This Day In History: May 19

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On May 19, 2018, Prince Harry of Britain marries Meghan Markle, an American actress, in St. George’s Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle. Some 600 guests attend the ceremony and nearly 2 billion people worldwide watch the televised event. 

For the ceremony, Markle wore a white boat-neck dress by British designer Clare Waight Keller, the first female designer of the French fashion house Givenchy. The groom wore the frock coat uniform of the Household Cavalry (the “Blues and Royals”). Harry’s brother, Prince William, served as best man; Markle chose not to have a maid of honor. The nuptials were presided over by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Breaking from tradition, the bride walked into St. George’s Chapel by herself, and was met halfway down the aisle by Prince Charles, the future king of Britain. Guests included Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams and Sir Elton John. Apart from former Prime Minister Sir John Major, a special guardian to Princes William and Harry, there were no politicians, ambassadors or foreign heads of state.

The nuptials between Prince Harry, then sixth in line for the British throne, and the biracial, divorced Markle, were viewed by many at the time as a sign of the British royal family entering a new, and integrated, modern era. Queen Elizabeth II sat opposite mother-of-the-bride Doria Ragland, who is descended from Africans forcibly taken to work as slaves in Georgia. The Most Rev. Michael Curry, the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, gave a sermon that quoted Martin Luther King Jr. The Kingdom Choir gospel choir performed Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” as well as the civil rights anthem, “This Little Light of Mine.”

The 36-year-old bride and 33-year-old groom met in 2016 and announced their engagement a year later. Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles, the only child of Ragland, a yoga instructor, and Thomas Markle, a lighting director. After minor TV and film appearances, Markle landed a starring role in the legal drama “Suits.” She also served as global ambassador for World Vision and as an advocate for U.N. Women. Prince Harry, the second son of Charles, who ascended to the throne in 2022, and the late Princess Diana, held a decade-long stint in the British Armed Forces; during his service, he conducted two tours of duty to Afghanistan.

Harry and Meghan were given the titles Duke and Duchess of Sussex by Queen Elizabeth II on the day of their marriage. On January 8, 2020, the couple issued a statement confirming they were “stepping back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family” and would balance their time between the U.K. and North America. In a document filed on April 15, 2024, Harry formally updated his country of residency to the United States.
Nearly one year to the day of their wedding, the couple welcomed their first child, Archie, who was born on May 6, 2019. Meghan gave birth to their daughter, Lilibet, on June 4, 2021.