The Ro­mance of Wind­sor A tour of the bu­colic town where Harry and Meghan are set to marry

Just an hour’s train ride from Lon­don, the pic­turesque town of Wind­sor is eons away from the hus­tle and bus­tle. It’s also where many a royal love match has played out. Vi­vian Vas­sos ex­plores the bu­colic es­cape where the cou­ple-du-jour, Prince Harry and Me

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IN A QUIET glade be­hind a thickly forested wood off the Long Walk – the paved path that cuts a three-mile­long swath through Wind­sor Great Park from the back-door Ge­orge IV gates of Wind­sor Cas­tle to the im­pos­ing bronze statue of King Ge­orge III – sits Frog­more House. Named for the num­ber of frogs that re­side in this marshy area of the park, the house has also played host to roy­als from Charles II to Henry VIII to Queen Victoria.

Prince Al­bert, the love of Victoria’s life, was most com­fort­able at Wind­sor, far from the madding crowds of Lon­don and royal com­mit­ments and with the health­ier coun­try air. The Widow of Wind­sor, as Victoria be­came known af­ter Al­bert’s pass­ing, built a Royal Mau­soleum for her beloved near Frog­more, in the Great Park, where she knew he was hap­pi­est, and she, too, es­chewed the tra­di­tional fi­nal rest­ing place at St Ge­orge’s Chapel at the Cas­tle to be with her hus­band at Frog­more for eter­nity. (The no­to­ri­ous Duke of Wind­sor, who ab­di­cated the throne for love, is also here along­side his duchess, Wal­lis Simp­son.)

The Queen Mother and King Ge­orge VI spent part of their hon­ey­moon at Frog­more, and our cur­rent Queen’s con­sort, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip to you and me), holds the ti­tle of Park Ranger, a po­si­tion charged with the care of the red deer herds that me­an­der through the grounds. Philip is also a staunch Royal Navy man and, when the Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia was de­com­mis­sioned in 1997, he had some of the in­te­ri­ors, which he had a hand in de­sign­ing, recre­ated at Frog­more, in­clud­ing the din­ing room, now the home’s Bri­tan­nia room.

And then there’s Prince Harry. It was at Frog­more House that he and his fi­ancée, the Amer­i­can-born ac­tress and phi­lan­thropist Ms. Meghan Markle, had their of­fi­cial en­gage­ment photos taken. By spend­ing time to­gether in pri­vate and in pub­lic in this bu­colic Eng­land, at­tend­ing polo matches at nearby Coworth Park in As­cot – the Dorch­ester Ho­tel Col­lec­tion coun­try es­tate formerly owned by the Cana­dian re­tail mag­nate Galen We­ston, who brought the polo pon- ies here in the first place – they’d grown an at­tach­ment to the house.

For­tu­nately for Ms. Markle, this prince is no frog. As I made my way across parts of Great Bri­tain, from Edinburgh to Lon­don to As­cot to Wind­sor, the ex­cite­ment for Harry was pal­pa­ble. As Wind­so­ri­ans like to point out, “Frog­more’s where Harry and Meghan did all their ro­manc­ing,” a nod to the lo­cals’ ap­proval of the match. Toron­to­ni­ans may beg to dif­fer; Markle was an hon­orary

Cana­dian while she was work­ing on the Toronto-filmed tele­vi­sion show Suits from which she re­signed for love; the ro­mance blos­somed, as Harry reg­u­larly crossed the pond, and the two were out and about in her Toronto neigh­bour­hood. Their of­fi­cial re­veal to the world came dur­ing the most suc­cess­ful it­er­a­tion yet of the Prince’s In­vic­tus Games, held in the city in 2017.

True North sen­ti­ment aside, ru­mour has it the cou­ple had hoped to buck tra­di­tion and hold the wed­ding cer­e­mony at Frog­more House but, in the end, St Ge­orge’s Chapel at Wind­sor Cas­tle won out. The chapel has its own ro­man­tic his­tory. Within these hal­lowed walls, the vibes of eter­nal love and ro­mance still echo: Henry VIII laid to rest here Jane Sey­mour, his third of six wives. As I stood over his tomb, I noted that when his own time came, the known wife-killer soft­ened his hard­ened heart, and chose to be in- terred with his Lady Jane, his most favourite of many wives. The Queen Mum, her dar­ling Ber­tie and their sec­ond daugh­ter, Princess Margaret, Count­ess of Snow­don, are all here, too. Again, tra­di­tion was bro­ken, as a princess was rarely al­lowed to rest next to a king or queen but, be­cause Margaret chose cre­ma­tion, her ashes are set­tled with her par­ents’ re­mains in the King Ge­orge VI Me­mo­rial Chapel in the church.

I stand at the foot of the chapel stairs, think­ing of Markle climb­ing them to meet to her await­ing prince, mak­ing her own his­tory as an older bira­cial di­vor­cée mar­ry­ing the sixth in line to the Bri­tish throne, in view of 800 wit­nesses – and mil­lions around the world. It’s the same church her hus­band-to-be was chris­tened in at three months old. Harry’s first cousin, Princess Eu­ge­nie, will fol­low in Markle’s foot­steps for her wed­ding at Wind­sor to Jack Brooksbank later this year.

The last Wind­sor wed­ding at St Ge­orge’s was that of Peter Phillips, the old­est grand­child of Her Majesty the Queen and son of Princess Anne, to Cana­dian Au­tumn Kelly in 2008. Ten years on, the cou­ple have two daugh­ters and show all the signs of a happy mar­riage. Harry’s fa­ther, Prince Charles, had his union to Camilla Parker Bowles blessed at the chapel in 2005, af­ter a civil cer­e­mony down the road at the town’s Wind­sor Guild­hall. If the sheer num­ber of peo­ple, es­ti­mated to be 100,000, who plan on lin­ing the Long Walk path hours, maybe even days, in ad­vance of the cou­ple’s post-wed­ding pro­ces­sional route back to Wind­sor Cas­tle from St Ge­orge’s – where Harry and Meghan have al­ready in­vited more than 1,000 friends and co-work­ers of their char­i­ties in­side the walls – prove any­thing, the cou­ple will be buoyed by good will.

Yet, just be­cause you’re a Royal doesn’t mean you can sim­ply “book” the chapel. Even Harry had to ask his dear grand­mama for

per­mis­sion to wed at St Ge­orge’s (he also had to ask her per­mis­sion to marry Meghan, so his track record of get­ting what he wanted was al­ready well and good). The Queen obliged and also of­fered to foot the bill for the nup­tials, tak­ing the brunt off the pub­lic purse – a savvy PR move, no doubt.

HM El­iz­a­beth II, for her part, has de­scribed Wind­sor as her fam­ily home. Yet, for the Queen and her sub­jects, the mean­ing of Wind­sor goes much deeper. In the years lead- ing up to the First World War, an­ti­monarch ya nd anti-Ger­man sen­ti­ment was sparking. The Bri­tish-born King Ge­orge V (El­iz­a­beth’s grand­fa­ther) and his fam­ily were, at that time, har­nessed by a (not-so-Bri­tish) Ger­man name: Saxe-Coburg & Gotha. In a stroke of ge­nius, the King’s pri­vate sec­re­tary drew in­spi­ra­tion from the town and the fortress keep where so many monar­chs had called home. Through yet an­other savvy PR move and by royal de­cree, the Wind­sor dy­nasty was born.

On the day I was at Wind­sor Cas­tle, Her Majesty had ar­rived just 24 hours be­fore for her Easter break (some break, as the famed red boxes were said to have al­ready been stacked on her desk – the head of the Com­mon­wealth is al­lowed only two days off: Christ­mas Day and her birth­day). Her Majesty had just come in from her daily horse ride, her green Land Rover parked un­der the portcullis be­low her bay­win­dowed of­fices, far down the long cor­ri­dor from where a dreaded fire had rav­aged a por­tion of the pub­lic rooms in 1992 – her an­nus hor­ri­bilis.

Her racks of gar­ment-bagged clothes were be­ing un­loaded, counted and checked and rolled in through a side door by white-gloved staff. At that mo­ment, I was walk­ing through a part of the cas­tle that’s open to the pub­lic, the Grand Re­cep­tion Room (one of the rooms, along with the Water­loo cham­ber and St Ge­orge’s Hall, where the new­ly­weds will re­ceive their guests). From my van­tage point, I was lucky enough to spy Her Majesty through the win­dows across the cas­tle quad­ran­gle, a vi­sion dressed in a hue to match her glo­ri­ously coiffed snow-white hair, put­ter­ing around the room, mov­ing things here and there. The grand old girl’s ever so slightly stooped but moved about spryly; I imag­ined she was just try­ing to find the best places to hide the Easter eggs for her great-grand­chil­dren to hunt. Long live the Queen.

In 2008, Peter Phillips, the old­est grand­child of Her Majesty the Queen and son of Princess Anne, mar­ried Cana­dian Au­tumn Kelly at St Ge­orge’s Chapel.

One of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s of­fi­cial en­gage­ment photos, taken on the grounds at Frog­more House

A view of the gar­dens, polo and wild­flower fields at Coworth Park, As­cot; (op­po­site) St Ge­orge’s Chapel, where Meghan and Harry wedFor more on royal Bri­tain, in­clud­ing Edinburgh, Wind­sor and Coworth Park, go to www.ev­ery­thing­­tain.

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