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Divorce is no hindrance to church wedding for new royal couple

01 December 2017


Ambassador: Meghan Markle on her trip to Rwanda with World Vision in February last year

Ambassador: Meghan Markle on her trip to Rwanda with World Vision in February last year

A CHURCH wedding for Prince Harry and the American actress Meghan Markle has been welcomed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other church leaders.

Clarence House announced on Monday morning that the Prince and Ms Markle had become engaged in London earlier in November, and that the Queen and other close members of the Royal Family had been informed.

On Tuesday, Kensington Palace announced that the Queen had granted permission for the wedding to take place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, which is a royal peculiar, in May. “The Royal family will pay for the wedding,” a statement said. “Further details about the wedding will be announced in due course.”

A Kensington Palace spokesman was reported as saying that Ms Markle would be baptised and confirmed in the Church of England before the wedding, and would become a British citizen in due course. Her father is an Episcopalian, her mother a Protestant of another denomination, and she attended a Roman Catholic school.

In a statement issued by Lambeth Palace on Monday, Archbishop Welby said that he was “absolutely delighted” by news of the engagement.

“I have met Prince Harry on a number of occasions and have always been struck by his commitment and passion for his charities, and his immense love for his family,” the Archbishop said.

“Marriage is a special and joyous commitment, one that Jesus celebrated together with friends at the wedding in Cana. I am so happy that Prince Harry and Ms Markle have chosen to make their vows before God.

“I wish them many years of love, happiness, and fulfilment, and ask that God blesses them throughout their married life together.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon: “Prince Harry & Ms. Meghan Markle FANTABULOUS news of your engagement & Royal wedding. Many congratulations. Love & Prayers.”

The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, also posted: “Wishing them blessings and many happy years of life in Kensington and wherever they go in future.” The couple intend to live in Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace.

Ms Markle was previously married to Trevor Engelson, a film producer. The couple divorced in 2013.

Ms Markle’s status as a divorcee is no longer a bar to the couple’s being married in a C of E church. In November 2002, the General Synod rescinded resolutions of the Convocations of Canterbury and York that banned the use of the marriage service for a divorcee whose former spouse was still living. The decision is now left with the officiant, who is expected to seek his or her bishop’s advice.

The House of Bishops’ June 2002 report, Marriage in Church after Divorce, advises the parish clergy to consider, among other questions: “Was the relationship between the applicants — so far as you can tell from the information made available to you — a direct cause of the breakdown of the former marriage?” and “Would the effects of the proposed marriage on individuals, the wider community and the Church be such as to undermine the credibility of the Church’s witness on marriage?”

Roman Catholic teaching on indissolubility remains in force, and the Cardinal of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, was criticised on Twitter when he posted his congratulations to the couple: “We pray for their happiness as they prepare to make their life-long commitment to marriage.”

A Lambeth Palace spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Archbishop Welby would officiate at the wedding, and there has been no announcement so far from Kensington Palace.

PAPrince Harry and Meghan Markle in the Sunken Garden, at Kensington Palace, after their engagement was announced, in December

Prince Harry’s father, the Prince of Wales, married the Duchess of Cornwall in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle in 2005, followed by a service of prayer and dedication in St George’s Chapel, at which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, presided.

Prince Harry and Ms Markle met through a mutual friend in London last year, and began a long-distance relationship soon after. Ms Markle is best known for appearing in the US television legal drama Suits, although the Prince told the BBC on Monday that he had never heard of her before they met.

Ms Markle has been women’s advocate for the United Nations and a global ambassador for World Vision’s Canadian arm, although she will now relinquish both positions. During a visit to Rwanda with World Vision last year, in which she saw projects that provided clean water, she said: “I do think it’s these tiny acts of generosity or grace, or even just understanding, that allow us to really make a difference on a much larger level.”

In an interview with the BBC’s Mishal Husain, on Monday, the couple spoke of their shared interest in humanitarian work. One of their first topics of conversation had been “the different things we wanted to do in the world and how passionate we were about seeing change”, Ms Markle said.

“We hope to, over time, try and have as much impact for all the things that we care about as much as possible,” Prince Harry said.

The couple are due to perform their first official engagements today in Nottingham: they will meet representatives of organisations that support people living with HIV/AIDS, and meet staff and mentors on Nottingham Academy’s Full Effect programme, which helps to prevent young people turning to violence and crime.

The Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Williams, tweeted that he was “delighted” that the couple would be coming to Nottingham for their first official engagement.



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