Max Foster reports from the wedding of the year in Windsor, England.
The kids, the gospel choir, her solo entry to the church. Where to begin with the royal wedding? Don’t even get me started on Oprah…
The bride stole the show - as any bride should – not just with her presence but with the way she peppered her character throughout the proceedings. Windsor Castle is as old as the family that inhabits it and nobody had seen anything like it there before. The giveaway was the harmless giggling that rippled through the groom’s side of the congregation during Bishop Michael Curry’s show-stopping address. Meghan had subtly prodded an ancient and hallowed institution into a new era and that’s what made it all so compelling.
The newly titled Duchess of Sussex knows her mind but perhaps she was also helped by the whirlwind nature of her royal romance. She didn’t have much time to consider what a transformational moment she was creating. Her courtship with Harry crossed continents and they became engaged soon after news of their relationship broke, thrusting them in to monumental wedding preparations. The family and establishment stood back, allowing the couple a free rein to do as they wished. Harry knew what he wanted but he made sure his fiancé got everything she wished for too so she could make the fairy tale come alive.
During the course of my reporting on the event, I discovered The Queen had invited Meghan to Buckingham Palace so she could choose a tiara to wear on the day. You can imagine the scene as the two of them were weighing up which out of the priceless collection would be most suitable. The symbolism of the jewels is one thing but so too was the gesture – a clear endorsement of Meghan by the sovereign herself.
In accepting the tiara, Meghan also accepted her place in the royal family, and I mean that literally. A tiara isn’t a crown. That belongs to the monarch and after The Queen, it will pass to Charles then to William and straight past Harry on to Prince George. Meghan doesn't just fall behind those in the direct line of succession but also Harry and even her sister-in-law, The Duchess of Cambridge. It's a top-down system and it’s the glue that keeps the monarchy intact.
Meghan might be the biggest star in the royal family right now and indeed the western hemisphere but her wedding day was the first and last time The Queen waits for her in church and Kate tries to make herself invisible. The reality of that will already be setting in but I know Americans who have lived in the UK for decades who are still baffled by the class system here. It’s what separates the two cultures. Americans are brought up being told they can be president while we Britons are told there’s no point in even trying to be king or queen because you have to be born to it.
Meghan's friend, the stylist Joe Zee told me during our royal wedding special that Meghan knows when to conform and when not to and she demonstrated that with her wedding gown. At first glance, it looked traditional but if you look closely you can see how she pushed the boundaries with how much shoulder and arm should be exposed in church. That perhaps is a perfect illustration of how Meghan will retain her character without compromising the system she’s married in to. If she pulls it off, it could be a masterclass in developing clout.