Will Meghan promise to 'obey' Harry?

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.

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

Meghan will have considered whether to include the word 'obey' in the vows when she marries Prince Harry. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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.

The ceremony and its traditions

To "obey" or not to "obey?" It's a question Meghan will have considered as she and Harry think about their vows. While some royal brides have kept the contentious word in their marital promise, few people expect Meghan to.

Meghan "has a strong interest in women's equality, and that will influence her decision regarding the wording of the vows," says Toronto-based royal historian and author Carolyn Harris, who figures Meghan will likely drop "obey" on May 19. If she does, she would match the choice of both Kate, when she married Harry's brother Prince William seven years ago, and Harry and William's mother Diana, when she married Prince Charles in 1981.

Whether a royal bride would vow to "obey" her husband was questioned as far back at 1840, when Queen Victoria — who did her own proposing to Prince Albert — was asked if she wanted the word as part of her ceremony. She said yes. "Victoria decided to vow to obey as she wanted her vows to match those of other women of her time," says Harris.

Harry's grandmother, Elizabeth, also vowed to obey Philip at their wedding in 1947, a decision that caused its own bit of controversy at the time, with some wondering if the monarch-to-be should be so obligated to anyone. Other more recent royal brides — Sarah Ferguson, when she married Prince Andrew in 1986, and Sophie Rhys-Jones, when she married Prince Edward in 1999, have also stuck with "obey."

When Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married in 1981, they both had minor miscues in their vows. (Associated Press)

Royal wedding tradition will also echo through Meghan and Harry's hour-long ceremony in the choice of some of the music. But along with some well-known hymns, other dulcet tones the couple have chosen represent something of a departure from previous weddings, particularly those coming from a gospel chorus. Harris says Meghan and Harry's choice of musicians reflects their general approach to wedding planning, focusing on including people they know personally through their philanthropy and engagements they've done around the U.K. "Prince Harry saw Sheku Kanneh-Mason perform at a fundraiser for the Antiguan charity, the Halo Foundation, and he will play the cello at the wedding."

While the ceremony will most likely follow the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, there's always the chance of some unintentional deviations from the script. Diana famously transposed her husband-to-be's first two names, pledging to marry "Philip Charles Arthur George." And Charles had his own minor slip-up that day when he said "thy goods" instead of "my worldly goods." Meghan and Harry will be hoping to avoid such minor miscues — and even the person overseeing the most critical moments of the ceremony has his own jitters. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said he's worried he might drop the ring.

Meghan's ring features a larger diamond sourced from Botswana and two smaller diamonds from the collection of Harry's mother, Diana. (Getty Images)

What about the rings?

While speculation has surrounded Meghan's wedding dress, it's not the only unknown ahead of the big day. There's no word yet on what Meghan's wedding ring will be like or whether Harry will choose to wear one.

For Meghan, it's a good bet her ring will be yellow gold, especially since it's apparently her favourite, and would match her yellow gold engagement ring that features a main stone sourced from Botswana, along with two smaller diamonds from the collection of Harry's mother, Diana. It would also be no surprise if Meghan's wedding ring continues a royal tradition of being made of Welsh gold, as have the rings of several other royal brides as far back as 1923.

For Harry, however, there are fewer clues. Some reports this week suggest he will opt for a ring, unlike his elder brother William or his grandfather, Prince Philip, who chose not to. On the other hand — so to speak — Harry's father does have a wedding band. Charles wears it next to a signet ring on the little finger of his left hand.

Meghan , right, watches the closing ceremonies of the Invictus Games with her mother Doria Ragland, in Toronto on Sept. 30, 2017. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Dad and mom will be there, but no maid of honour

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, much curiosity has surrounded the question of who would be with Meghan as she walks down the aisle. What about her parents, who are divorced? Would she have a maid of honour? Kensington Palace released a flurry of details Friday, and it turns out both parents will be there and will have "important roles."

Meghan's father will walk her down the aisle. Thomas Markle, a retired lighting director, is reportedly living a reclusive life in Mexico. Her mother, Doria Ragland, who lives in Los Angeles, will accompany her in the car to Windsor Castle on the morning of the wedding.

But there won't be a maid — or matron — of honour, just the much younger bridesmaids and page boys who are traditional at royal weddings. While no names have been released on that front, it's still a good bet Harry's nephew and niece, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, will be among the young ones in the wedding party.  The week leading up to the wedding will also include a bunch of first meetings for the families of the bride and groom, with Harry meeting his soon-to-be father-in-law for the first time. And don't expect to hear about a honeymoon right away — Harry and Meghan have their first public engagement as a married couple scheduled the week right after the wedding.

Royally quotable

"My son is home and dry with the woman he loves."

-- Queen Elizabeth, speaking to guests after the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, on April 9, 2005. The heartwarming speech was seen as a signal of acceptance for Camilla, whose transformation from royal mistress to royal wife was virtually unprecedented.

Prince Charles and Camilla are followed by Queen Elizabeth after a service of prayer and dedication in St. George's Chapel after their marriage on April 9, 2005. (Reuters)

Royal reads

  • Wedding guests invited to the castle grounds are bemused by the lack of catering. It seems the commoners have been asked to pack their own picnic. [The Guardian]

  • The carriage ride after the ceremony will feel familiar for Harry — the Ascot Landau he and Meghan will use is the same one he rode in during the procession after William's wedding in 2011. [The Telegraph]

  • Amid the flurry of wedding memorabilia, sales of some mugs and tea towels will benefit a very specific group of people: those who are homeless in Windsor. [The Guardian]

  • Britain's tabloid press is feeling a "cold royal shoulder" over the wedding. [The New York Times]

  • The Queen flew in this week via helicopter to visit the newest member of the family, her great-grandson Prince Louis. Grandfather Prince Charles visited, too. [The Telegraph, Daily Mail]

Royal decoder

Have a question you want us to decode? Email us at

From Sally Mason: Do you think Meghan will wear pure white? What have others worn for a second wedding? Or has this tradition seen its day?

Don't be surprised if Meghan's dress is white, even though she's marrying for the second time. Meghan has favoured the monochromatic look, says Alison Eastwood, editor-in-chief of Hello! Canada. "I feel as though white will be very much within Meghan's comfort zone." When Harry's aunt, Princess Anne, married for the second time — to Tim Laurence in 1992 — she wore a white dress and jacket. When Camilla married Prince Charles — a second marriage for both — she had a cream silk dress for the civil ceremony at the town hall in Windsor. For the blessing of the marriage a short time later at St. George's Chapel, she was in pale blue and gold.

How to watch

Many of you have asked. The CBC will be broadcasting the royal wedding on May 19. It will be an early morning: The wedding starts at noon local time (which is 4 a.m. if you're in B.C. and 8 a.m. if you're in Halifax). More details on when you can tune in are coming soon. 

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