In January 2023, Prince Harry published a 410-page account of his life story, titled Spare. The memoir was billed as an “accurate and wholly truthful” examination of his life through the lens of the “man” that he has become, and not the “prince” that he was born. Harry laid bare a number of his most personal and pivotal life moments for his readers.
Though his memories of his early life with his mother, Princess Diana, and the aftermath of her tragic death form a large part of his memoir’s narrative, Harry puts forward his relationship with Meghan Markle as a tide change in the way he views his life.
As such, the couple’s May 19, 2018, wedding day is recounted with emotion and the clarity of hindsight. Harry explained to readers the many considerations and issues that may not have been evident on the day.
Harry starts his memories of the day by describing to readers how he felt standing at the altar of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Berkshire, watching Meghan walk down the aisle.
The couple had began dating in the summer of 2016 and, in November 2017, announced their engagement. Their road to the altar had not been without its difficulties. Press intrusion, family fallings-out and combative palace aides had all proved roadblocks for the couple.
“I stood at the altar,” Harry wrote, “smoothed the front of my Household Cavalry uniform, watched Meg floating towards me.
“I’d worked hard to choose the right music for her procession, and ultimately I’d landed on Handel’s ‘Eternal Source of Light Divine,'” Harry added. “Now, as the soloist’s voice rang out above our heads, I thought I’d chosen well. Indeed, as Meg came nearer and nearer, I was giving thanks for all my choices.”
The couple had invited 800 guests to St. George’s Chapel, which sits in the heart of Windsor Castle’s historic walls. Meghan wore an haute-couture Givenchy wedding gown with a diamond tiara loaned by Queen Elizabeth II, who was sitting nearby.
“Amazing that I could even hear the music over the sound of my own heartbeat as Meg stepped up, took my hand,” Harry wrote.
Meghan had been walked, partially, up the aisle by Harry’s father, King Charles III (when he was still Prince of Wales). The future princess had asked Charles if he would walk with her. There had been a falling out with her own father over his collaboration with the media to pose for staged paparazzi photographs.
“I shot a glance at Pa, who’d walked Meg down the last part of the aisle,” Harry wrote of his father’s gesture to his soon-to-be daughter-in-law. “Not her father, but special just the same, and she was moved. It didn’t make up for her father’s behavior, for how the press had used him, but it very much helped.”
Harry ensured that his beloved late-mother was also included in the service in some way, having her elder sister, Lady Jane Fellowes, read the “Song of Solomon.”
“Meg and I chose it,” the prince wrote. “‘Strong as death’. ‘Fierce as the grave’. Yes, I thought. Yes.”
Harry then told readers about the specially created wedding rings with which the couple sealed their vows. Harry, unusually for royal grooms, opted to wear a wedding ring that matched Meghan’s.
“I saw the archbishop extend the rings, his hands shaking. I’d forgotten, but he
clearly hadn’t: twelve cameras pointed at us, two billion people watching on TV,
photographers in the rafters, massive crowds outside roistering and cheering,” he wrote.
“We exchanged the rings, Meg’s made from the same hunk of Welsh gold that
had provided Kate’s. Granny had told me that this was nearly the last of it. Last of the gold. That was how I felt about Meg,” added Harry.
The nugget of Welsh gold was given to Harry’s great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in 1923 as a wedding present. She had her wedding band made from it as did subsequent members of her family.
Continuing his remembrances of the wedding day itself, Harry wrote of the private blessing that took place in the couple’s garden with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the days before their big day.
This caused considerable controversy in 2021, when the couple told Oprah Winfrey they “got married” three days before the St. George’s Chapel wedding.
“No one knows that,” Meghan told the TV veteran in their first joint interview since leaving the monarchy a year earlier. “But we called the Archbishop, and we just said, ‘Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us.’ So, like, the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
This led to criticism, with some accusing the archbishop of performing an illegal wedding ceremony and marrying the couple twice.
In the days after the interview was broadcast, Welby made a statement, saying: “The legal wedding was on the Saturday. I signed the wedding certificate which is a legal document and I would have committed a serious criminal offence if I signed it knowing it was false.”
For his part, Harry wrote: “The archbishop reached the official part, spoke the few words that made us the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, titles bestowed by Granny, and he joined us until death parted us, though he’d already done similar days earlier, in our garden, a small ceremony, just the two of us, [dogs] Guy and Pula the only witnesses.
“Unofficial, non-binding, except in our souls,” Harry added. “We were grateful for every person in and around St. George’s, and watching on TV, but our love began in private, and being public had been mostly pain, so we wanted the first consecration of our love, the first vows, to be private as well. Magical as the formal ceremony was, we’d both come to feel slightly frightened of…crowds”
Closing his memory of the service, the prince wrote that the “first thing we saw upon walking back up the aisle and out of the church, other than a stream of smiling faces, were snipers. On the rooftops, amid the bunting, behind the waterfalls of streamers.”
Harry added that the police had told him it was “unusual, but necessary,”
given the “unprecedented number of threats” they had received.
The need to keep his wife and family protected from threats, has been an overarching public concern for the prince in the five years since his marriage.
James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek’s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek‘s The Royals Facebook page.
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