Windsor gears up for royal wedding

Associated Press

WINDSOR, England

Meghan Markle will have an heir to the British throne walk her down the aisle – and have her mother and friends on hand for support – when she marries Prince Harry at Windsor Castle.

Friday’s announcement that Markle has asked her future father-in-law Prince Charles to offer a supporting elbow, stepping in for Markle’s father after he became ill, meant arrangements were almost complete for today’s royal wedding.

The event’s mix of royalty, celebrity, pomp and ceremony has drawn stratospheric levels of interest around the world and will be broadcast live to tens of millions.

Kensington Palace said Prince Charles “is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to the royal family in this way” after Markle’s father Thomas was unable to attend due to illness.

Thousands of well-wishers descended Friday on Windsor amid final preparations for the wedding, which has drawn royal fans and an international media throng to the castle town and royal residence 25 miles west of London.

Union Jacks have been unfurled, security barriers and police patrols put into place and fans already were camping out to capture the prime viewing positions for today’s royal carriage ride through the town.

Harry and Prince William, his brother and best man, delighted royal fans when they emerged from Windsor Castle late Friday afternoon to greet well-wishers.

If Harry was feeling nervous, he didn’t show it. The smiling prince gave a thumb’s up and answered “Great, thank you” when asked how he was feeling on the eve of his wedding. The 33-year-old prince accepted a teddy bear from one well-wisher as he chatted to people from Britain, the United States, Canada and elsewhere.

Tens of thousands of spectators, including many Americans who have come in support of the California-born Markle, are expected in Windsor to soak up the royal atmosphere.

British police say they will be subject to airport-style security scanners and bag searches. Metal barriers have also been erected to stop vehicle attacks like the ones that killed several people on London and Westminster bridges last year.

Sniffer dogs and mounted patrols are also out and about, and well-wishers have been asked not to throw confetti when the newlyweds ride through town in a horse-drawn carriage today.

“It poses a potential security risk and it’s a bit of a pain to clean up!” said Thames Valley Police.

Buckingham Palace also announced that Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, will attend the royal wedding, just a few weeks after undergoing a hip replacement operation.

Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, flew to England from her California home earlier in the week and had tea Friday with the queen at Windsor Castle. It was her first meeting with a head of state within whom she’s about to share a family bond.

On Thursday, Ragland dined with William’s family and a day earlier she met Charles and his wife, Camilla.

Ragland had been the bookies’ favorite to escort the bride down the aisle, but Charles has a lifetime of experience in appearing at large-scale public events amid intense scrutiny.

“I think some people will be disappointed – people who were looking forward to the historic moment of a woman walking her daughter down the aisle, and a woman of mixed-race heritage from America. It would have made an historic shot,” said royal historian Robert Lacey.

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