I woke up at 9 a.m. and took two trains to be here. Stuffing my mouth with a muffin and a latte, I’m sure the other people on the trains thought I was a comical sight.
But there was no time for a nice sit-down breakfast—tomorrow was the Royal Wedding. THE ROYAL WEDDING. While that is not why I came to England to study abroad, it’s what I was most looking forward to this entire semester (mainly in the hopes that I would see the Queen). Anyways, if I wanted a good viewing spot, enough to see some royals in person, I needed to camp out early enough to beat the crowds.
I got to Windsor at 10:53 a.m. The station was right outside the castle (*cue minor yell of excitement because every member of the Royal Family was most likely behind those walls) which meant that all the ABCs and Channel 9s and BBCs were camped out asking questions. On the buildings, UK flags flapped in the wind and on their railings, cardboard cutouts of the future couple beamed down on the cobblestoned streets. The sidewalks were cordoned off by metal barriers and the security shone like little suns in their highlighter-colored vests.
To get to the Long Walk, I think I asked about eight security guards if I was going the right way to camp out.
When I got to the place that I would be staying at for 35 hours, there were not as many people as I thought there would be. To my right, there was an Australian family decked out in their country’s patriotic gear. To my left, there was an English family sitting calmly with their Union-Jack-bedecked-everything. Across from me, there was a screen that would later live stream the eventual ceremony to us all outside the castle gates. Overhead, the planes landing and leaving the nearby airport deafened the area around me.
Sitting down on the ground, I did not think enough to bring chairs or blankets, I sprawled my backpack as far from me as possible and did the same with my jacket to ensure that I had enough space for my friends that would come later.
I sat alone for two hours reading the book I needed to read the last essay due for my class. In this time, I was moved to a new spot because the security needed enough room in case they needed space for their trucks.
No worries though! Still had an amazing spot.
Befriending a Canadian that also came alone, I realized that I was not the only one obsessed with all things Royal Family. She knew every dress that the Duchess of Cambridge and the Queen wore to their formal events. She knew the lines of descent and who would never wear the crown. She even made theories on what each royal would wear to this occasion.
Her name was Lesley and she was from Alberta. She was studying for a master’s in child psychology because she wants to help children who suffer from mental illness. Very passionate about the state of affairs in the world, she let loose her real opinions on the countries of the world. And try as she might, she could not seem to successfully blow up her camping mattress. Lesley likes ‘Victoria’ more than ‘The Crown.’
We made a pact that we would not allow anyone to intimidate us for the spots we were saving for our friends.
Behind us, the food trucks taunted us with their false promises of opening their doors.
Taking turns on watch duty, Lesley and I used the toilets and bought as many caffeinated drinks as we could hold.
While I stuck to the lattes and teas, she preferred to buy Diet Cokes in every flavor available.
We met a mother-daughter duo from Florida. They were Susanna and Susanna’s mom. Susanna actually matched Lesley in obsession with the Royal Family—she makes sure to buy every replica outfit of Kate’s wardrobe and attends a royal event each time she comes to England every year.
More and more people began to appear on the Long Walk. There were the Windsor natives who ogled us in their exasperated ways. And there were the stragglers drifting in trying to claim their own territories close to the fence.
Sometimes, there were people trying to edge closer to Lesley and me, but I think our glares kept them at bay. The constant lie of, “My friends just went to go get food,” worked every time.
Here were our food truck options: Cheese on Toast (they sell exactly what they say they do), Bar Car (there for your every alcoholic need after 10 AM the day of the wedding), Candy Car (every kind of British candy was sold and displayed in droves), and about three food trucks catering to the espresso and tea needs of us all.
The cheese on toast was actually very good for how simple of a delicacy it was. And the candy was equally amazing at the late hour we bought some. Of course, I can never say no to a cup of tea or a latte.
I had 3 more hours until Brooke and Sunny, the first of my friends to join me, came to the spot. In the hours leading up to their arrival, Lesley, Susanna, and I analyzed everything that we thought would transpire the next day and if we would actually see the Queen.
My heroes finally showed up and brought with them the gift of McDonald’s. A Big Mac meal and a Coke to be more specific. The sun was finally going down which gave my skin a break from the violent rays.
But with the British weather, when the sun began to set, the cold began to creep in—our greatest enemy the whole night.
Initially, we believed that we would be staying up all night because none of us brought comfortable materials to lay upon which left us the ground’s embrace. And it’s not that the grass was uncomfortable, but it sure didn't feel like the bed I left behind in Loughborough either.
Giving up my bed for the chance at getting a glimpse of a royal in real life was worth it though.
Either the cold crept into our toes first or it was in our hands. Our entire bodies were quivering in the chilly breeze which took the possibility of sleep away. And if you were sleeping, there were others who walked around taking pictures of all the people camping out for this.
There were some people clothed in what appeared to be tin foil jackets that made them look like creepy statues as they never moved.
Brooke, Sunny, and I talked our lives over and over again underneath a star-spangled sky and squished against each other as tightly as possible to preserve some sort of warmth.
Sunny couldn't move at all.
The entire night, my body was warm except for my shoes to which the dew on the grass kept filtering into.
After suffering a sleepless night, the sun greeted us bright and early with its rising behind Windsor Castle. The food trucks that were closed began to open shop for the people who wanted an early breakfast.
Today was the day! In about 8 hours the ceremony would begin. Meghan Markle would officially become a member of the world’s most famous and most coveted family.
More and more people began to clamor onto the Long Walk taking the left-over spots that were not yet taken—some tried to finagle their way into our spots but were quickly shut down.
If you wanted to be this close, then you should have had the determination to be here as long as we were.
Much like it’s popularly agreed on that Meghan is living her very own Cinderella story, we too experienced ours when our Windsor Moms set up camp behind us.
They were like our Fairy Godmothers for the blankets they offered us, for the free tea and biscuits they gave us, and of course, the very cool glasses they let us wear.
They told us that they would be our shield against all of the people that would try to sneak past them and into our spots.
We called them our moms partly because they acted like it and partly because one of them told us, “We’ll be your moms for the day!”
During the wedding, one of them even told the person she was on the phone with, “Yeah, I adopted 5 new kids today! I’m right behind them!”
It’s very unfortunate that I don’t remember their names, but they were some of the most wonderful ladies I have ever met.
Sophia and Alison finally arrived and with them, I got another much-needed McDonald’s present.
The entire group was here and we could finally start getting ready for the event. Brooke brought glitter with her and we assembled our flags on the fence that separated us.
The crowds were growing by the hundreds as people were backed up against the food trucks.
The snipers were taking their positions on the nearby rooftops and the towers of the castle, training their weapons upon the audience.
There were hand drawn posters everywhere.
Even the security, while they had to maintain the façade of no-nonsense, joined in with the rest of us on this jovial day.
On the screens, messages kept flashing that told of the delays at the train and bus stations. They also showcased how well protected the area was.
Now begins the beginning of the best part of this entire day.
Before the wedding began, the screens displayed all of the A-List celebrities entering St. George’s Chapel. And with each passing famous person, the crowds outside screamed in delight.
Amidst the usual raucous cheers there was:
Oprah Winfrey: “I LOVE HER!”
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin: “YES! THEY’RE SUCH A GOOD COUPLE!”
David Beckham: “OH MY GOD, HE’S SO HOT!”
Victoria Beckham: “SPICE GIRLS!”
Serena Williams: “I wish I was as talented as her.”
James Corden: “HE’S SO FUNNY!”
Elton John: “ELTON! ELTON! ELTON!”
Suits Costars: “I was wondering if Mehgan would invite them all.”
And then came the Royal Family (!!!!!!!!!!!):
Sarah Ferguson: "FERGIE!" "Okay, that is not Fergie, do the British not know her?"
Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, and company: “Who are they?”
Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice: “Hey, Beatrice isn’t wearing an ugly hat this time.”
Prince William and Prince Harry: “THERE HE IS! LOOK AT HIM! AWW!”
After the two brothers walked into the chapel, there was quiet. No one knew where Kate or Camila were, but it was assumed they were already inside acting on some royal duty. Which meant that there was one more very important Royal who had still not shown up.
But then the TV screens flashed to a car speeding down the Long Walk, but the cameras were purposefully far enough that the mystery of who was riding inside sparked a noise from my throat that I hope I never make again.
BECAUSE IT HAD TO BE QUEEN ELIZABETH.
She still had not arrived, and the princes arrived earlier than their slotted time, so why couldn’t she? And the crowds that the car already passed were screaming so loud that the airplanes above could not be heard. This was the moment that I had been waiting for—I would finally be able to see the Queen in the flesh and all the hours I spent watching ‘The Crown’ would not be in vain. Neither would every trip I made to Buckingham Palace just to see if her personal flag was up.
The excitement that resounded throughout the crowd reached a boiling point.
And the car rolled by.
But it wasn’t Queen Elizabeth II that was in it.
IT WAS MEHGAN MARKLE. She looked stunning from the fast glance that I got from the car and she sat facing forward. Facing her future destiny as a member of a very influential family.
The Queen and Kate and Camila came right after.
*cue the Wedding March music
*focus camera on the beautiful bride and make sure to cut to her groom’s blushing face
I am very happy that I experienced at least one Royal Wedding in my lifetime (I say it like this because I don’t know if I’ll be going to Prince George’s when he marries unless I am an invited guest) (There’s always hope). All around me, there was love.
There was love in the greetings exchanged between strangers who wanted to share in the love. There was love in the cajoling correspondence between friends and family. There was love between the security and crowds because it was a happy happy day. And there was a noticeable love between Mehgan and Harry that brought the world together on May 19, 2018.
The wedding was entirely filmed and displayed on the screens perched on the lawn, the speakers loud enough that we could all hear. Not that they needed to be too loud because there was silence as everyone stood transfixed at what was going on inside the chapel.
But the best part was the end. After Mehgan and Harry kissed on the steps of the chapel, they got into their carriage and began the Procession. I am not lying, I was only about 10 feet away from royalty. Their carriage passed us on the Long Walk and while Harry looked the other way, Mehgan beamed at us all. I’m not going to say this moment was life-altering, but it was certainly moving.
I WAS NEXT TO ROYALTY.
This day is not a day that I will soon forget. I loved everything about it and it was everything I wanted it to be (besides not seeing the Queen).
I've been using this expression a lot since being over here, but it works for this, too:
If you had told me a year ago that I would be going to the Royal Wedding, never would I have believed you.