On Friday, Princess Eugenie marries her boyfriend, Jack Brooksbank, in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle. In the same chapel, just five months ago, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot, giving the British monarchy its greatest boost in a generation. This wedding is likely to have the opposite effect on royal poll ratings.
In many ways, the two ceremonies will be surprisingly similar: Harry had 800 guests, Eugenie is having 850. Harry invited 1,000 members of the public, selected by ballot, Eugenie is having 1,200. Harry and Meghan had a carriage ride through the streets of Windsor, Eugenie and Jack are having one too. Harry and Meghan had glorious weather; Eugenie and Jack no doubt want the same.
But some things will be very different.
Most notably, don’t expect the streets to be thronged with cheering well-wishers. To say that the nuptials of the eldest daughter of the queen’s third child, Prince Andrew, and his controversial ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, are unpopular is to put it mildly; 20,000 people have signed a petition started by anti-monarchist group Republic demanding the royals foot the estimated £2 million security bill themselves.
Even usually reliable pro-royal commentators and newspapers have been ridiculing the plans, which, fairly or not, they have characterized as being driven by envy, petty jealousy and York status anxiety (Andrew is said to have never got over being left out of the balcony gathering at the queen’s diamond jubilee, when Prince Charles unveiled the new “slimmed-down” monarchy).
Eugenie and her parents, according to gossip, demanded a wedding just as grand as Harry’s as the price of delaying her marriage until after Harry and Meghan had wed.
So Eugenie will get her big day. But public indifference was starkly illustrated by the lack of anything approaching a bidding war for TV rights to the ceremony.
Indeed, it looked at one stage like the mid-morning wedding was not going to be screened on British television at all; eventually ITV’s This Morning show sniffed an opportunity and has now said it will broadcast live from Windsor next week. The event will also be screened in the U.S. by TLC.
A source who worked on the production of Harry and Meghan’s wedding and is similarly involved in Eugenie’s told The Daily Beast that the lack of interest had been a source of anxiety, “It was all very ‘will-they won’t-they’ for a long time. It was definitely a slap in the face to the Yorks that the BBC didn’t want it, and there is a sense of relief that ITV has now stepped in.”
George and Amal Clooney will reprise their show-stopping appearance in May, as Eugenie’s beau, Jack Brooksbank, is the European rep for Clooney’s tequila brand, Casamigos.
Royal wedding stalwarts David and Victoria Beckham will be there, too.
Eugenie’s will be one of the biggest weddings yet staged in Windsor, and seats in the nave of the church are being rearranged to face the aisle in order to make room for additional chairs.
The message seems to be: Anything Harry and Meghan can do, Eugenie and Jack can do better—and the wedding dress is another area where the House of York has an opportunity to trump the House of Sussex.
Eugenie told British Vogue: “I'm not telling anyone who is making it, but I can say it is a British-based designer,” which has led to a flurry of bets on Erdem, Emilia Wickstead, and Alice Temperley.
After the 11 a.m. ceremony, all the guests will have lunch in St. George’s Hall, followed by a more exclusive party for a select 400 at Prince Andrew’s home—Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park.
The event also represents an important opportunity for Eugenie’s mother, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, to rebrand herself, a process she has been engaged in for over a decade. In the front row of St. George’s Chapel, she will be within spitting distance of her former father-in-law, Prince Philip (although one hopes he won’t actually spit).
Fergie’s front-row spot will certainly be a stark contrast to Harry’s wedding, where she arrived alone and was seated at the back of the church, separated even from her children.
Sarah’s readmission into the royal fold is in many ways a direct result of the declining influence of the Duke of Edinburgh, who has made no secret of his loathing of her, and his desire to exclude her from all royal activities.
He has long refused to be in the same room as her, although the queen has been gentler, even inviting her to Balmoral in recent years.
But 97-year-old Philip will almost certainly end up having to swallow his pride and appear in a family photo with Sarah at the wedding.
Amazingly, this will be their first picture together in 26 years.
While the day will of course be focused on Eugenie, few would blame Sarah if she took a moment to quietly relish the final victory over Philip that her daughter’s marriage will give her.
The general public may not be enthused. But for the Kremlinologists and rune-readers of royalty, Eugenie’s wedding promises to be quite a day.