As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prepare to marry this May, Chantal Borciani explores the historic palaces and secret gems of the royal boroughs they will call home.
Ever since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement last November, wedding fever has been growing at a pace. Whether you’re planning to line the cobbled streets of Windsor to glimpse the happy couple on their big day or simply want to explore Meghan’s favourite London haunts, we have the perfect guide to get you embraced by the royal wedding spirit.
The royal borough of Windsor will be taking centre stage this May as the happy couple marry in St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. An easy 55-minute train from central London, Windsor is perfect for a historic day trip. Surrounded by the Horseshoe Cloisters and protected by the imposing Henry VIII gate, the chapel is located in the lower ward of Windsor Castle and construction started in 1475 by Edward IV and was completed under Henry VIII in 1528. The Queen spends most of her private weekends at Windsor Castle, which dates back more than 900 years and has been home to 39 monarchs. Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it remains the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and is open to visitors all year round – though, of course, not on the day of the wedding. Tours of the castle include entry to the magnificent State Apartments and St George’s Chapel where services and choral recitals are open to the public throughout the year.
On the waterfront
While the streets of Windsor will be abuzz with throngs of well wishers on the big day, the quaint market places of Windsor are a pleasure all year round. Those in the know head to the riverside to glimpse the best views of the ancient turrets of Windsor Castle. A variety of riverboats and steamers operate along this stretch of the River Thames with the cruises offering stunning views of Windsor Great Park, the castle and prestigious Eton College. Why not make a day of it and enjoy an afternoon tea or champagne tea on board with Bateaux Windsor – a luxury dining cruise experience? click here to book
It’s not often that visitors can wander in the Queen’s back garden yet Windsor Great Park is open to the public and remains the only Royal Park managed by The Crown Estate. Walking distance from the centre of town, this captivating 5,000-acre parkland was once part of a vast Norman hunting forest and hosted royal hunts and still includes a Deer Park to this day.
Where to stay
While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are likely to spend the morning of their wedding getting ready in the wings of Windsor Castle, several luxury hotels nearby have a history of hosting aristocrats, royals and celebrities alike. Charting 350 years of history, Grade I listed Cliveden House was originally built by George Villiers 2nd Duke of Buckingham as a hunting lodge to entertain his mistress and friends and sits in 376 acres. Stoke Park is another great option just 15 minutes from Windsor; founded in 1908 it was the UK’s first country club and has hosted politicians and glitterati. Stoke Park’s mansion house was originally designed by James Wyatt and the luxury hotel has since served as the filming location for several films including James Bond’s Goldfinger and Tomorrow Never Dies and Bridget Jones’s Diary.
The cream of the capital
While Windsor may take centre stage on the wedding day itself, it is London where Meghan and Harry courted and now live. Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace was the spot where Harry proposed and while the love nest is out of bounds, the Palace is open to the public. The gardens and the King’s State Apartments are open to the public and the palace is running a spectacular exhibition of Diana, Princess of Wales’ dresses until 2019.
Made in Chelsea
If the extraordinary dress collection gets you in the mood for some retail therapy, Kensington is a short hop from Kings Road – one of Meghan’s and soon-to-be sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge’s favourite shopping areas. The road was originally built by King Charles II in 1694 and remained private until 1830, for use exclusively by the monarch. Today it boasts a mix of high-end designer boutiques and high street names.
When it comes to the crème de la crème of retail, though, London’s Royal Warrant holders covet the top seal of approval from the royals. Royal Warrants are a mark of recognition for those who have supplied goods to the households of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales for at least five years. Some of the capital’s best-loved warrant holders include Berry Bros & Rudd, Britain’s original wine and spirit merchant (who could be in the running to supply tipples for the royal couple), Charbonnel et Walker, the Queen’s Mayfair-based chocolatier (Who are the best British Chocolatiers?) and perhaps one of the iconic stores in London, Fortnum & Mason. A fixture in Piccadilly since 1707, Fortnum’s quintessential British store is famed for its Food Hall, tea collections and its elegant Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor.
Tea for two
Afternoon tea is a prerequisite for discerning visitors and London hosts some of the best in the country. Our favourite is the delectable afternoon teas at Dukes Hotel, Mayfair. Located just around the corner from Buckingham Palace the hotel is renowned for its afternoon delicacies and throughout May the small luxury hotel will host a royal wedding tea menu, which includes a fusion of American and British dishes as a nod to the couple’s heritage.
Work off any indulgences with a walk through Green Park to Buckingham Palace and be sure not to miss the Royal Mews, which is home to the royal collection of historic coaches and carriages and is considered to be one of the finest working stables in existence. The Mews is responsible for all road travel arrangements for The Queen and members of the Royal Family and its display includes the Gold State Coach, which has been used at every coronation since that of George IV in 1821, and The Diamond Jubilee State Coach
For a pew and a pint, journey to The Sands End pub in Fulham, where Meghan and Harry enjoyed a cosy lunch. The pub is owned by Harry’s friend Mark Dyer and serves high-end, classic English dishes. For Harry’s favourite dinner spot in the capital, the romantic Le Clos Maggiore restaurant near Covent Garden is pick of the crop.
When the time comes to lay your head down there are a plethora of historic London hotels to pick from but for the ultimate royal wedding experience book in at The Goring. This small luxury hotel is where Kate Middleton stayed before her wedding to Prince William and is the oldest privately owned luxury hotel in London. Just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, you’ll be sure to sleep like royalty.
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