WINDSOR, England — Britain’s Prince Harry weds American actress Meghan Markle this Saturday in a union of youthful royalty and Hollywood glamour expected to reinvigorate the venerable House of Windsor.
Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth and sixth-in-line to the throne, and Markle, star of U.S. TV drama “Suits,” will tie the knot at Windsor Castle, home to the British royal family for nearly 1,000 years.
With celebrities expected to join the queen and senior royals for the ceremony and reception, thousands from across the globe will descend on the picturesque town of Windsor.
“It’s absolutely marvelous. It’s going to be a very special day for everybody,” Harry’s father, Prince Charles, said during a visit to France this week.
Harry, 33, a former army officer and one-time royal wild child, met his bride-to-be on a blind date in July 2016 after being set up through a mutual friend. Markle, 36, said she knew little about her royal date while Harry said he had never heard of Markle or watched her TV series.
However, it was love at first sight, and after just two dates, he whisked her off to Botswana for an intimate holiday, camping under the stars.
“The fact that I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly was confirmation to me that all the stars were aligned, everything was just perfect,” Harry said in an interview to mark the engagement last November.
“This beautiful woman just tripped and fell into my life, I fell into her life.”
Saturday’s wedding will take place at St. George’s Chapel of Windsor Castle, the queen’s home west of London and the oldest and largest inhabited fortress in the world.
Some 40 monarchs have called the castle home and the chapel contains the remains of 10 kings, including Henry VIII and George VI, Elizabeth’s father.
Set against all this tradition, Markle is a stark contrast in modernity. As a divorcee, with a white father and African-American mother, her background has provided a source of huge interest and comment.
Markle is due to arrive at the chapel in a car with her mother, while her father will escort her down the aisle.
This wedding has drawn comparisons with some remarkable episodes of recent royal history: Edward VIII’s relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson, which led him to abdicate in 1936, and the queen’s late sister Margaret’s decision to call off her marriage to an equerry Peter Townsend.
“Meghan will bring a new perspective to the royal family,” royal biographer Claudia Joseph said. “Obviously she comes from a very different background and … that’s hugely important to take the royal family into the future.”
The younger son of the late Princess Diana, Harry has always been a hugely popular figure member of the royal family.
Now a campaigner on mental health issues, he says he was close to a breakdown in his 20s. His frank admissions of frailty have resonated with Britons as has his natural ease when mingling with the public.
“One of the reasons why Prince Harry is so popular is when he was young he was something of a wild child, he got himself into a number of scrapes,” said royal historian Hugo Vickers. “All that has served to do is make him even more popular.”
A poll last week found 71 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Harry. That made him the second-highest rated members of the royals, just behind his brother but ahead of the 92-year-old queen.
Markle, who was born in Los Angeles, made her first TV appearance in a 2002 episode of the medical drama “General Hospital” and has appeared in other TV shows and films.
In 2011, she married film producer Trevor Engelson but they divorced two years later. She achieved greatest fame as an actress for her starring part as Rachel Zane in the legal drama “Suits.” She bowed out of the series last month, after her character married her long-time love interest.
Markle will not become a princess in her own right, but her unlikely marriage to Harry has led many to describing it as a magical children’s story.
“The Americans love the British royal family and when you have an American actress marrying a British royal prince, it is the stuff of fairy tales,” biographer Joseph said.
The royal couple announced last week that former Episcopal bishop of North Carolina and current presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry has been asked to deliver the address at their wedding.
Kensington Palace said the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry would join archibishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — the spiritual head of the Anglican communion — for the wedding which is expected to be watched by millions of people around the world.
Curry, the 27th presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, was the first African-American presiding bishop when elected in 2015.
Welby will preside over the exchange of vows, while the service itself will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor.
“The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness,” Curry said in a statement. “And so we celebrate and pray for them today.”
Markle was reported to have been baptized by Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, in March.
The United States-based Episcopal Church is a constituent member of the global Anglican Communion, of which the Church of England is the Mother Church.