In the 2018 calendar year alone, there has been a seemingly endless parade of headlines about the royal wedding, namely, the union between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this past May. Despite all the fanfare for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, however, quite a number of royals were involved in weddings this year, including Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin, Lord Ivar Mountbatten, for instance, who made history earlier this month when he married in the family’s first same-sex wedding.
And on Friday, October 12, Princess Eugenie will get hitched to her love, Jack Brooksbank, at Windsor Castle. Outside of the British Royal Family, of course, there have been an astounding number of over-the-top, glamorous royal nuptials fit for, let’s say, a king and queen. Here, The Knot has rounded up the most celebrated royal weddings of this century.
It was the royal wedding viewed around the world. When Prince William and Kate Middleton got married at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, it was before literally billions of viewers worldwide. The pair’s relationship and romance had captured the world’s attention ever since they started dating as students back at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 2003.
Aside from a brief split in 2007, the couple kept going strong in spite of immense pressure toward holy matrimony; they eventually announced their engagement in 2010 and got married the following spring. They have three children: Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 3, and Prince Louis, 5 months.
When Harry met Meghan. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kept their relationship largely under wraps until they made their public debut together a little over a year ago at the Invictus Games. Introduced by a mutual friend, the pair began to see each other in secret before finally going public with their relationship, followed two months later with news of a proposal and subsequent engagement.
Their wedding, held on May 19 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Palace, broke the mold on traditional royal weddings in a number of ways, including with an all-black gospel choir and performances by the Spice Girls.
Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding to Prince Charles was the stuff that fairy tales are made of. The princess represented to many royals fans the true Cinderella story, complete with a commoner elevated to royal status by marriage. They would go on to have two sons—Prince William and Prince Harry—and a rather tumultuous marriage. Prince Charles was rumored to have been unfaithful to Diana, and the pair divorced in 1996. The next year, she and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, tragically died in a car crash in Paris.
This one’s a love story for the ages. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip first met when Elizabeth (then known as Princess Elizabeth) was just 13 and Prince Philip was 18, while Elizabeth was touring the Royal Naval College where Philip was a naval cadet. The pair began to exchange letters after that initial meeting in a correspondence that spanned all of World War II.
They formally announced their engagement in 1947 and were married on November 20 of that year at Westminster Abbey. This past year, they celebrated their 70th year of marriage.
5. Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly
Theirs was a romance that captured the world’s imagination—and attention. After meeting at the Cannes Film Festival in France in 1955, the couple began a courtship that led to a stunning wedding held at Monaco’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral on April 19, 1956. There, Hollywood A-listers like Cary Grant and Ava Gardner rubbed shoulders with big names like Aristotle Onassis (a good friend of Rainier’s the future second husband of Jacqueline Kennedy), Gloria Swanson and Conrad Hilton.
Everything about the affair was exorbitant, from the thousands of white lilacs and lilies of the valley to the six-tiered wedding cake that replicated Monaco’s pink palace and scenes depicting Monaco’s history in sugar.
Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly’s eldest daughter, Princess Caroline of Monaco, made headlines when she began dating Paris businessman Philippe Junot, a man 17 years her senior, with a reputation that her parents initially disapproved of. He was known for being a playboy, and both Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly withheld their approval for months.
Finally, however, the pair married in July 1978 in an intimate palace service and divided much of their time between Monaco and Paris. By 1980, however, the couple’s relationship was on the rocks, and Junot had began seeing Facio Giannini, the daughter of a Costa Rican diplomat. They divorced that same year.
7. Crown Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada
Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada first met in November 1986 while she was a student at the University of Tokyo, during a tea for Infanta Elena of Spain (her father was the Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations, and so she was frequently in such circles). Naruhito was smitten from the get-go and requested the opportunity to meet with Masako several times over the next few weeks. His interest in Masako persisted despite the Imperial Household Agency’s disapproval, and he even proposed not once, not twice, but three times before she finally accepted.
The Imperial Household Council formally announced the engagement on January 19, 1993, and they held an engagement ceremony at Masako’s parents’ home on April 12, 1993. They married on June 9 of that year, at the Shinto shrine of Amaterasu, before 800 guests, mostly Imperial Family members and relatives of the bride.
8. Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones
Nearly two decades before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married in an elaborate, televised wedding at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, married public relations consultant Sophie Rhys-Jones in the very same venue on June 19, 1999, just one month to the day of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s nuptials.
The couple, who met at a tennis match back in 1993, were the talk of the town throughout their courtship, and more than 200 million viewers tuned in to watch them wed. Because Prince Edward was not an immediate successor to the throne, however, his was a relatively simple royal wedding with no ceremonial state or military involvement. The couple share two children: James, Viscount Severn, born in 2007, and Lady Louise Windsor, born in 2003.
9. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jetsun Pema
King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan’s love story with wife Jetsun Pema actually began more than a decade before their eventual marriage—when Pema was just 7 years old, and King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was 17. The pair met at a picnic; Pema and her family were considered commoners, though her family did have connections to the royal family. It was at that picnic, it’s rumored, that young Pema declared she wanted to marry the then-Crown Prince; 14 years later, her wish came true. Pema was just a 21-year-old student when she and the king married in an elaborate ceremony in October 2011 that included chanting monks, thousands of royal fans and three days of dancing and celebration.
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Royal Wedding Anniversary: 13th October For the people of Bhutan, our King and Queen embody Dignity and Grace, and all that is sacred and cherished in Bhutan. In Their Majesties’ tireless work that emanates from abiding love and care for the people, we find a fountain of inspiration. On the Royal Wedding Anniversary, our humble offering is a rededication of our body, mind and spirit towards building the great, prosperous nation that His Majesty envisions, and our wish that this wonderful country is forever blessed by Their Majesties’ benevolent guidance. #Bhutan #RoyalWeddingAnniversary
“The king has finally got a companion who is from a noble family, and she has very good qualities,” a local resident told AFP at the time. “They understand the problems of the people.”
Talk about a modern take on the royal wedding! Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden got married on June 13, 2015, and though their big day was littered with all the trappings of a traditional, royal wedding, they also made sure to make their wedding day reflective of who they are as a couple: down-to-earth, fun, casual.
That to say that the pair, who met back in 2009, opted to include renditions of Coldplay’s “Fix You” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in their ceremony, and left the church hand-in-hand as a gospel version of “Joyful, Joyful,” based on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, played in the background. The pair also sweetly bungled the exchanging of rings, with Carl Philip visibly struggling to slip the ring on his bride’s finger at the critical moment, which caused the pair to burst into a fit of nervous giggles. Perhaps our favorite inside tidbit about the royal couple’s big day, however, was the fact that their wedding cake was made with Pop Rocks.
11. Prince Felipe VI and Letizia Ortiz
Many aspects of Prince Felipe VI and Letizia Ortiz’s relationship came as a surprise to even the most ardent fan of the Spanish royal family, mostly because they kept it under wraps for so long. The pair, who met at a dinner party held by a mutual friend, didn’t let on that they were seeing each other for a year until their surprise engagement announcement during a news conference in November 2003 at the Zarzuela Palace.
There, Prince Felipe VI, who currently serves as Spain’s King, and Ortiz, who was a popular news anchor for Spanish national TV, broadcast their love to the world; six months later, on May 22, 2004, they wed in a Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral. Ortiz, who was known to be largely calm and steady in her news reporting, got emotional as she gazed out at the crowds gathered in the streets of Madrid. Perhaps most stand-out from the day, however, was her elegant wedding dress, designed by 87-year-old Spanish couturier Manuel Pertegaz.
Follow along with The Knot as we continue our coverage of Eugenie and Jack’s Royal Wedding at Windsor Castle.