“An Invitation to Attend…” The BWC had extended this to include BWC Members, their families and friends and Members of the International American Women’s Club and the British Business Club, to celebrate and enjoy witnessing the wedding of the year together.
Out of an Occasion the Committee had created an Event. The guest list included the Consul General Mr. Rafe Courage and our Honorary President, Mrs. Teresa Courage and their special guest, Sabine Gräfin Nayhauß-Cormons, who donated a signed copy of her book, “Elizabeth II – Begegnung mit einer Königen”, to the Charity raffle held after the lunch. All guests had dressed for the occasion, the chaps in smart lounge suits, one gent in very patriotic attire, and the ladies in lovely summer outfits, many charmingly topped with a pretty hat or fascinator, and one very festive sari too.
Many surprises had been prepared to enhance the atmosphere; a royal reception as we arrived, we were able to enjoy champagne and canapés in the smiling presence of the Royal Family themselves, who although they could not be said to unbend, were benign and cheerful and willing to submit to “selfies”.
All had had an aristocratic title conferred upon them for the day and so we mingled with Dukes and Duchesses, Earls and Countesses, Lords and Ladies and even a couple of Princes and Princesses. We were to find these titles again on jewelled place cards, beautifully hand-lettered on the big round tables in the ballroom, festively set and with flags and Harry and Meghan masks adding to the party fun. The giant screen was visible from every seat, but although we were keen to begin viewing what was going on at Windsor, there was a strict timetable and it was strictly adhered to. So, as the screen came to life it was not the guests making their way to St. Georges Chapel but a comic video featuring Rowan Atkinson performing his hilarious version of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony which opened the programme, followed by Alison’s warm greeting and thanks to all the sponsors, and welcome to the special guests and representatives of the other invited clubs. She also gave details of the Charities we are supporting this year and urged everyone to invest in tickets.
Finally it was time to watch the event itself.
It would be simply impossible to give details of what we saw on the screen, we all watched and afterwards read in the coverage in magazines and newspapers, reports on every television channel, about the marvellously simple dress, the beautiful children who attended the bride, not one of the ten over seven years old, a miracle of best behaviour in itself, the bridegroom and brother in their Blues and Royals dress uniforms, mirrored by small versions worn by the four little pages.
The Queen in her striking lime green outfit and hat trimmed with violets, the Duke of Edinburgh walking straight without a stick after his hip operation, the throngs of stars of the worlds of sport, music and movies. The large ranks of royal relations (even Fergie !) the solitary, beautiful and dignified mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, in a lovely mint green embroidered dress and coat with a simple hat to match on her glistening dreadlocks, (and the nose stud). We wondered if she had been given a royal hint about choosing green !
This was a wedding designed by the couple themselves to demonstrate who they are and to indicate where they are going. Kate and William, as directly in line to inherit the throne, were obliged to display a certain solemnity and ceremony, including crowned heads and politicians among their guests, not so Meghan and Harry.
As Harry’s brother has kindly removed him from the succession by providing an heir and two spare, Harry and his chosen bride are free to do their own thing, this resulted in a very moving and refreshing ceremony and we can be grateful to them for sharing it with us. Central to it all was their obvious love for each other, constantly seeking each other’s gaze and holding hands, it was plain to all that they were here affirming to their families and friends and all the world their complete togetherness. The bride wore a dress of stunning simplicity, few jewels, simply dressed hair and natural make up. The symbolic flowers of the whole commonwealth plus her own symbolic Californian poppy and wintersweet from the gardens of Kensington Palace were embroidered on her long veil, showing that she will join her prince in serving the Commonwealth. The diadem lent to her to hold the veil in place, was Queen Mary’s diadem, one of the plainer ones in the Queen’s collection of personal jewels, a simple diamond bracelet and earrings besides her engagement ring (which had been one of Princess Diana’s) were all her adornments.
Entering the chapel on her own without the support of a male relative was also a statement of independence and freedom. She paced the length of the nave ahead of the children completely serene and confident, a girl who knew what she was doing. The courtesy of the Prince of Wales in meeting her at the entrance to the quire, and leading her to her bridegroom indicated the family’s accepting Meghan into their ranks. As Prince Harry lifted the veil, the two of them smiled at each other with pure joy.
Sadly the wonderful Introit Anthem by Handel, performed by the orchestra with soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and David Blackadder (trumpet) was not really audible, nor was all the exquisite choral music or some of the readings and prayers as sadly the Radisson’s sound system was not really up to it, and even broke down at one point which must have been very disappointing for Heike and Jayne who had spent ages setting it all up. Never mind, it really couldn’t be helped.
We did hear Lady Jane Fellowes read from the Song of Solomon, and at that moment I am sure that all were thinking of her sister, Diana Princess of Wales. Harry and William’s charismatic and tragicall ill-fated mother. This was followed by an exquisite motet by Thomas Tallis.
A very different note was struck as the Episcopalian Bishop of Chicago, the very Reverend Michael Curry, preached a fiery and electrifying sermon on the power of love. He began by quoting from
Dr. Martin Luther King, that love has the Power to change the world. He said “A young couple fell in love and here we all are! This is the power of love.” Going on…and on…and on.. the Bishop elaborated his theme, growing more and more passionate and excited, gesticulating and dancing about until we almost expected him to levitate from the pulpit and go cart-wheeling down the aisle. Gradually more and more of the stunned congregation began to smile and to stifle their giggles, hiding behind hands and hats – it was a bit more than a restrained congregation brought up in the Church of England is used to in a sermon. All we could hear were growls and crackles from the loudspeakers, and had to wait till we got home to hear the impressive and sincere message, meanwhile at our lunch it raised many a smile. Afterwards, Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir, from London, singing Stand By Me, provided release and led into the part of the ceremony we had all been waiting for.
The couple made their vows and exchanged rings, moving and emotional moments. Another first; men in upper class circles in the United Kingdom do not generally wear wedding rings, it is a custom that has been adopted from abroad. Harry and Meghan exchanged rings as a sign of equality in union.
As the wedding party moved into the vestry to sign the register, Prince Charles gave his hand to Doria Ragland, and escorted her. Two solo parents, once again denoting equal standing at this important moment for them both. Some people had wondered why Meghan’s mother was not invited to sit with the Royal Family during the ceremony. This is only normal custom everywhere, isn’t it? Bride’s relations one side and groom’s t’other! During this interlude Sheku Kanneh-Mason, B.B.C. young musician of the year, played three pieces for cello with the orchestra, finishing with Schubert’s Ave Maria. Once again the couple had made a statement, choosing a young musician rather than a world star, showing their dedication to supporting and helping young people. Again we could scarcely hear but certainly see the complete absorption of this young man in the music he was playing.
When the wedding party returned to the chapel it was time for the National Anthem, we all stood and sang too. The rest, the procession, the wholly natural kiss on the steps of the Chapel, the families waving from the steps as the happy couple, now Duke and Duchess of Sussex, set out to ride in an open carriage, were all uplifting and cheering sights. Rafe Courage proposed a toast to the Happy Couple. We were able to enjoy our delicious buffet lunch.
The raffle raised €767 for our charities, and as a crowning surprise, a magnificent ice cream wedding cake made by our own Margaret Cascio was wheeled in.
We’d spent an afternoon at the Royal Wedding…
Thank You Committee.