Royal weddings: All in the family

Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry marries his US fiancée Meghan Markle on May 19 in a wedding expected to attract huge global interest.

The sixth-in-line to the British throne and the American actress who starred in TV legal drama Suits will tie the knot at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle

Some two billion people were estimated to have watched the 2011 wedding of elder brother Prince William to his wife Kate, demonstrating an enduring fascination with the British royals.

Here are details of major British royal weddings since the queen’s father’s nuptials in 1923.

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and George VI

Queen Elizabeth’s father George was Duke of York and not expected to be king when he married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the fourth daughter of Lord Glamis who was later Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, on April 26, 1923. Grainy footage shows cheering crowds saluting the couple as they returned to Buckingham Palace after their wedding at London’s Westminster Abbey. George, who was known to his family as Albert, became king in 1936 when his elder brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII

Edward VIII sent shockwaves through the establishment when he announced, on December 11, 1936, that he was renouncing the throne to marry twice-divorced socialite Wallis Simpson. Having abdicated, the Duke of Windsor, as Edward became, married Simpson on June 3 at the secluded Chateau de Cande in the Loire Valley in France. Simpson died in Paris at age 89 in 1986, 14 years after the death of Edward, who was ostracised by the royal family after his abdication and marriage.

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth

The queen and dashing naval officer Prince Philip, the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece, became engaged on July 9, 1947. They were married four months later on November 20 at Westminster Abbey in front of 2,000 guests with her younger sister Margaret one of the bridesmaids. The ceremony, broadcast live by BBC Radio to 200 million people around the world, was attended by statesmen and royalty from around the world, while large crowds gathered in London to celebrate the marriage of the future monarch.

Antony Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret

In 1955, the queen’s sister Margaret announced she was calling off her engagement to the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend, thus avoiding a potential constitutional crisis. Five years later she wed society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960. They had two children but he struggled to adjust from his previous bohemian lifestyle. The couple divorced in a glare of publicity in 1978, the first such royal split since the days of Henry VIII four centuries earlier. A month later the now Lord Snowdon married divorcee Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, a television researcher

Capt. Mark Phillips and Princess Anne

The Queen’s second child and only daughter Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips, an Olympic gold medal-winning equestrian, at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 14, 1973. The couple had two children, Peter, the queen’s first grandchild, in 1977 and Zara in 1981. The marriage was dissolved in 1992 and on Dec. 12 the same year, Anne, who has the title The Princess Royal, married one-time royal aide Commander Timothy Laurence at a private ceremony at Crathie Church, near Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Diana Spencer and Prince Charles

Heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, 32, married 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of then Viscount Althorp and later Earl Spencer who had been an equerry to both George VI and the queen, at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral in a fairytale wedding that captured the imagination of the world. An estimated worldwide television audience of some 700 million people tuned in while crowds packed the streets to catch a glimpse of the royal couple as they rode past in an open carriage. Diana gave birth to the couple’s first son, William, in June 1982 with second son, Harry, born in September 1984. The marriage eventually collapsed amid acrimony and accusations of adultery and Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997.

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew

The queen’s second son Prince Andrew, who served as a helicopter pilot with the British navy and saw action during the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina, announced his engagement to publishing executive Sarah Ferguson in March 1986. They married just four months later on July 23, 1986, at Westminster Abbey with Andrew and his new wife being awarded the titles Duke and Duchess of York. The marriage fell apart in 1992 after the publication of raunchy photographs showing the still-married duchess in the arms of another man, Texan John Bryan. The couple, who have two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, divorced in 1996.

Sophie Rhys-Jones and Prince Edward

Prince Edward, the queen’s youngest son, married public relations executive Sophie Rhys-Jones at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on June 1999. The couple, who were given the titles Earl and Countess of Wessex, did not want the wedding to be turned into a state occasion, which meant there was no ceremonial state or military involvement. Their first baby, named Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary Mountbatten-Windsor was born in 2003 and their son James Viscount Severn was born in 2007. Edward is the only one of the queen’s children who has not divorced.

Camilla and Charles

Charles issued a surprise announcement in February 2005 that he would be marrying his long-time lover Camilla Parker Bowles whom many Britons blamed for destroying his marriage to the late Princess Diana. They married on April 9, 2005 in a civil ceremony at the Guildhall, Windsor, with about 800 guests attending a later service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. As titular head of the Church of England, the queen declined to attend the civil ceremony but joined in the celebrations afterwards.

Kate Middleton and Prince William

Kate Middleton met Britain’s Prince William while at St Andrews University in Scotland in 2001. They married on April 29, 2011, when Kate became the first commoner in more than 350 years to wed a prince in such close proximity to the British throne. The glittering wedding ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey in front of 1,900 guests made up of royalty, heads of state and celebrities.

– Compiled from agencies


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