WINDSOR, England—A grandson of Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday took as his bride an American actress, in a unique wedding that melded Hollywood glitz and glamour with centuries-old royal traditions.
Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, and Meghan Markle, star of the legal drama “Suits,” were married at the 15th-century St. George’s Chapel, just inside the walls of Windsor Castle in front of a cast of royals and celebrities. They assumed the titles the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Several aspects of the wedding broke from tradition. For one, the duchess walked down the aisle alone, until partway down she was met by Prince Charles, Prince Harry’s father. During the ceremony, American bishop Michael Curry gave a passionate, free-wheeling sermon, speaking about justice and inclusion and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., before a gospel choir sang “Stand by Me.”
Afterward, the newlyweds greeted crowds from an open-topped Ascot Landau carriage, pulled by four horses.
The spectacle capped months of royal-wedding fever. This included fixation on nearly every detail of the wedding, from which titles the two would be given to the color of the queen’s hat. Bookmakers took bets on questions ranging from whether it would rain during the wedding procession to the designer of the bride’s wedding dress.
Photos: Guests, Royal Fans Descend on Windsor
Guests gathered in the southern English town for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
As Saturday dawned, royal fans, some of whom had traveled thousands of miles to the U.K., waved flags and crowded the streets of Windsor in anticipation of the event. Some had camped out in the town, about 20 miles west of London on the River Thames, days ahead, hoping to secure a good view.
Heather Lockwood, a 61-year-old small-business owner from Ottawa, said sleeping outside the castle for two nights was worth it for the view she had secured. “It’s eclectic,” she said, describing the atmosphere in Windsor. “You meet the most fabulous people from around the world. It’s a moment in time we’ll never see again.”
“Harry’s my favorite, being a ginger myself and he’s a ginger,” said Wendy Hartley, 62, who was born in London, who said she welcomed the change and modernity that the duchess would bring to the royal family. “It brings the countries together, doesn’t it?”
“What a party,” said Audrey Cornu, 55, who flew in from Florida with her husband and camped out in front of the castle. She was most looking forward to seeing the duchess. “She’s so cute. Good for her, she probably never thought this could happen.”
Some 600 guests attended the ceremony—among them George and Amal Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams—while the royal couple chose more than 1,000 members of the public to watch the procession from within the grounds of the castle.
Unlike previous royal weddings, no politicians were in attendance, but Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May would be following events eagerly on television. At night, at a more private reception for friends and family, the couple will throw a party at nearby Frogmore House, a royal retreat for more than 300 years.
As in any global media extravaganza, the lead-up to the wedding wasn’t without drama. British newspapers have fixated, in recent days, on whether the duchess’s father Thomas Markle, a 73-year-old retired Hollywood lighting director, would walk her down the aisle. She told celebrity news website TMZ.com that he was embarrassed about the fallout from a deal he made to stage photographs of himself. He also said he had suffered a heart attack under the intense spotlight of the world’s media and would be focusing on his recovery instead of attending the wedding.
For many years, Prince Harry, the youngest son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, was seen as a wild child compared with his mild-mannered older brother Prince William, second in line to the throne. Paparazzi chronicled his underage drinking and partying at nightclubs, and he made world headlines after he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party when he was 20.
But in more recent years, the boyish, redheaded prince has become one of the most beloved members of the royal family. He was an army officer for 10 years and went on two tours in Afghanistan. Since he left the army, he has focused on charitable causes in areas including the mental health of military veterans.
A Windsor Wedding
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding includes a carriage tour through Windsor.
But times have changed, and Britons have welcomed the duchess into the U.K. as a sign of the monarchy’s modernization. Her mother Doria Ragland, an African-American yoga instructor from Los Angeles, had tea with the 92-year-old queen, the reigning monarch, on Friday.
The weather was clear and sunny, and royal fans cheered and waved flags with the royal couple’s picture on them and drank champagne and bottles of Windsor Knot, a local pale ale. Police officers were deployed across town and barricades were set up on the streets to control the crowds.
Police expected 100,000 spectators in Windsor to cheer on the new duke and duchess as they married.
Michael Lawler Jr. and his wife Barbara flew in from California to watch the pageantry up close. “Its every girl’s dream come true; every little girl wants to be a princess,” said Mrs. Lawler, a big fan of the duchess. “It’ll bring the monarchy into the 21st century. The queen and palace have adapted to everything that’s come their way.”
Earlier, the couple from Newport Beach tried to fake their way into Windsor Castle, pretending to be guests of the royal bride and groom, but security officials stopped them when they spotted their names weren’t on the guest list. But even that awkward incident didn’t detract from the mood. “They were so sweet about it.”
Claire Steen from Winchester, southern England, arrived to the festivities in a wedding dress. “I’m hoping Harry’s going to say no to Meghan and yes to me!” said Ms. Steen, 35. Failing that, “I guess I’ll start looking for someone else.”