As Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s May 19 nuptials near, we can’t help but reminisce on royal weddings past.
A lot has changed in terms of royal etiquette in the past century. For one, even 20 years ago, the idea of a divorcee marrying into the royal family was ludicrous. It was only after the passing of Queen Elizabeth’s mother in 2002 that Prince Charles and Camilla, now the Duchess of Cornwall, were permitted to marry following their respective divorces.
Another major change in protocol? Gifts.
While no one is banned from sending gifts to royal newlyweds, the practice has been pared down considerably since we entered the 21st century.
Following the precedent set by Kate Middleton and Prince William’s 2011 wedding, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry requested donations to a selection of charities in lieu of material goods. The organizations they’ve chosen represent an array of causes near to both parties’ hearts, including CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association), Crisis, Myna Mahila Foundation, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, StreetGames, Surfers Against Sewage, and The Wilderness Foundation.
The weddings of Queen Elizabeth (then Princess Elizabeth) and Prince Charles, however, followed an entirely different model. Gifts were not only encouraged, they were put on display. You could even purchase a ticket to view a selection of the gifts—admission was $2.80 for adults and $1.50 for children in the months following Charles and Diana’s wedding.
Tradition has long-held that heads of state send wedding gifts on behalf of their country or region, which have historically ranged from practical to metaphorical, and everything in between. The mayor of London gifted Kate and William a tandem bicycle, explaining, "I look forward to seeing the newlyweds on tandem wheels as they start their new life in Anglesey." Gandhi famously gifted Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with a small woven cloth, which the monarch mistook for a loincloth.
As for America, our contributions have been, let’s say, less thought-provoking than those referenced above.
The New York Times reports that we (Ronald and Nancy Reagan) gave Princess Diana and Prince Charles a $75,000 engraved Steuben glass bowl as a wedding gift in 1981—don’t worry, Nancy managed to score the pricey find for just $8,000 using State Department funds. Aren’t government discounts the best??
So … what inspired our former first lady to send the royal bride and groom the ornate home good? We’d done it before! The bowl was thought to pay homage to the Steuben “Merry-Go-Round Bowl” Harry Truman bestowed upon Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the time of their 1947 wedding.
Stumped for a wedding gift idea? Follow America’s lead and spring for a glass bowl! Our country has never led us astray before, right … ?
Seriously, though, we wonder what antique utensil or dish Donald and Melania Trump are sending Meghan and Harry.