Royal weddings are a the very definition of high pageantry. Today's wedding between His Royal Highness Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is certainly no different. From her lavish attire to the Princes royal regalia, it's as posh and pomp as we've ever seen. However, you may notice a fairly humble looking gentlemen at the head of the altar, bedecked in the finery of the Church of England, solemn and sturdy, ready to join these two celebrities in the bonds of holy matrimony. So who is marrying Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?
The solemnizing of a royal union in Great Britain has traditionally fallen on the shoulders of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest ranking member of the Church of England apart from the ruling monarch themselves. Currently, the priest in the position is the The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. (Yes, that's how they're addressed. It's a mouthful. Imagine how long it takes to sign the Christmas cards he and wife Catherine Eaton send each year.)
Archbishop Welby has been serving in the position for five years, and when asked about officiating the royal wedding, he told The Guardian, “I’m really, really excited, but also really, really nervous about dropping the rings — and everyone will think: what an idiot.”
Apart from his apparent and justified nerves, who is marrying Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? According to the Church of England, The Most Reverend Welby was ordained in 1992 after a stint working with an oil company when he answered the call to serve. He's known for being a bit of a rabble-rouser in the stodgy Anglican church, discussing changes he hopes to see, ministries he hopes to develop, and his refusal to keep mum on subjects like greed and power, according to The Guardian. In the same Guardian article, journalist Rachel Cooke offers a bit of insight into the mind of the Archbishop when she wrote, "In private, Welby can be quite deliciously camp when he wants to be." I certainly hope we'll get to see a bit of that today, given the cheeky nature of His Royal Highness Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Welby was named the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury in late 2012, and plans to continue for at least another eight years, reported The Guardian. Comparatively to others who've recently held the position, this is quite a long tenure. Unlike the Catholic Pope, who is the highest position in the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a role designed to be assumed for a period of time under the care of the monarch.
While he's the priest in charge of officiating the main event, he's not the only priest to be speaking at today's service. The head of the American Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry of Chicago, and the Right Reverend David Connor of St George's Chapel of Windsor, will also be speaking at the service.
This is actually huge, as Bishop Curry is not only a member of the American sister church to the Church of England — the Episcopalians — he's also the church's first black leader. He's known for being a cheerful preacher who speaks openly on issues of civil rights, social justice, and immigration, noted the BBC.
As for Connor, according to Christian Today, "Within the Church of England, Conner holds a unique role in that he does not come under the authority of any bishop, not even the archbishop of Canterbury." He's expected to only serve as the opener and to offer the final prayer.
All told, today's service should be a memorable experience for more reasons than just the pair being wed, it's an example of how the monarchy and its church are solidifying their place in the progressive movements of the 21st century.