When Harry marries

Veteran royal correspondent Andrew Donaldson writes on the Prince and Miss Markle's wedding


SNEER if you must, but today is World Whisky Day, a significant event which is celebrated not just once a year here at the Mahogany Ridge but maybe two or three times a week. At least. 

But, speaking of celebrations, today also happens to be the day that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry. 

A long, long day in other words, and one in which no end of cask strength Sporran Sap will be needed to keep our sanity intact if we are to survive the television coverage before the sun sets this evening.

Ordinarily, we are staunch republicans in this part of the world and we have no time for royalty. 

In fact, the regulars here believe that if we cannot do away with traditional leaders, either by constitutional methods or the guillotine, and give their land to the serfs who grub an scratch a living there, then they must be made to work to earn their keep. Possibly as tourist attractions in Disneyfied tribal theme parks.

And why not? The House of Windsor has proved to be marvellous in drawing visitors to that soggy island. Like Madame Tussauds, they are what is known as a hot ticket. Except there is perhaps more personality on display at Madame Tussauds.

We digress. Unlike our own monarchies, the lot up there tend not to get married very often. Which is perhaps why, when they do, we sit up and pay attention. 

It is for this reason that, when I once worked there, I was despatched to report on a previous Royal wedding, that of Harry’s father — or not, as the case may be; you know, all this chatter among the proles that he actually is former British army officer James Hewitt’s love child — and Camilla Parker Bowles, a woman who referred to herself in letters to her paramour as “your devoted old bag”.

That was a grim day for South African journalism, I can tell you. 

All foreign media working in London must be registered with the Foreign Press Association. When it came to accreditation, Prince Charles’s people informed the FPA that Clarence House could only accommodate a certain number of reporters from the former colonies. The FPA then informed its members that they’d be using a lottery system to select who would be permitted to cover the wedding.

I was one of the winners. Or rather, one of the losers. 

Arriving at Windsor Castle, I was given a designated position from which I could observe proceedings. Once in place, I was ordered not to move until the ceremony was done, which seemed fine. Except that my position was on a roof. 

I was up there for hours and was finally only able to catch a glimpse of Charles and Camilla — or Charmilla, as they say in American — when they walked out the chapel, several floors below, climbed in a car and were driven away. I may as well have stayed in London and watched the whole thing on television.  

These things are rather erroneously media packaged as fairy tale romances, aren’t they? But as weddings go, they’re more like acquisitions and not mergers; even a “modern” marriage like this one is a daftly one-sided business.

In marrying Harry, a man whose high colonial racist behaviour as a youth has been excused as either high jinks or something his minders should have prevented, Markle  has literally had to kiss herself goodbye. 

An American, she will become a British subject. She has been instructed to give up her acting career, change her religion and — quelle horreure — shut down all her social media accounts.

It is possibly for this very reason that Chelsy Davy, who we once claimed as one of our own by dint of the fact that she’s a Zimbo, broke off her six-year relationship with Harry in 2011. He was okay, even for a ginger. But the baggage that came with marrying him? No thanks.

On the other hand, and unlike her future stepmom-in-law, a person described by one relative as “the laziest woman to have been born in England in the 20th century”, Markle does at least know what it’s like to have a job. 

As the New Yorker put it this week, “Markle is certainly the only Sandringham guest to have once worked at a fro-yo shop called Humphrey Yogart.”

But let’s be charitable. As an institution, the Windsors are at least trying to be in sync with contemporary mores. No foreign heads of states will be there today. Instead, more than a thousand common folk have been invited to Windsor Castle.

They must bring their own lunch, though. If I was one of them, I’d pack the Sporran Sap.

A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.