With car­riage re­hearsal, United King­dom gears up for royal wed­ding


WIND­SOR, Eng­land (Reuters) – Bri­tain’s armed forces on Thurs­day re­hearsed the car­riage pro­ces­sion that Prince Harry and Amer­i­can ac­tress Meghan Markle are to make through the crowded streets of Wind­sor af­ter their wed­ding this week­end.

Harry, sixth-in-line to the throne, and Markle, a star in TV drama Suits, will tie the knot at St. Ge­orge’s Chapel in Wind­sor Cas­tle, home to the Bri­tish royal fam­ily for nearly 1,000 years.

Af­ter the hour-long cer­e­mony which will be at­tended by Harry’s grand­mother Queen El­iz­a­beth, the cou­ple will make a pro­ces­sion through the town’s an­cient streets on a 19th-cen­tury As­cot Lan­dau car­riage pulled by four Wind­sor Grey horses.

The sump­tu­ous show of Bri­tish pageantry is likely to at­tract a huge world au­di­ence while sup­port­ers hope the union of one of the most pop­u­lar royals and a glam­orous Amer­i­can ac­tress, a di­vor­cée with a white fa­ther and an African-Amer­i­can mother, will rein­vig­o­rate the monar­chy.

How­ever, much of the care­fully planned and chore­ographed build-up to the cer­e­mony has been over­shad­owed in re­cent days by con­fu­sion over whether Markle’s fa­ther would at­tend and in­ten­sive me­dia fo­cus on other mem­bers of her fam­ily in the run up to the wed­ding.

Thomas Markle, a for­mer light­ing di­rec­tor for TV soaps and sit­coms, has given a se­ries of con­tra­dic­tory state­ments about whether he will walk his daugh­ter down the aisle. The Los Angeles-based celebrity web­site TMZ.com said he un­der­went heart surgery on Wed­nes­day.

The web­site said it had spo­ken to him and that “he seemed alert and co­her­ent, telling us doc­tors im­planted stents in his blood ves­sels.” It was not known when he would be out of the hos­pi­tal.

Po­lice are ex­pect­ing more than 100,000 peo­ple to throng the streets out­side Wind­sor Cas­tle, the queen’s home west of Lon­don and the old­est and largest in­hab­ited fortress in the world, and have said there would be tight se­cu­rity for the event.

A large num­ber of of­fi­cers were present as large crowds gath­ered to watch the troops in col­or­ful uni­forms who ac­com­pa­nied the new­ly­weds in a car­riage pro­ces­sion af­ter the cer­e­mony per­form a prac­tice run on Thurs­day.

Be­side the Bri­tish royal fam­ily, which blends some­times stuffy Euro­pean tra­di­tions with the global pop­u­lar­ity of mod­ern su­per­stars, Markle has brought some Hol­ly­wood glam­our and moder­nity to the House of Wind­sor.

She is due to ar­rive at the chapel in a car with her mother, Do­ria Ragland, though it is now un­clear who will walk her down the aisle.

Ragland, a yoga in­struc­tor and so­cial worker, has arrived in Bri­tain and was due to meet the 92-year-old monarch and her hus­band, Prince Philip, 96, on Thurs­day.

Global spec­ta­cle

More than 5,000 me­dia and sup­port staff have regis­tered for of­fi­cial po­si­tions in Wind­sor for the wed­ding, along with more than 160 pho­tog­ra­phers and 79 in­ter­na­tional TV net­works, Kens­ing­ton Palace said.

Bri­tain’s monar­chy con­tin­ues to be a source of fas­ci­na­tion around the world and few other coun­tries can em­u­late the pageantry which sur­rounds the royals.

A global au­di­ence will be watch­ing but how polls have sug­gested that most Bri­tons are not as en­thralled by the nup­tials as the me­dia.

A YouGov poll, com­mis­sioned by anti-monar­chist pres­sure group Repub­lic, found that 66% of Bri­tons were not in­ter­ested in the event, with 60% of Bri­tons plan­ning to have a nor­mal week­end.

The poll also showed that 57% of re­spon­dents be­lieved the royal fam­ily should pay not only for the wed­ding but also for the costs of po­lice, which are ex­pected to sur­pass the £6 mil­lion ($8m.) price tag for the 2011 wed­ding of Harry’s brother Prince Wil­liam to wife Kate.

How­ever, other sur­veys show most Bri­tons are in fa­vor of the monar­chy con­tin­u­ing in Bri­tain and that the wed­ding and the birth last month of Wil­liam and Kate’s third child, Prince Louis, were events of which Bri­tain could be proud.

The YouGov sur­vey sug­gested that the pop­u­lar­ity of the royal fam­ily is con­tin­gent on the per­son­al­i­ties of its mem­bers. While the queen and younger royals such as Harry score highly, heir-tothe-throne Charles is far less pop­u­lar.

“This YouGov poll shows a very clear picture of a na­tion dis­in­ter­ested and ap­a­thetic about the royal fam­ily,” Gra­ham Smith, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Repub­lic, said.

“We’re not a na­tion of repub­li­cans yet – but we’ve stopped be­ing a na­tion of roy­al­ists.”

(Clodagh Kil­coyne/Reuters)

MIL­I­TARY PER­SON­NEL take part in re­hearsals yes­ter­day in Wind­sor for the royal wed­ding.

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