What do you get the couple that has everything?

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

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will continue a recent trend of encouraging wedding-goers to donate to charity on their behalf. (Ben Birchall/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.

How royal wedding gifts have changed: More charity, fewer horses

What do you do about a wedding gift for a couple who wants for nothing? It can be a bit of a conundrum, but for those who feel compelled to give Prince Harry and Meghan something in honour of their marriage, the royal couple has – not surprisingly – eliminated any indecision.

Harry and Meghan are asking that contributions be made to charity. Harry's older brother, Prince William, and his wife, Kate, did the same when they married seven years ago. (Canada gave a donation of $50,000 to the non-profit Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.)

Harry and Meghan have been quite public about their interest in charitable works and similar priorities were front and centre for them this week as they stepped out at Commonwealth events in London. Their chosen charities for donations reflect their wide interests, from homelessness to supporting children growing up with AIDS.

Harry and Meghan recently attended a reception with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London. (Yui Mok/Pool via Reuters)

That's not to say other royal couples haven't received gifts – and lots of them, some more practical than others.

The Queen and her husband, Philip, were given more than 2,500 presents when they married in 1947. Some were slightly odd. (a thoroughbred filly from the Aga Khan). Some were more practical (a sewing machine, a fridge and a picnic case).

And some seem, frankly, rather bizarre: 500 cases of tinned pineapple from the Government of Queensland, Australia. It turns out the gift was well-intentioned. Britain was consumed with post-war rationing, and Down Under, there was the thought that such a gift could be shared with Britons glad of a little variety on their plates.

Canada has offered a wide range of gifts to royal couples over the past century, according to Canadian Heritage. For Elizabeth, there was an emphasis on silver, including candlesticks, 24 silver-gilt dinner plates and a case of table silver,. There was also a gift unlikely to be repeated today: a coat of Canadian mink.

Wood furniture has featured prominently, with presents for Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones in 1960 including six pieces made of Canadian pine. (They also received an engraved map of Canada dated 1755 and a piece of Inuit sculpture.)

In 1981, Harry's parents, Prince Charles and Diana, received antique Canadian furniture, along with a collection of books by Canadian authors and a painting by Robert Bateman. When Charles married for a second time, in 2005 to Camilla Parker Bowles, it was back to wood furniture – a garden bench.

Sometimes the gift was less tangible (or wooden) – and directed toward others. When Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson married in 1986, an endowment for a Duke and Duchess of York prize in photography was created.

Count on Canada to offer something in Harry and Meghan's honour, too. Canadian Heritage says an announcement about a gift "will be made in due course."

It's highly unlikely to be wood furniture.

This island in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, is said to be where Prince William and Kate Middleton took their honeymoon in 2011. (Dana Allen, Wilderness Safaris/AP)

How exotic will the honeymoon be?

Their first big trip together saw them camping under the stars in Botswana a few weeks after they met, so it's fair to think Prince Harry and Meghan's honeymoon may also take them to a far-flung locale. If so, it would be in keeping with the trip Prince William and Kate took a few days after their wedding in 2011, when they flew off to the Seychelles, an idyllic island archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

It wasn't always this way with royal honeymoons. While there have been Caribbean destinations — and cruises, when the royal yacht Britannia was still sailing — there has also been a distinctly English, and royal, aura to post-wedding escapes. The Scottish highlands have featured in those trips, with newly married couples retreating to the relative peace of the Queen's Balmoral estate.

How happy all those escapes have been is open to debate. Consider the first few weeks of the ultimately doomed marriage of Prince Charles and Diana. They spent a good stretch of time at Balmoral in the late summer of 1981. Afterwards, it was said Diana spent hours crying and wandering alone on the estate.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their honeymoon in Balmoral, Scotland, in August 1981. (David Levenson/Getty Images)

They can't wait

For a couple who have been tweaking royal tradition where they can, Meghan and Harry were sending serious signals this week.

It's rare for someone engaged to a royal — but not yet married to them — to take on official work in such a public way as Meghan did, appearing at events associated with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in LondonAnd Harry wasn't shy about saying how much he was looking forward to Meghan working alongside him in his role as a Commonwealth youth ambassador. 

Then again, maybe it's not such a surprise. He also went against the royal grain early in the relationship by publicly identifying her as his girlfriend — something that also just wasn't done.

Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth, with Anthony Armstrong-Jones at their wedding in 1960. (AFP/Getty) (AFP/Getty)

Royally quotable

"I received a letter from Peter in the morning and that evening I decided to marry Tony. I didn't really want to marry at all. Why did I? Because he asked me. Really, though, he was such a nice person in those days. In a way he introduced me to a new world."

-- Princess Margaret, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth, on her 1959 decision to marry Antony Armstrong-Jones, made hours after she heard from Group Capt. Peter Townsend that he was marrying someone else. Four years earlier, Margaret had announced she would not marry Townsend. They had had a long-term affair, but his status as a divorced man was seen as an obstacle to their marriage. She may have also been "uncertain" in her love for him.

Royal reads

  • Amid all the wedding anticipation, a moment of sadness for the Queen — the death of the last of her corgis, the treasured canine companions seen so often at her feet, and occasionally with James Bond. [The Telegraph]
  • Anti-monarchists have their eyes on the wedding festivities in Windsor. And police will have their eyes on them. [BBC]
  • TV seems to have gone royal "crazy" leading up to the wedding, with documentaries hitting the small screen around the world. [The Guardian]
  • An iconic British perfumery is sticking with one of its royal traditions. Floris has created a custom scent for Harry and Meghan, just as it did for William and Kate in 2011. [The Independent]
  • There's also a Harry and Meghan beer. The pale ale is called Harry & Meghan's Windsor Knot, and it's made from barley grown on Windsor's royal farm (to represent Harry) and hops from the West Coast of the U.S. (representing Meghan). [CBC]

Royal decoder

From Julia H.: I would like to mail them a card. Please provide me an address.

Wedding greetings can be sent to Harry and Meghan at their London residence:

Kensington Palace

Kensington Gardens

London W8 4PX

United Kingdom

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

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