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How Prince Harry Remembered William and Kate’s Royal Wedding – Newsweek

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When Prince William married Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011, he did so in front of a global audience estimated to have exceeded 160 million. By his side throughout the buildup to the important ceremony held at Westminster Abbey was his brother, Prince Harry.

The two brothers were inextricably linked in the eyes of the public at this time, though in later years this impression would change as, through media projects such as interviews, documentaries and a memoir, Harry would provide his version of the palace-presented image of the brothers’ relationship.

The 2011 royal wedding was an event in the timeline of the brothers’ lives that Harry discussed at length in his memoir, Spare. He not only shared in the joy experienced at the time but also noted personal sadness.

The Prince and Princess of Wales photographed on the day of their royal wedding in London, April 29, 2011. And (inset) Prince Harry, May 6, 2023.
The Prince and Princess of Wales photographed on the day of their royal wedding in London, April 29, 2011. And (inset) Prince Harry, May 6, 2023.
Samir Hussein/WireImage/Ben Stansall – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Here, as William and Kate celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary, Newsweek looks at how Prince Harry remembered William and Kate’s wedding day in his Spare memoir which hit shelves in 2023.

Second Best Man

One piece of information about the royal wedding which Harry shared in his memoir that was most surprising was his claim that, contrary to public belief, he was not Prince William’s best man.

Harry says that William appointed two friends as his best men but accepted that the public expected Harry to be their public face. The prince acted as ring bearer and stood up with the groom at Westminster Abbey and acted as “compere,” or master of ceremonies, for speeches during the reception.

Prince Harry in Spare

“The public had been told that I was to be best man, but that was a bare-faced lie. The public expected me to be best man, and thus the Palace saw no choice but to say that I was. In truth, Willy didn’t want me giving a best-man speech. He didn’t think it safe to hand me a live mic and put me in a position to go off script. I might say something wildly inappropriate. He wasn’t wrong.”

Meeting the Crowds

On the evening before the wedding, Harry recounted how William had initiated an impromptu walkabout outside Clarence House to meet members of the public camping out to see the processions the next day.

Harry noted that his brother’s confidence was amusingly bolstered by rum and coca cola but also highlighted the similarity in the response from the crowd to the aftermath of the death of their mother, Princess Diana, in 1997.

Prince Harry in Spare

“We went out, walked the edge of the crowd, shaking hands. People wished Willy well, told him they loved him, loved Kate. They gave us both the same teary smiles, the same looks of fondness and pity we’d seen that day in August 1997. I couldn’t help but shake my head. Here it was, the eve of Willy’s Big Day, one of the happiest of his life, and there was simply no avoiding the echoes of his Worst Day. Our Worst Day.”

Funeral Location

Harry expressed feeling another link to Diana on the wedding day itself. As the princes stepped out of their car at Westminster Abbey, Harry said he was reminded that it served as the venue for his mother’s funeral.

Prince Harry in Spare

“Westminster Abbey. As always, my stomach lurched. I thought: ‘Nothing like getting married in the same place where you did your mum’s funeral.'”

The Ring

One of Harry’s responsibilities on the wedding day was to safeguard the wedding ring before it could be placed on Kate’s finger at the high altar of the abbey.

The prince told readers of his memoir that the ring had been formed from a hunk of Welsh gold that had produced the rings of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and several other family members as part of a touching tradition. He expressed concern that there may not be enough left for rings when he eventually married.

Prince Harry in Spare

“I couldn’t have lost that ring if I’d wanted to. A special kangaroo pouch had been sewn inside my tunic. My idea, actually, that was how seriously I took the solemn duty and honor of bearing it. Now I took the ring from its pouch, held it to the light. A thin band of Welsh gold, shaved off a hunk given to the Royal Family nearly a century before. The same hunk had provided a ring for Granny when she married, and for Princess Margaret, but it was nearly exhausted now, I’d heard. By the time I got married, if I ever got married, there might be none left.”

The Ceremony

Harry said that the wedding ceremony itself was to him a “blank,” recalling Kate’s walk down the aisle and the married couple’s exit into their carriage afterwards.

Prince Harry in Spare

“The ceremony is mostly a blank in my mind. I recall Kate walking down the aisle, looking incredible, and I recall Willy walking her back up the aisle, and as they disappeared through the door, into the carriage that would convey them to Buckingham Palace, into the eternal partnership they’d pledged, I recall thinking: ‘Goodbye.'”

Love and Loss

The prince wrote warmly of his sister-in-law joining the royal family but again, reflected that the marriage of his only brother marked a moment of deep personal sadness.

He told readers that, though he could see how happy William and Kate were, it marked a change in the brothers’ relationship as William’s married life began.

Prince Harry in Spare

“I loved my new sister-in-law, I felt she was more sister than in-law, the sister I’d never had and always wanted, and I was pleased that she’d forever be standing by Willy’s side. She was a good match for my older brother. They made each other visibly happy, and therefore I was happy too. But in my gut I couldn’t help feeling that this was yet another farewell under this horrid roof. Another sundering. The brother I’d escorted into Westminster Abbey that morning was gone—forever.”

Mummy

After the wedding ceremony, Harry provided a never-before-heard insight into William and Kate’s reception. As compere, he introduced the speeches, revealing that in his introduction he made a risqué joke about a fur thong a fan had made for Kate as a wedding present which roused laughter from the guests.

He went on to add a serious note, explaining that he closed his remarks with a touching reference to the princes’ mother and how she would have loved to be with them on the special day.

Prince Harry in Spare

“I closed on a serious note. Mummy: How she’d have loved to have been here. How she’d have loved Kate, and how she’d have loved seeing this love you’ve found together.”

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek‘s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on X (formerly Twitter) at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek‘s The Royals Facebook page.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.

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Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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