Inside St. George's Chapel, the venue where Prince Harry and Meghan will wed
Think of Meghan Markle as she walks up the 22 steps leading to the west door of St. George’s Chapel.
It’s 12 noon and the American TV star is about to enter the inner sanctum of British royalty. Above the door, there’s a beautiful stain glass window from the 16th century. The heraldic banners of the Order of the Garter hang over the upper stalls of the choir. And there are dead kings and queens everywhere.
Hugo Vickers became a Sunday afternoon guide in the chapel when he was 14. He is today a distinguished historian and biographer of the royal family.
“In 1649 the coffin of Charles I was brought in through the very doors she will walk through. And as she approaches the altar, she will walk over the tomb of Henry VIII. This must be very daunting stuff.”
Look up and behold what’s considered the most magnificent vaulted ceiling on earth. Look down at the slab of stone that marks the final resting place of a king who had six wives and shares the same first name as Prince Harry, christened Henry.
Question for Hugo Vickers: “I’m not sure I’d want to walk over Henry VIII on my wedding day?”
Answer from Hugo Vickers: “Oh, he’ll be covered by a carpet and the tomb is very inconspicuous.”
The Queen celebrated her 60th birthday in the chapel, and her 80th. Vickers likes to point out that George III, sometimes known as Mad King George, is also buried in the royal vault. The monarch who “handed over America to the Americans.”
“I mean, there’s a lot of history there.”
The tour continues. Edward VII is on the right side; George V and Queen Mary are on the left. Catherine of Aragon had a loft where she could watch the religious services.
Prince Harry was baptized in the chapel, which is considered small for a royal wedding, compared to Westminster Abbey, or St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then again it is a family ceremony, not a state event.
“I think St. George’s Chapel, although very grand and magnificent, has an intimacy that those other places lack.”
The 80 guests will sit in the Nave, probably on folding chairs. Hugo Vickers will not be among them; on the day of the wedding he will be CTV’s exclusive royal commentator for the royal wedding coverage on May 19.
“I’m very lucky,” he says. “I’ve known St. George’s since I was a child. I know it very well, and I think it is a very, very beautiful place.”
He has been a Lay Steward at St. George’s for 48 years.
“It is really the chapel to which the Queen and the royal family go on very special and sometimes poignant occasions.”
Vickers has a vivid memory of past appearances.
“When I got there I can see all sorts of people who are no longer with us.”
“I can remember Field Marshal Montgomery walking up the aisle shaking hands with members of the congregation.”
And the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated so that he could marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
“I remember his funeral. I remember his lying in state and how very moving that was.”
There’s another reason for having the wedding at St. George’s. It’s located within the walls of Windsor Castle, which makes it easier for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to attend. They are both in their 90s and the Duke recently underwent a hip replacement.
“The guests afterwards can just walk up the hill, past the Round Tower, and into the state apartments,” says Vickers, who of course, has written a history of St. George’s.
“They will be up there having a drink by the time the carriage procession makes its way through the crowds and comes up the Long Walk.”
“It’s very practical apart from anything else.”
Hugo Vickers is a Royal Historian and Biographer and CTV’s exclusive Royal Commentator for the Royal Wedding coverage on May 19