respect for being able to have that time with her,” Markle said in her post-engagement interview with the BBC in November 2017. For emphasis, the actress added, “She’s an incredible woman.”
Even the Queen’s famous corgis took a liking to Markle straight away, which every dog lover knows is a very good sign. Actually, the pet doggies were much keener on her than they ever were of her new fiancé. “I’ve spent the last 33 years being barked at,” a cheerful Harry admitted to the BBC. He then gestured to Markle, saying, “This one walks in – absolutely nothing.”
Furthermore, the Queen has actually already allowed Markle to break a different royal tradition. In December 2017, just a month after the engagement announcement, the actress was permitted to holiday with the royals at their Sandringham Estate in south-east England. The family’s three-day Christmas celebrations are normally a tightly regulated affair.
Usually, unmarried significant others are not permitted to join the Queen’s holiday guests at Sandringham. Notably, Kate Middleton had to wait until she had tied the knot with Prince William before she could attend. Likewise, Princess Anne’s daughter, Zara, had to marry her husband, Mike Tindall, before they could spend Christmas at Sandringham as a couple. But for Markle, it appears the rules were bent.
“Only spouses and close family are usually invited,” P.R. consultant and royal watcher Richard Fitzwilliams told U.K. tabloid newspaper the Daily Express at the time. “However, Harry and Meghan will be living together at Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace and her family are in the United States,” he continued, adding, “The monarchy relies heavily on precedent and tradition, but it also makes its own.”
Obviously, that is very good news for Markle, and may yet come in handy. Because the word is that for the wedding ceremony itself, the bride-to-be wants to do something unconventional. Something that senior royals might initially balk at. According to a reports in the entertainment and celebrity magazine US Weekly, Markle doesn’t want her father to walk her down the aisle. She wants her mother, social worker Doria Ragland, to do the honors instead.
An unnamed individual revealed all about the plan to the magazine. “With the wedding, [Harry and Markle] both want to do things their way,” the source said. “While they will always be mindful of traditions and the views of their elders, the day is ultimately about them and what they want to do.” The anonymous insider tantalizingly added, “The day of the wedding itself will certainly hold a few unconventional surprises.”
Having your mother walk you down the aisle is unconventional, but not unheard of. But media outlets did question the proposed move. Markle’s father, former TV lighting designer Thomas, divorced Ragland when their daughter was six but is by no means estranged from the next new member of the British royal family. In fact, for Father’s Day 2016, Markle posted a touching Instagram entry about him. “Happy Father’s day, daddy…” she wrote. “Your hugs are still the very best in the whole wide world.”
For his part, Thomas Markle lives a quiet life in Mexico, and does not choose to speak to the press. However, he did talk to a well-wisher on camera in January 2018, footage that was later sold to U.K. tabloid The Sun. “I think it’s wonderful,” he said on film about the upcoming wedding. “I’m very delighted… I’m very happy for them – Meghan and Harry. I love my daughter very much. Harry’s a gentleman.”
After that exchange, Thomas Markle is shown getting into his car and driving away, asking to be left alone. “Don’t bother me anymore. No more flashing cameras in my eyes or I’ll flash back,” he warns. But despite his dislike of being in the public eye, Markle’s dad is still reportedly happy to be present on the big day. Samantha Grant, Markle’s half-sister on her father’s side, has said as much.
Appearing on British TV talk show The Wright Stuff in January 2018, Grant said that she believed her father was actually planning to walk Meghan down the aisle after all. “He will be there one way or the other,” the 53-year-old former model and actress told host Matthew Wright. She went on to state, “Any rumor to the contrary is… My favorite new word is becoming ‘Oh, rubbish.’ He will be there.”
However, the rumors are that there are tensions in the Markle family now that their world has unexpectedly collided with that of the House of Windsor. Over Christmas 2017, Harry spoke to national U.K. broadcaster BBC Radio 4 and offhandedly referred to the royals as, “The family that, I suppose, [Meghan] never had.” It is fair to say that Markle’s biological family were not pleased to hear that observation.
Her 51-year-old half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr., spoke to U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail about the comment. “My father will be extremely hurt, actually,” he said. “He dedicated the majority of all his time and everything to her. He made sure she had what she needed to be successful and get to where she’s at today.” On the other hand, Samantha Grant said publicly on Twitter that she did not think Harry’s remark was hurtful.
There are many reasons why Markle may have opted to ask her mother instead of her father to walk her down the aisle. Obviously, the media and the wider world are not privy to all the conversations among the Markle family. It may be something that the bride-to-be has quietly worked out with her parents, both of whom she clearly loves dearly, and not told anyone else about.
It should be borne in mind that the US Weekly source told the publication that the insider believed Harry and Markle “want to involve their friends and family as much in as much as possible throughout the day.” Perhaps, in Markle’s view, it simply does not matter if her mom and dad take on the traditional wedding roles – as long as they are there.
The wedding ceremony is set to take place at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on May 19, 2018. So it won’t be long until the whole world finds out which parent is chosen to walk down the aisle. But, if the actress goes with the less-trodden path of getting her mother to do it, the new royal certainly won’t care what anyone thinks. Nor will her groom, who has supported her wholeheartedly in everything so far.
“Harry has never been one to follow instructions and both he and Meghan are extremely independent individuals,” the anonymous insider told US Weekly. “I wouldn’t imagine for one second that they plan to sit back and be told what to do.” Whatever happens on the day, the American actress Meghan Markle’s new role as a member of the British royal family promises to be a very exciting performance.