The countdown to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's big day is on, and depending on your views, this may be the best or worst time to be in the UK. DW's Sertan Sanderson reports on the royal wedding fever hitting London.
More than 2 billion people are expected to tune into the wedding of the year: Prince Harry is going to marry American actor and human rights activist Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018.
London has already been bursting at the seams with royal wedding fever for the past week, with die-hard fans descending onto the British capital and adjacent Windsor, where the nuptials will be held, several days in advance. The entire UK is gearing up for the biggest royal event since the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012: streets are decorated with Union Jack bunting, supermarkets are full of traditional British food to celebrate the occasion, and any talk of Brexit is kept to a minimum these days to avoid spoiling the mood.
No matter where you go in the capital these days, you will for sure be reminded to stop whatever plans you might have on Saturday and "save the date" for Meghan and Harry's big moment.
London has a way of showing itself at its best during such grandiose royal events — and even the weather forecast seems to be favor of the couple.
A matter of national pride
If you take a stroll down The Mall from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace you already get the feeling that London is preparing for a major state occasion. Security is beefed up across town, while the grass in Green Park and St James's Park has clearly been cut meticulously.
News outlets from around the world have started setting up their positions outside the gates of the palace to deliver hourly reports throughout the countdown for the big event.
There are also more tourists than usual lining the streets around Buckingham Palace; gift shops across the city must be making a mint selling commemorative royal wedding items such as mugs — and no one seems to care that nearly all of them were made in China. If they don't know the lay of the land in London, visitors can take part in numerous tours that cater specifically to fans of the royal family. These are being advertised throughout the city.
You can see "Prince Harry's London" and learn about his regular haunts in the British capital, or join the "Diana, Princess of Wales" tour if you like to go back two to three decades and revive memories of the widely beloved princess who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
Sorely missed: Diana, Princess of Wales
A lot of the excitement surrounding the royal wedding appears, in fact, to be linked to the tragic narrative of Diana's life — some 20 years after her death. Lady Di not only turned the stale institution of the monarchy into a tabloid soap opera, but also led the British royals to modernize and reinvent themselves. Her untimely death turned her into a worldwide legend.
Growing up in the shadow of his mother's death, Prince Harry became the poster child of the royal family's evolution, with both his accomplishments and embarrassments highlighting a much more human, progressive and contemporary side to the monarchy.
His upcoming marriage to Meghan Markle therefore appears to be a perfect ending to his rather public coming-of-age story and the beginning of a new chapter in his life — if it wasn't marred by some controversy on the bride's side.
Unable to attend: Thomas Markle
Meghan Markle, whose multiracial family background has been scrutinized in the media for months ahead of the wedding, suffered a major setback just before her big day, with reports emerging that her father wouldn't be able to attend due to health concerns.
With Thomas Markle unable to attend, Prince Charles will walk Meghan Markle down the aisle during her wedding
The official reason given was heart surgery; however, just days earlier, Thomas Markle had been at the center of a media storm over alleged paparazzi photos intended to improve his public image.
Some media organizations had characterized Mr Markle as a recluse and absent father in the run-up to the wedding. Meghan Markle denied those reports, saying that she had been looking forward to her father walking her down the aisle during the wedding.
In his absence, Prince Harry's father, Charles, Prince of Wales, will take on the role of walking the bride down the aisle instead.
Windsor gears up for royal wedding
Further details about the wedding have, however, been kept under wraps. But this hasn't discouraged the public from getting involved — perhaps too much so. In Windsor, royalists have been camping out on the streets for days just to get a mere glimpse of the royal couple on their way to their wedding on Saturday.
Located about 20 miles west of central London, the small town of 32,000 residents is used to welcoming tons of visitors keen to see Windsor Castle, where the Royals spend a great deal of their time — but never at such a scale.
The two train stations that serve Windsor have been fitted with metal detectors, which all visitors will have to pass through, while police officers have been busy preparing to secure the streets of Windsor weeks in advance.
The last time this picturesque place saw so much excitement was when Prince Charles got married to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.
Royal fever in Brixton
Meanwhile, there's also a great deal of enthusiasm in a somewhat unlikely part of London: Brixton. The south London borough is home to many immigrants from the West Indies and their descendants, who are visibly thrilled to see some diversity enter the ranks of the royals.
Meghan Markle's African-American background on her mother's side has generated great interest in this part of the capital — so much so that royal-to-be Markle performed a little tour of Brixton along with Prince Harry at the beginning of the year, even making a surprise appearance at a local radio station. Ever since then, she has practically been viewed as a member of the community.
At Brixton Market, you can even request to get a "Meghan" as a weave or shop for make-up products inspired by the royal bride. Despite having only a fairly short history living in London, Meghan Markle appears to already have established herself as an authentic part of the city's culture.
More than a happy ending
A royal wedding is, of course, like no other event, regardless how invested different people might get. Beyond Windsor and Brixton. the entire country is decorating its streets to get ready for the occasion mark this historic moment.
It is all about pomp and circumstance, attracting the attention of millions of people around the world, while capturing the imagination of countless little wannabe princesses, who look up to the likes of Meghan and Harry. But what makes Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's marriage unique is the fact that describing their moment as a "fairy-tale wedding" doesn't actually do justice to two inspiring young people who have shared their journeys and their suffering with the public so openly and bravely.
Harry's story of growing up without a mother and Meghan's experience of facing racism and inequality in the US prove that they two are just two normal people who have had to overcome challenges like everyone else does. Their genuine nature makes Harry and Meghan incredibly endearing while also lending a new sense of dignity to the institution of the British monarchy.