All eyes on Meghan at Windsor

Officers rehearse amid news that Markle’s dad will not attend

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Image: Supplied

British  armed forces carried out a carriage procession rehearsal through the ancient streets of Windsor yesterday ahead of Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle tomorrow.

Harry, sixth in line to the throne, and Markle, a star of 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.

Markle finally confirmed yesterday her father would not be attending her wedding, putting an end to days of speculation that marred the build-up to the glittering ceremony.

Markle’s father, Thomas, had been due to walk his daughter down the aisle in front of a congregation of senior royals, celebrities, friends of the couple and a TV audience of hundreds of millions.

But the former lighting director for TV soaps and sitcoms gave a series of contradictory statements this week about whether he would be there, with the Los Angeles based celebrity website saying he had undergone heart surgery on Wednesday.

“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health,” Markle, 36, said.

“I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support. Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you.”

The wedding will be a sumptuous show of British pageantry, likely to attract a huge world audience.

Supporters hope the union of one of the most popular royals and a glamorous American actress – a divorcee with a white father and an African-American mother – will reinvigorate the monarchy.

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 a sense of modernity to the House of Windsor.

However, much of the carefully choreographed build-up to the ceremony has been overshadowed by confusion over the attendance of her father, who is divorced from her mother, Doria Ragland, a yoga instructor and social worker.

TMZ said it had spoken to Markle’s father after his surgery 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.

Ragland, who will spend the night before the wedding with her daughter in a luxury hotel and accompany her to the chapel, has arrived in Britain and was due to meet the 92-year-old queen and her husband Prince Philip, 96, yesterday.

Royal commentators have speculated she will now walk her daughter down the aisle instead.

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

After the hour-long ceremony, the couple will take part in a procession through the town’s ancient streets on a 19th-century Ascot Landau carriage pulled by four Windsor Grey horses.

Police are expecting more than 100 000 people to throng the streets outside the castle and have said there will be tight security.

A large number of officers were present as crowds gathered to watch the troops who will accompany the newlyweds on the carriage procession perform a practice run yesterday.

Harry, 33, the younger son of the late Princess Diana, has always been a very popular member of the royal family.

But while a global audience will be watching the wedding, a YouGov poll has suggested that many Britons are not as enthralled by the nuptials as the media, with 60% planning to have a normal weekend and 57% believing the royal family should pay for the wedding and also for the costs of police.