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A History Of Royal Weddings At Windsor: Prince Edward & Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones

Our next Royal Wedding at Windsor could be considered the last proper Royal Wedding held there – The Prince of Wales’ 2005 service was a simple blessing and Peter Phillips (who married there last, in 2008) doesn’t have a Royal title – so this is the most recent Windsor Family wedding that we can really comfortably compare to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s upcoming nuptials.

His Royal Highness The Prince Edward is the youngest child of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The Prince began dating public relations executive Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1993, and after a long courtship, their engagement was announced in January 1999. Like his nephew Prince Harry, Prince Edward proposed with a three-stone diamond engagement ring. On June 19, 1999 their wedding took place at St George's Chapel, Windsor.

While the four bridal attendants were children in keeping with Royal tradition, Prince Edward had his two elder brothers, The Prince of Wales and The Duke of York at his side as his supporters. We imagine The Duke of Cambridge will fulfill the same duty for his brother on May 19.

Sophie’s wedding gown was a study of sumptuous simplicity by British designer Samantha Shaw, made of silk organza, silk crepe, and hundreds of thousands of crystal and pearl beads. The ethereal gown had a majestic train and was worn with a cathedral-length veil. The most personal of touches came in the bride’s wedding day jewels: a “new” tiara reportedly made from pieces of Queen Victoria’s Regal Circlet, and a pearl necklace and earrings suite designed by The Prince himself.

Although an intimate wedding by royal standards (indeed there was none of the military fanfare that we’ve recently learned will be present for Prince Harry and Meghan; the Prime Minister wasn’t even invited) – among the 550 guests were Royals from the world over. They included (outside of the British Royal Family) His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei, His Royal Highness The Prince of Asturias (now HM King Felipe VI of Spain), Her Majesty Queen Anne Marie of Greece, His Highness The Emir of Bahrain (now HM The King of Bahrain), and Their Royal Highnesses Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla of Luxembourg, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, and Prince Joachim and then-wife Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

Following a 45-minute ceremony, Prince Edward and his bride delighted the crowds outside with an open carriage ride around Windsor. They then joined their guests for a reception held in the grand state rooms of Windsor Castle. The new royal couple were created The Earl and Countess of Wessex, Viscount and Viscountess Severn by The Queen on their wedding day in a rare instance of the son of a monarch not being created a Duke (however it is understood Prince Edward will inherit the Dukedom of Edinburgh on the sad occasion of the death of his father).

So how can we compare The Earl and Countess of Wessex’s wedding at Windsor with the upcoming wedding of their nephew Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?

For one, May 19th won’t be a state affair, either. Although invitations have been sent, we still don’t know who is invited, and won’t be surprised to see a limited number of Royals, just like in June 1999. The brides are also both more mature – Sophie Rhys-Jones was 34 on her wedding day and Meghan Markle is 36. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York was not invited to Prince Edward’s wedding, but rumor has it that Prince Harry has insisted on her being at his (time will tell, but we expect she’ll be there). Also, Prince Edward and Sophie’s dress code called for evening attire and no ladies hats, which is the exact opposite of what we know from a glimpse at Harry and Meghan’s invitations.

Will Prince Harry be made a Duke on his wedding day? Our money is on YES. When you think of it, not only will Harry someday be the son and brother of a King, but someday in the future there just won’t be that many Royal Dukes around. When The Queen’s cousins Kent and Gloucester pass their titles to their male heirs, they will not be styled as Royal Highness. That would leave The Duke of York (who as yet has no sons to inherit his title) and a new Duke of Edinburgh in Prince Edward. Rather than waiting for King Charles III to bestow a Royal Dukedom on his younger son, we expect Her Majesty will do so for her beloved grandson. Yet most importantly in terms of comparisons, The Earl and Countess of Wessex have by all accounts a happy marriage and two thriving children, as well as being vital working members of The Royal Family. We sincerely hope to see Prince Harry and his bride be just as happy and as fruitful!

- Written by Marcia Masenda Mack

(Top Image: The new Earl and Countess of Wessex surrounded by their families and Royal guests; Bottom: The new Royal couple leaving St. George's Chapel following the ceremony)