Pomp, pageantry and the PR spectacle of the royal wedding

Ever since word broke that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were engaged and a royal wedding was in the offing, much has been made of how they want a day of "fun and joy," but there will be more at stake next weekend: namely, how the wedding can influence the public's view of the House of Windsor.

Newsletter: Your invitation to royal wedding news ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's nuptials

The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have an influence on how the public perceives the House of Windsor. Given the deliberate rollout of wedding details, it seems to be a responsibility they're taking seriously. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Reuters)

Welcome to The Royal Fascinator, your invitation to royal wedding news and analysis ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's nuptials on May 19. Sign up here and it will land as a newsletter in your inbox every Saturday.

Ever since word broke that Prince Harry and Meghan were engaged and a royal wedding was in the offing, much has been made of how they want a day of "fun and joy," a warm and memorable celebration for family, friends and the public. But as much as there's the hope they will have a happy time with those closest to them next weekend, there's also more at stake: it's how the wedding can influence the public's view of the House of Windsor.

The press office at Kensington Palace has been offering up a steady stream of wedding details – from the cake-maker to the carriage to the horses that will pull the Ascot Landau through the streets of Windsor. And it's all been, in the assessment of one British public relations expert, a "very carefully managed" enterprise.

"It's been one of focusing on the minute detail," says Mark Borkowski, who has worked with everyone from Michael Jackson to Mikhail Gorbachev. (Hence we even got the names of the horses pulling the carriage — Milford Haven, Sir Basil, Tyrone, and Storm — among several other details.)

Meghan 'understands the game'

It's all been helped, Borkowski says, because "you've got an actress of Hollywood standing who understands the game."

Consider, he suggests, that first big media moment showing off the engagement ring in the garden at Kensington Palace. "It was the first time that you felt that Meghan Markle was running the show rather than the other way around."

It's all become part of what Borkowski calls a "feeding frenzy in terms of the media." But from the palace perspective, it's also a very careful outing of each little part of the wedding story, he says. They're "opening up the box for people to look in and then closing it again."

As an actress, Meghan is familiar with how to play the publicity game. (Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images)

Opening up the box to let the public look in — but only so far — has been a constant for the House of Windsor for decades. And royal weddings have been a focus of public interest in the monarchy for much longer.

Jump back to the 19th century, and you'll see that royal weddings were riveting the public throughout Queen Victoria's reign. She had nine children and they all married. She also lived long enough to attend the weddings of several grandchildren, says Toronto-based royal historian and author Carolyn Harris. After Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, Victoria lived a relatively secluded life, says Harris, "so a royal wedding was a rare public opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Queen."

Other factors were also at play promoting public interest in such events. Manufacturing and industrialization were growing, and there were more mass-produced royal wedding souvenirs. And a royal wedding was "an accepted opportunity for a day off work," says Harris. So people liked that, too.

Harry and Meghan's wedding isn't a public holiday in the U.K., but crowds of up to 100,000 are expected in Windsor. And they'll be hoping for a chance to look into that royal box, even a little, as they crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the carriage. And then the carriage will take the happy newlyweds back to their private receptions at Windsor Castle. And the box will close up again.

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, holds a bouquet that includes myrtle as she travels in a Rolls Royce with her father, Michael, to Westminster Abbey for her marriage to Prince William, in London, April 29, 2011. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

What about the bouquet?

While it doesn't carry the level of anticipation that exists around Meghan's dress, her bouquet has its own intrigue. What flowers will it include? A few peonies, perhaps, since she apparently has a fondness for them? Will it be rather tiny, or a more sweeping burst of blossoms and greenery? "I do think that her bouquet probably will be small," says Alison McGill, editor in chief of Weddingbells. "The bouquet is an accessory to the dress."

Florist Philippa Craddock, who has been chosen to create the floral displays for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, poses for a photograph in her London studio March 29. (Dominic Lipinski/Reuters)

Still, there's one bit of greenery quite likely to make an appearance in it — a sprig of myrtle from a bush with its own royal heritage dating to Queen Victoria's time. Royal brides since 1858 have had a sprig from the bush in Victoria's garden at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Kate Middleton's bouquet in 2011 had stems from that myrtle Victoria planted in 1845, along with a sprig from a plant that grew from the myrtle that was part of the bouquet Elizabeth carried at her wedding in 1947.

A recreation of the duchess's wedding bouquet is seen as it is prepared for display at Buckingham Palace in London, July 20, 2011. (Lewis Whyld/Reuters)

As for the fate of the bouquet after the wedding, don't expect Meghan to toss it into the crowd at the evening reception. Royal tradition has seen the bride's bouquet displayed on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey.

Prince Philip was spotted Friday speaking with Queen Elizabeth at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, raising hopes he is well enough after his hip surgery to attend the royal wedding. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Will Prince Philip attend?

Harry's grandfather, Prince Philip, was seen out and about Friday for the first time since leaving hospital in mid-April after hip replacement surgery. His appearance at the Royal Windsor Horse Show raises hopes that he will indeed be able to attend the wedding at St. George's Chapel next weekend.

It's a given that Philip would want to be there, but there has been a bit of uncertainty given the recent surgery and the time it would take to recover from it.

Royally quotable

"It's the secret of a happy marriage to have different interests."

Prince Philip, during an interview at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2006. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip marked 70 years of marriage on Nov. 20, 2017, making her the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary.

Royal reads

  • Inspiration can come from anywhere — Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is finding some solace in a line from a song by grime artist Stormzy as he prepares to lead Harry and Meghan's vows. [Radio Times]

  • Harry can apparently play a pretty good wingman for a fellow soldier. [The Telegraph]

  • And it seems his army comrades have a few nerves ahead of their ceremonial role in his big day. [BBC]

  • Coins will mark the wedding on both sides of the Atlantic, with the Royal Canadian Mint and the Royal Mint both unveiling commemorative pieces. [CBC]  [The Independent]

  • It's highly unlikely the Star Spangled Banner will be part of the wedding music, but expect some nods to Meghan's American heritage throughout the service. [The Telegraph]

Royal Decoder

Patricia C. writes:

I know it's said that the Obamas and Trudeaus aren't invited to the wedding, but what do you think of the idea that they'll be at the private evening party to be given by Prince Charles? That way they can still be part of the celebrations without officially being invited to the wedding. Can you find out who's invited to the knees-up, which is probably going to the best, and most exclusive bit anyway.

Prince Harry has a well-known friendshp with former U.S. President Barack Obama, which raises questions about whether the Obamas and other political families will be invited to events surrounding the royal wedding. (Chris Jackson/Invictus Games Foundation/Getty Images)

That's an intriguing thought. Kensington Palace is keeping the guest list for the second, evening reception under extremely tight wraps. About 200 close family members and friends are expected to celebrate well into the wee hours in a very elaborate marquee on the grounds near Frogmore House. But Harry and Meghan don't want any details getting out of the private celebrations on their wedding day. Guests will reportedly be asked to "surrender mobile telephones … and any devices used for image capture." That said, sometimes details of royal wedding celebrations do leak out.

Your wedding questions answered

The Royal Fascinator and Alison Eastwood, editor in chief of Hello! Canada, took some of your questions about the upcoming nuptials last Friday in a Facebook Live at the Windsor Arms Hotel in downtown Toronto. Catch up on what you missed here:

Getting excited? So are we. The CBC will be broadcasting the royal wedding on May 19. Adrienne Arsenault will host, and you can watch it on CBC TV, CBC News Network or online at Coverage starts at 4 a.m. ET, with the ceremony taking place at 7 a.m. ET. All the details of what's happening on the day and the days leading up to it can be found here.

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.