Stand back The Great Indian Wedding (GIW). You’ve been upstaged by the inspired Markle-sparkle in Windsor last Saturday. But even the greatest GIWs were not financed by the wealth of an Empire on which the sun finally set. Also, not even the greatest event managers could hire a heritage property with 1,000 years of history or match the pageantry conceived by heralds who still communicate in the antique French of William of Normandy. Or even rent a cavalry regiment accoutred as if they were ready for The Charge of the Light Brigade!
Seriously, however, there was very much more to the wedding of Harry and Meghan than met the bedazzled eyes of over 1.8 billion viewers worldwide.
To start with, it was very carefully structured to appeal to those who had voted for Brexit: The blue collar citizens of Britain. “You’re family,” the invitation implied. “So come and join us in our family home, have a picnic on the grounds of our family estate, and share our happiness as a member of the family… your family… marries his true love in our family shrine.” The invitation did not say caste and creed no bar, but that, very obviously, didn’t need to be emphasised.
Markle, however, did underscore it in many, not too subtle, ways.
The invitation to American black Bishop Michael Bruce Curry to deliver the sermon was inspired. Bishop Curry was anything but the stiff-upper-lip Church of England prelate. He was an urban version of the pulpit-thumping, Bible-belt, preacher. His spectacles glinting with passion, he spoke of “looove” as if it had been forged in fire. The old rafters of St George’s Chapel must have shivered with the force of his delivery. This is the family church of the Windsors and is directly under the Queen, and not the Archbishop of Canterbury. This could account for the fact that the face of the Archbishop, seen in the background of Michael Curry’s animated image, was a profile in courage and forbearance. The last time the Royals had committed such a solecism was when Elton John had been asked to sing Candle in the Wind at the still greatly-loved Princess Diana’s funeral.
That had been a deeply emotional moment. Here, however, the all-black Kingdom Choir, conducted with animated enthusiasm by Karen Gibson, gave a new meaning to the 1961 Rhythm and Blues classic Stand By Me. On the face of it, it seemed to be a plea by Meghan Markle to her groom Prince Harry, as she faces the anguish of a bi-racial woman parachuted into the rarefied ranks of what is, probably, the most racially-conscious society in today’s world. Even the criminals of England, despised and exiled to Australia, decided to craft the degrading White Australia Policy till they found they couldn’t run their continent-size nation on racially-segregated policies. But the newly-created Princess Royal is unlikely to cringe under racial pressure. If she had, that blind date with Prince Harry would have ended there. It is more likely that Stand By Me was chosen to send a deeper, wider, message. Pointers to that can be seen in some of the other carefully designed features of this unusual wedding.
For instance, why did Harry and his elder brother, William, choose to walk down the long road, in their chosen military uniform, rather than be driven in one of the superb vintage cars of the Royal Family? Or why did they not opt to travel in an open, horse-drawn coach? It was clearly a gesture of belonging to the waving crowds who had been admitted to the grounds of Windsor Castle. It allowed them to make eye contact with the people who had stood long hours on a sunny spring day. It said, in effect, “We may have been born to status and privilege, but that wasn’t our fault. In spite of these stifling, black, frock-coat uniforms we’ve chosen to walk as you have. Beneath all this pomp and circumstance, which you have given us, we’re like you. We walk, as you do.”
This matter of enjoying privileges given by the people of Britain lies at the heart of the importance of the royal family’s contribution to the stability of the government. The royal family is rich in its own right. It is not dependant on any political party to survive. It is, therefore, free to send messages, sometimes subtle messages, to the people of the UK on how the island nation should steer its way through a troubled future. Even if these messages do not suit the party in power.
This is what it did at the Meghan-Harry wedding.
The most important messages to the people of Britain lay in the song sung by the Kingdom Choir and in the extremely long veil of Meghan. A veil is an essential part of the headgear worn by a bride in the Christian tradition. Our senior politicians have realised the importance of headgear: They change it to vibe with the audiences they are addressing. Meghan’s veil had to be long to be embroidered with the flowers of all the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.
On exiting from the European Union, Britain’s plea to the Commonwealth is clear: When the night has come/And the land is dark/And the moon is the only light we see/I won’t be afraid; no I won’t be afraid/Just as long as you stand by me.