It’s unlikely Harry and Meghan would draw the same crowds today as they did two short years ago for their fairytale wedding. Picture: Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
It’s unlikely Harry and Meghan would draw the same crowds today as they did two short years ago for their fairytale wedding. Picture: Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Crushing reality of royal wedding photo

COMMENT

Let's hope Meghan, Duchess of Sussex really needs some new towels or sheets right now.

That or a beautiful organic T-shirt. Or another adorable romper for baby Archie.

Tuesday marks her and husband Prince Harry's second wedding anniversary and, as per tradition, this particular day is meant to be celebrated with a gift of cotton.

Time might have been moving strangely of late but there is something particularly bewildering about trying to wrap your head around the fact that it has only been two brief years since Meghan Markle, actress, blogger and philanthropist, walked up the steps of St George's Chapel in Windsor and walked down them Her Royal Highness, Meghan Duchess of Sussex.

Harry and Meghan’s wedding was just two years ago. An incredible amount has changed since then. Picture: Getty Images.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding was just two years ago. An incredible amount has changed since then. Picture: Getty Images.

 

In that time, barely a week has gone by when Harry and Meghan have not been in the headlines, the couple living in the eye of a media and public storm that has only gotten more frenzied of late.

But, rewind to May 19, 2018 and it was a day suffused with optimism, joy and love. One hundred thousand people lined the procession route in Windsor to cheer on the couple, a sea of Union Jack flags being waved in the spring sunshine. Across the globe, two billion people tuned in to watch the historic day, with Meghan the star of the most watched TV show in the world.

And inside the church, something wonderful and history-making was happening.

When Kate Middleton wed Prince William, her sister Pippa (and her iconic derrière) was by her side, and her brother James read a passage, but aside from that, this was a royal wedding cut from the same, yellowed cloth that the Queen's family has been dragging out since bicycles were still a novelty.

The same roster of overused Bible readings would get dragged, a little-worn tiara would be dusted off, and a squadron of small boys in white ruffs would be forced to belt out a few hymns while rows and rows of the aristocracy craned their necks to inspect the bride.

Kate Middleton wed Prince William’s wedding was barely a shift from tradition in 2011. Picture: Getty Images.
Kate Middleton wed Prince William’s wedding was barely a shift from tradition in 2011. Picture: Getty Images.

 

Instead, on Meghan and Harry's big day, the Kingdom Choir sang Stand By Me. Bishop Michael Curry flew in from Chicago to give a passionate, rousing sermon about the power of love, quoting Martin Luther King and reading from an iPad.

While stories have since surfaced which paint a less harmonious picture of what was reportedly going on behind the scenes before the wedding (an alleged tantrum over a tiara and tears over a flower girl frock) the very public lengths the royal family went to celebrate Meghan is striking.

Her identity was not being buried in a plodding traditional service but lovingly spotlighted. It was a ceremony as much about who she was as about the famous family she was marrying into.

Bishop Michael Curry's sermon was one of the most memorable moments of the wedding. Picture: BBC.
Bishop Michael Curry's sermon was one of the most memorable moments of the wedding. Picture: BBC.


The Windsors opening of arms was not just symbolic but literal. When only days before the event her father Thomas Markle pulled out of walking her down the aisle after it was revealed he had staged photos for the paparazzi, Charles immediately stepped in. Going back and watching the broadcast, the Prince of Wales has a huge smile on his face as he greets his future daughter-in-law in the church, tenderly taking her arm and beaming as they walk towards Harry. For a future King hardly given to public displays of emotion, it is a moment that truly tugs at the heartstrings.

 

On the day, it felt like Harry and Meghan were awash in love, not only from the royal family but from an adoring world. When their fledgling relationship was revealed way back in 2016 (were we ever that young?) the world was swept up in a truly unexpected but wonderful romance. In Meghan, the brave little boy who had borne his grief with such heartbreaking stoicism, had found a truly modern Princess to stand by his side, her compassion and activism equal to his own.

 

 

While a handful of arch conservatives had spewed out their appalling racist views about Meghan in the press, the vast, vast majority of the world was wholly on the side of the Sussexes.

The situation in May 2020 could not be more removed. Harry and Meghan are today living in Beverly Hills, sequestered away in a vast flashy mansion while the paparazzi trawl the nearby hiking trails that can see into the property.

The couple, while they still might be a duke and duchess, are no longer able to style themselves as His or Her Royal Highness, nor are they allowed to market themselves as such.

Gone is their British taxpayer funded security, official roles, and much of that abundance of public support.

Once the golden couple of the royal family, they are now a highly polarising duo.

 

 

Looking back, there are a series of moments which contributed to the slow erosion of the vast amount of goodwill they enjoyed.

Last year saw Harry increasingly focus on the issue of climate change. So, when he and Meghan took four private planes in a matter of weeks for two luxe summer holidays they were angrily labelled as hypocrites.

In October, they appeared in a documentary about their trip to Southern Africa, a trip which focused on community and grassroots organisations, women's and girls' rights, mental health, the environment and HIV/AIDS. When they used the doco as an opportunity to open up about their personal struggles they faced a backlash for airing their grievances and issues.

Time and again Harry and Meghan have seemed to chafe against tradition, struggling to forge their own path and, outwardly at least, seeming bewildered when the public did not wholeheartedly support their unorthodox approach to royal life.

Sympathy for the duo has been in increasingly short supply.

In Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan opened up about her struggles as a new royal. Picture: ITV
In Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan opened up about her struggles as a new royal. Picture: ITV

 

In 2018, Harry was the most popular member of the royal family; today he is now fourth most popular, even beaten by his stodgy older brother William.

Meanwhile, in 2018 Meghan took out the sixth most popular spot; today she is eighth.

A separate poll done in January this year, days after the Sussexes announced their plan to step down as frontline members of the royal family, found that 57 per cent of Brits felt not very much or no sympathy for their decision. The same percentage of respondents felt like the renegade couple had not treated the Queen fairly.

Days before Harry and Meghan's wedding, news reports circulated that people were already camping out near the church to get the best view of the couple.

People reportedly camped for days to catch a glimpse of the duchess on her 2018 wedding day. Picture: WireImage.
People reportedly camped for days to catch a glimpse of the duchess on her 2018 wedding day. Picture: WireImage.

Looking back at the photos of the tens of thousands of people crammed along Windsor's Long Walk alone, it is hard not to wonder how dramatically different that image would look like if it was taken today. Would there still be as many people willing to spend nights and nights in a tent to glimpse then for only a few moments?

Two years on, Harry and Meghan, are still clearly deeply in love, but there is no denying that many other people have fallen out of love with them.

 

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.

Originally published as Crushing reality of royal wedding photo



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