Royal Wedding redux: This time it’s Princess Eugenie
WINDSOR, England (AP) — It’s time for another royal wedding at Windsor Castle — but this time it’s less of a global TV spectacle and more of a family affair.
Despite large signs at the castle’s ticket booth welcoming people to the wedding, many visitors seem unaware that Princess Eugenie, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, will marry tequila company executive James Brooksbank Friday.
“No interest,” said Michael Taylor, a drummer from Chicago who toured the imposing castle Wednesday — but didn’t know a wedding was being planned on the grounds. “I don’t know anything about her. If she walked past me right now, I wouldn’t even know.”
Eugenie is the 28-year-old daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and ninth in line for the throne. She has lived most of her life outside the media spotlight, and keeps a low profile compared to cousins Prince William and Prince Harry and their glamorous wives.
That’s reflected in the souvenir shops that line the streets leading to the imposing castle. Royal wedding merchandise fill the windows — but they feature Harry and Meghan Markle, who also married at Windsor Castle in May in a spectacular, globally televised ceremony.
Only a few Halloween face masks feature Eugenie, though some shopkeepers say that will change in the hours ahead of her wedding.
“It’s going to be shirts and some mugs. A few people have been asking for it, but compared to Harry-Meghan, it’s not that big,” said Salman Khan at The King and Queen gift shop. Eugenie items have been hard to find because only a few suppliers are manufacturing them, he added.
“This is different, but it’s still quite good for the town. The whole town is still excited. It’s going to be a good day for everybody,” he said.
Snippets of the wedding will be shown on British TV, but only one channel, ITV, is planning to provide live coverage of the proceedings.
Eugenie and Brooksbank are following a precedent set by Harry and Meghan by inviting 1,200 members of the public to the castle grounds for a better view of Friday’s festivities.
Like Harry and Meghan, the couple will also say their vows in St. George’s Chapel, a masterpiece of the “perpendicular Gothic” style with royal connections dating back to 1475, when construction began under King Edward IV.
Afterward, the newlyweds plan a carriage ride through the streets of Windsor to give the public a chance to see them up close.
It’s not clear how many visitors will come to Windsor, a riverside town about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of London. Part of the draw will be the chance to catch a glimpse of the queen and other royals, including William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their two young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
George, 5, will be a page boy in the bridal party, and three-year-old Charlotte will be one of six bridesmaids. It is not clear if their youngest brother, five-month-old Prince Louis, will attend.
Harry and Meghan, a former star of the TV show “Suits”, are also expected.
Eugenie is following tradition by not revealing who designed her wedding gown, but she has said it will be a British designer. She has asked her older sister, Princess Beatrice, to be her maid of honor.
Eugenie has worked for several years in a fulltime position with the Hauser and Wirth art gallery in London.
Brooksbank, 32, has asked his brother Thomas to be his best man. He and Eugenie have dated for many years. The couple says he got down on one knee and proposed in January during a trip to Nicaragua while the couple was visiting a spectacular lake next to a volcano.
The queen, who has only just returned from an extended summer holiday in Scotland, plans to host a champagne luncheon for the newlyweds shortly after the ceremony, and a second reception will be held that night.
The luncheon with the queen is expected to be a quiet, muted affair — reflecting the 92-year-old monarch’s advanced years — with the nighttime shindig seen as a chance for the younger generations to step out in style.
The presence of so many royals — and a number of celebrity guests — has prompted extra security measures to be put in place.
Police teams have been meticulously checking and sealing water drains near the castle, and sniffer dogs are checking for explosives in the royal-themed shops, restaurants and tea rooms frequented by tourists.
The royal family is paying for the wedding, but the anti-monarchist group Republic is lobbying Parliament to prevent any public money from being spent on security or other wedding-related costs.
The group says Eugenie does not carry out royal duties and that weddings are personal, private occasions, not affairs of state. It has criticized the royals for using weddings as “PR exercises” and expecting taxpayers to pick up part of the tab.
These concerns aren’t popular in Windsor’s business community, where the surging popularity of the royal family in recent years — and the afterglow of Harry and Meghan’s wedding — has helped bring in visitors in recent months.
“We are getting a lot of American and Chinese and Spanish visitors,” said Jag Khaira at the Nell Gwynn Tearoom. “A lot of tourists don’t even know about this wedding Friday, but it will bring in the crowds and should be a good day for us.”