Royal wed­ding whips up in­ter­est

The Columbus Dispatch - - Not To Be Missed - By Leanne Italie

NEW YORK — In pa­ja­mas and old wed­ding gowns, with high tea or a bit of the early morn­ing bub­bly, royal watch­ers in the U.S. and around the globe are pre­par­ing to watch the nuptials of Prince Harry and his un­prece­dented fi­ancee, Meghan Markle.

He’s the spare to the heir, soon to be booted to sixth in line for the throne, but Harry is for­ever the peo­ple’s prince to many in­side and out­side the Com­mon­wealth who once won­dered whether the bad boy of Wind­sor would ever tie the knot.

She, of TV “Suits” fame, has whipped up some big fan buzz, in­clud­ing those thrilled by her mixed-race her­itage.

Their “woke” wed­ding (the Spice Girls are ex­pected) is May 19 at mid­day, Wind­sor Cas­tle time, or about 7 a.m. in the eastern U.S. View­ing-party plans are in the works, as are pricey ho­tel pack­ages and bar meet-ups. The fren­zied have their own Face­book groups, and some have ca­joled less-en­thused spouses to jet across the pond to watch the pomp in per­son from a spot on the car­riage route.

Julie Brill­hart, a hard­core royal en­thu­si­ast in Hur­ri­cane, West Vir­ginia (pop­u­la­tion, 7,000, maybe), said she fired up her Harry and Meghan Face­book group to con­nect fans with par­ties back in Novem­ber, “the minute I woke up in the morn­ing and found out Meghan and Harry were en­gaged.” The group now has nearly 5,000 mem­bers.

“We are in love with Meghan Markle,” said Brill­hart, a former ca­reer lo­gis­tics spe­cial­ist in the Army. “For ev­ery lit­tle black girl who has ever wanted her very own princess who is a well-known, mod­ern princess, they now have one. Isn’t that won­der­ful? She will al­ways be our Amer­i­can princess.”

The group’s mem­bers share wed­ding up­dates and plans for gath­er­ings, and they live in 91 coun­tries on six of the seven con­ti­nents.

“We’re ac­tively look­ing for con­tacts in Antarc­tica,” Brill­hart said.

State­side, a re­cent AP-NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search poll shows 19 per­cent of Amer­i­cans are very or ex­tremely likely to watch the mar­i­tal hoopla. Another 20 per­cent said they’re some­what likely to tune in.

In In­di­anapo­lis, le­gal as­sis­tant Kelly Bent­ley, is on board. She’s mar­ried to a Brit. She’ll be the one in a crown as they sit at the bar of the Aris­tocrat Pub & Restau­rant, sip­ping some­thing yummy as the wed­ding un­folds.

“It’s re­ally fun that she’s from the United States,” she said. “It’s that added con­nec­tion.”

Melissa Uhte, the Aris­tocrat’s gen­eral man­ager, said she’ll hang the wel­come sign an hour early for the wed­ding. On the bar side, reser­va­tions are fill­ing up for a royal brunch. On the restau­rant side, kids are wel­come. Royal at­tire is en­cour­aged.

“I’m go­ing to try to squeeze into my wed­ding dress,” Uhte said, laugh­ing. “We’ve asked the moms to break out their wed­ding dresses, too.”

Royal me­dia com­men­ta­tor Eloise Parker in New York said much of the U.S. hype is due to Markle’s sta­tus not only as an Amer­i­can but a di­vorced one.

She’s “kind of all of us, and we could use a good news story right now,” she said.

For the well-heeled, ho­tels are gear­ing up. The Brazil­ian Court Ho­tel in Palm Beach, Florida, has on of­fer the “Royal Ro­mance Suits You” pack­age for a cool $24,000 with a fournight stay in its “Brando Suite.” The pack­age comes with a lot of ex­tras, such as guests re­ceiv­ing the Strath­berry tote bag that sold out af­ter Markle was pic­tured car­ry­ing it.

“I think this wed­ding is go­ing to be a way for all of us to es­cape,” said gos­sip colum­nist Rob Shuter, a Brit, royal wed­ding pod­caster and former ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor of OK! Mag­a­zine. “Who doesn’t need that right now?”

MOK/PA] [YUI

Meghan Markle talks to chil­dren as she leaves the Com­mon­wealth Ser­vice at West­min­ster Abbey in Lon­don on Mon­day. Prince Harry’s fi­ancee has gen­er­ated spe­cial in­ter­est be­cause of her mixed-race back­ground, the fact that she’s a di­vorcee and be­cause she’s an Amer­i­can ac­tress.

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