Britain’s Prince Harry married US actress Meghan Markle in an emotional ceremony at Windsor Castle on Saturday that brought together family, friends and celebrities, some of whom crossed the Atlantic for the big day.
Under unusually clear skies and sunshine for a British Spring day, thousands lined the streets of Windsor to catch a glimpse of the bride as she arrived at the 15th-century St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, where she was led partially down the aisle by Harry’s father, Prince Charles.
The bride wore a dress by British designer Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy who designed a silk boat-necked gown and long veil accompanied by a traditional long train.
After exchanging vows to love and to cherish "till death do us part", Harry, 33, sixth-in-line to the British throne, placed a ring of Welsh gold on Markle's finger before a congregation that included Queen Elizabeth II, senior royals and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney.
"In the presence of God, and before this congregation, Harry and Meghan have given their consent and made their marriage vows to each other," intoned Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. "They have declared their marriage by the joining of hands and by the giving and receiving of rings. I therefore proclaim that they are husband and wife."
The marriage brings Markle, three years older than Harry and born and raised in Los Angeles, into one of the world's grandest royal families, which is often known as "the Firm".
While the ceremony incorporated the traditions of a monarchy that traces its history back to 1066, Markle brought a sense of modernity.
She did not vow to obey her husband; Harry, unlike other senior male royals, will wear a wedding ring; Markle's father was unable to attend due to reported heart surgery; and a black US Episcopalian bishop, Michael Curry, gave an impassioned wedding address on the "feeling-bomb" of love, quoting black US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
"When love is the way, we actually treat each other like we are actually family," he said.
To some Britons, the wedding of a senior member of the royal family to a divorcee whose mother is African-American and father is white embodied a modern Britain where race or background are no bar to even the most elite and traditional of institutions.
Paris-based British businessman Richard Makin-Poole told FRANCE 24 that today’s royal wedding reflected changing times for the British monarchy with royals increasingly choosing to marry commoners.
“I think it shows that this family is really very international, connected to all the royal families of Europe," Makin-Poole said. “And I would say the royal wedding does make a really nice change from all the dreary news that we keep hearing about. I think it does give people some positivism.”
From across the channel, French television stations carried live coverage of the event. Although France, a former monarchy, is a modern-day Republic there is still a fascination for things royal, Ophélie Siméon, an associate professor in British History from the Sorbonne Nouvelle University, told FRANCE 24.
“French people who are interested in the royal wedding have a thing for what they don’t have because France is a republic, and I think there is quite a degree of fascination for the monarchy – whether we admit it or not,” she said.
"My sense is that perhaps the idea is that in Britain, OK it’s a monarchy, but it’s also a modern democracy and I suppose it’s this equilibrium, this mix, that really captures people’s attention.”
Hours before the ceremony began, Queen Elizabeth had bestowed the title of Duke of Sussex on her grandson, a step that meant the actress, a former star of the US TV drama "Suits", became a duchess when she married Harry.
Celebrities spiced it up
Among the celebrity guests were American actor George Clooney and his wife Amal, and former footballer David Beckham and his fashion designer and popstar wife Victoria.
Other guests included tennis ace Serena Williams, the siblings of Harry's late mother Princess Diana, singer Elton John, who sang at Diana's 1997 funeral, British actor Idris Elba, and two of Harry's ex-girlfriends.
The chapel was adorned with white roses, Diana's favourite flowers.
The service was conducted by the Dean of Windsor with Justin Welby, who is the spiritual head of the Anglican Church, overseeing the exchange of vows.
Lady Jane Fellowes, Diana's sister, delivered the reading.
"This is a moment when we can all celebrate the rebirth of the royal family," said Kenny McKinlay, 60, who had come down from Scotland for the wedding. "It's a time when all the nation can come together rather than being divided. It's a day when you can be proud to be British."
The royal couple, who met on a blind date in 2016 and fell in love in a tent under the stars in Botswana, tied the knot in a castle that has been home to 39 English monarchs since 1066.
A reception will be held in the castle's St George's Hall before 200 guests join the couple at an evening event at the nearby Frogmore House mansion.
Harry and Meghan will carry out their first official engagement as husband and wife next week.