From East End to Markle village, divided Brits unite for wedding revelry

Agence France-Presse
From East End to Markle village, divided Brits unite for wedding revelry


Families, friends, and neighbors converge to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange vows in the last major royal wedding for a generation

LONDON, United Kingdom – At street parties and pubs around the kingdom, Britons celebrated Saturday’s royal wedding on May 19 with bunting, booze and bonhomie in a welcome respite from the divisions and uncertainties of Brexit.

Families, friends and neighbors converged to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange vows in the last major royal wedding for a generation.

With clear blue skies replacing Britain’s often dreary weather, the mood was joyous.

“It’s just nice to have some good news for a change – something happy,” said Pamela Daniels, a creative director, enjoying a street party outside the east London bakery of Claire Ptak, the royal wedding cake maker.

Scores of urbane Londoners filled the block, toasting the newlyweds with sparkling wine.

“Today we are royalists for sure, tomorrow not anymore,” said Gitta Gschwendtner, 46, a longtime German transplant to London. (IN PHOTOS: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle captivate world in royal wedding)

“But I love it. Her dress was gorgeous.”

Party at the palace

Local authorities across Britain approved hundreds of party applications, which allow roads to be shut and decked out with decorations.

Britain’s street parties are a favorite tradition on national days of celebration.

At a social housing complex in London’s traditionally working-class East End, a couple of dozen residents held a bash funded by a local council grant.

A mix of longtime locals and newer arrivals from Europe and the United States enjoyed a table spread of food as music played.

US organizer Kate Eberwein, 39, said most of her neighbors who had turned out were not British. 

“It’s a good opportunity to show we decided to come here, make our home here, and we love it.” (IN PHOTOS: Global royalists descend on Windsor for wedding)

Retiree Janet Price, 69, born in the East End, said the day prompted nostalgic memories of the first street party she attended: the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 – when she was aged just four.

“It was wonderful. With rationing still going on it was a treat,” she recalled of the food-filled festivities then. 

While more than 100,000 royalists descended on Windsor to witness the action, 1,500 ticketed guests settled for picnics and an open-air screening in the park of London’s Kensington Palace, the newlyweds’ residence.

Sam Wilson, a 26-year-old engineer in flip-flops and shorts, brought strawberries and prosecco.

“It’s great to see normally miserable people a bit happier,” he said.

Excuse to party

Pubs in England and Wales could apply to stay open an extra two hours until 1:00 am (0000 GMT or 8 am Philippine time).

In Hammersmith in west London, the Thatched House pub hosted a party – as it does for most royal weddings. 

“This time it’s different: with the current climate, Brexit, people are worried,” said the Irish landlord Tom Gavighan, adding it was “important to seize this moment”.

Maha Khan, 22, watching the ceremony at a London pub called the Duke of Sussex – Harry’s new title – said it was “a nice way to bring everyone together… at least just for the day.”

Cheers rang out as the first images of the wedding cars were screened, and as the ceremony started it was standing room only inside.

“I feel like the patriotic spirit is really prevalent in London because of where we are,” said the pub’s party organiser Sam Smith, 25, draped in a British flag.

“And everyone loves an excuse for a party.”

He had festooned the Waterloo watering hole in British and US flags.

In Scotland, people also gathered around a big screen in the Pear Tree pub in the capital Edinburgh.

“It’s just feeling a sense of belonging to a wonderful piece of history,” said Clare Jevons, 51.

Twenty miles (30 kilometers) to the east, the hundred residents of Markle village gathered in a farmstead to celebrate with a barbecue.

“The name Markle, we’ve always associated it with this wee steading,” said 21-year-old student Jenny Jack.

“With Meghan Markle coming into the mix, it’s made us think, oh, we’ve got quite a cool name!”

Australian Alison Lemaire, 48, from Sydney but a London resident of 17 years, said she was sharing the day with an old friend in a pub.

“It’s such a beautiful day and it really does unite Britain,” she said.

“I just like the way the country on these occasions comes together, puts things aside and has a good time.” –

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