If you loved seeing the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this spring (and seriously, who didn’t?), there’s a huge treat in store for you on the outskirts of London this fall. Meghan Markle’s wedding dress is now on display at Windsor Castle! You have until January 6, 2019 to see it for yourself.
We read about the exhibit The Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex earlier this year, and we added it on our wish list. As a result, when we found ourselves in London with an afternoon off we set out to see it. We booked a guide from our go-to touring expert in the U.K., NoteWorthy, to ensure that we’d learn some new facts in addition to indulging in cooing over The Dress.
Our trip was great fun, and we highly recommend a visit (although sadly, it will take longer than two hours all in, due to the travel time, so we can’t add this to our Two Hours in London list). Windsor Castle is about 20 miles west of London.
On your visit, you can retrace all of your favorite moments from the wedding, and experience a bit of the joy and magic of the day. We went on a chilly and grey autumn afternoon – quite different from the sparkling spring morning of the big day itself – but the fun and happiness still seemed to linger in the air.
Here are the 10 stops to see the iconic settings for some of the sweetest moments from the wedding:
1. The grounds of Windsor Castle.
We had never visited Windsor Castle, and we learned it’s an outstanding way to understand pivotal personalities in British history. The grounds are expansive, and filled with stories. On the day of the wedding, the Queen invited several thousand people to stand on the grounds and along the road leading to its gates.
2. The steps to the West Door of St. George’s Chapel.
While we were told that they’re not usually open, we were able to pass through a set of black wrought-iron gates and see the small courtyard that shelters the West Door entrance to Gothic St. George’s Chapel. That’s the one used by the royal wedding party. We actually got to stand at the foot of the stairs where the world got to see Meghan Markle’s wedding dress for the very first time! So. Much. Fun.
3. The interior of St. George’s Chapel.
While no photography is allowed, the government permits the public to walk right up to the altar where the vows were exchanged. You can see the stalls with the illuminated lamps where the Queen, the Royal Family and the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, sat. You can also view the lectern used for the Scripture reading by Lady Jane Fellows, Princess Diana’s sister.
The Chapel is fascinating in its own right. It’s the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III. Flags bearing the coat of arms of each of the current 24 Knights of the garter hang high above on either side of the Chapel.
We learned that 10 monarchs are buried in this Chapel. One of them is Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour.
Further back in the Chapel, you can see the spot where 19-year old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the first black winner of the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year award, played a wonderful solo near the end of the ceremony. And the area where the Christian gospel group The Kingdom Choir sang spirituals to celebrate the union.
4. Clare Waight Keller’s Sketches.
It’s fascinating to see the very first sketches that the designer Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy created for Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. It’s immediately apparent that the mood was intended to be light, optimistic, and elegant. The dress was ultimately constructed from double-bonded silk cady, with a triple silk organza underskirt. The fabric was developed by Waight Keller following extensive research in fabric mills throughout Europe. One of the most notable features of the dress is its boat neckline bodice, which lends a modern touch to the graceful silhouette.
5. The Wedding Dress. The Tiara. And the Groom’s Uniform.
At long last, we entered the room where Meghan Markle’s wedding dress and veil are on display.
Prince Harry’s frock coat uniform is also there, and it’s far more interesting and detailed than we realized. The uniform of the Household Cavalry (the ‘Blues and Royals’) was made by tailors at Dege & Skinner on Savile Row. It features a jabot of ruffles down the front that we had not noticed before (we were too busy looking at the wedding dress!).
Just around the corner in the large glass vitrine are the outfits worn by Prince George and Princess Charlotte in their roles as pageboy and bridesmaid. The little Prince’s jacket is a close replica of his uncle’s, while the Princess’s dress is as pure and simple as the bride’s.
The veil is spectacular, with gorgeously detailed hand-embroidered flowers at the bottom of the hem. Five-meters-long, it’s made from silk tulle and embroidered with the flora of the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. We learned that the team of embroiderers labored for hundreds of hours to create the design. They were required to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the tulle and threads pristine. The veil appears to be delicate and ethereal, but it’s really long. We have new empathy for the stalwart page boys who had to mind that train on the big day.
Up close, you can see that the tiara Meghan borrowed for the wedding is stunningly beautiful, but not overwhelming. There’s a perfect balance between the ornate headpiece, the austere lines of the gown, and the whimsy and softness of the veil. The diamond and platinum bandeau tiara is on public display for the first time. A flexible band of eleven sections, it features pavé set with large and small brilliant diamonds in a geometric design. The center is set with a detachable brooch of ten brilliant diamonds. The bandeau was made in 1932 for Her Majesty’s grandmother, Queen Mary, and specifically designed to accommodate the center brooch.
6. The Official Photos.
Alexi Lubomirski is the photographer who took the official portrait at the time of Meghan and Harry’s engagement. His official photos of the wedding party are currently on display at Windsor, and they convey a lovely spirit. Lubomirski has quite an interesting life story of his own. He was born in England and raised in Botswana. He’s also a European prince who has already written a book.
7. The reception hall.
Queen Elizabeth hosted special guests after the wedding at a lunchtime reception at St. George’s Hall. This spectacular room was destroyed in a terrible fire in 1992, and completely rebuilt. It features a small ceramic shield with the coat of arms of every Knight of the Garter, along with their number in chronological order of being knighted (Prince William is number 1,000).
8. The grounds of Eton College.
From the ramparts of Windsor Castle, you can see the rooftops and spires of Eton College, the elite boarding school that both Princes William and Harry attended. If you have time, it’s worth taking a drive through the charming town of Eton, which resembles something from a dream (or a Harry Potter novel . . . ), particularly at dusk as the students are returning from afternoon activities.
9. The town and streets of Windsor.
The town of Windsor grew up around the castle, and it remains filled with cozy pubs and eateries, and shops with quirky names and souvenirs. On the big day, the newly wed Duke and Duchess rode in an open carriage through the streets of Windsor.
10. The Long Walk.
The fitting end to a visit to Windsor is a stroll to the top of The Long Walk, the magnificent three-mile stretch of roadway on which the royal wedding party traveled to the castle, and that the newly wed Duke and Duchess of Sussex traversed in their open carriage after the ceremony.
It’s grand sweep is awe-inspiring. When we visited, the road was filled with people walking with friends, their dogs, or in quiet solitude as dusk fell over the countryside.
We learned quite a lot about British history on our visit, in addition to seeing Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. And we suppose that’s the point. Come for The Dress, stay for The History.
No matter your motivation, we’d definitely say go. It’s a splendid way to spend an afternoon.
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