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World As Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding nears, Markles establish themselves as the roil family

Meghan Markle smiles after attending a Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in central London on March 12, 2018.

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

As thousands of people start descending on Windsor for Saturday’s royal wedding, royal officials announced that Prince Charles will walk Meghan Markle down the aisle.

Kensington Palace announced Friday that Ms. Markle asked the Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle. “The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to the Royal family in this way,“ officials said.

On Thursday, Ms. Markle confirmed that her father, Thomas Markle Sr., would not attend her marriage to Prince Harry, ending days of confusion and conflicting statements. Mr. Markle, an American who lives in Mexico, had flip-flopped about coming after being caught up in a scandal over staged paparazzi photographs. In the end, he chose to stay home because of health concerns.

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“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding,” Ms. Markle said in her first official statement. “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.” It had been widely expected the bride would be accompanied by her mother, Doria Ragland, who arrived in London on Thursday from her home in Los Angeles.

Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.

— Meghan Markle

Other Markles have also been causing a stir. Ms. Markle’s half-brother, Thomas Jr. penned an open letter to Prince Harry three weeks ago saying Ms. Markle was “not the wife for you” and that she was “a jaded, shallow, conceited woman that will make a joke of you and the Royal Family heritage.” On Thursday, he changed his tune, telling the Daily Mirror that Ms. Markle “was going to be one of the best things ever to have happened to the Royal Family.”

Meanwhile, in Florida, there were reports that Ms. Markle’s half-sister, Samantha Grant, who has been critical of Ms. Markle had been involved in a car crash with paparazzi. And in London, Ms. Markle’s ex-sister-in-law, Tracy Dooley, who was once married to Thomas Jr., turned up with her family supposedly as commentators for a local television channel even though she hasn’t been invited to the wedding and hasn’t spoken to Ms. Markle in 20 years. However, reports on Thursday indicated the family had been dropped by the channel.

As all of the drama played out, thousands of people arrived in Windsor on Thursday to watch a dress rehearsal of the carriage ride the newlyweds will take after the service. Roughly 250 soldiers will be involved in the procession including several who served with Harry in Afghanistan.

Royal wedding reading list: What you should know before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day

Read more: What Meghan Markle can expect as a working royal once she says ‘I do’

The Prince and Ms. Markle also turned up to the chapel for a wedding rehearsal along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Many more royal fans are expected to pour into Windsor Friday with many staying overnight on the streets, despite heavy security and a ban on tents by the local council.

Special invitees such as Helen Reeve will be among those arriving Friday. She got an invitation to the royal wedding in the mail last month, but figured it was a scam. “I thought it was just an April fool’s joke that had gone really, really wrong,” Ms. Reeve said from her home near Alburgh, a village in eastern England where she runs a 50-head cattle farm.

After reading the letter about 10 times, and double-checking the RSVP address, she was finally convinced it was genuine. “To be fair I still don’t really believe it,” she said with a laugh. “We’re quite excited. It’s not every day you get to go to see a prince getting married off.”

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On Saturday, Ms. Reeve and her mother, Joan, will be among 2,640 specially invited guests gathered outside Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel who will be the first to greet Harry and Ms. Markle after their wedding ceremony.

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The guest list was drawn up by local officials across the United Kingdom who selected people based on their contributions to the community. Ms. Reeve works with young farmers’ clubs in her area and she teaches courses in farm machinery and livestock management at a local college, all in addition to running the cattle operation with her mom and dad. She’s thrilled at the invitation and gratified someone noticed her efforts.

She’ll be a fish out of water among the jet-setters and high rollers inside the chapel, who will be sporting the latest fashions, staying in high-class hotels and eating at Windsor’s finest restaurants. Ms. Reeve didn’t have time to go out and shop for a new dress but she did find one online for £30 (about $50). “It has a floral pattern and pockets,” she said.

She also managed to get a hotel room for £100 outside the city, after discovering that rooms in Windsor cost £1,100 a night. And instead of a lavish lunch after the service, she’ll be packing her own sandwiches. She and her mother, who is 68, also have to bring chairs to sit on while they wait roughly four hours for the service to start. “I think it’s just going to be quite a chilled relaxed sort of day,” she said.

It all ends Saturday night for Ms. Reeve. “We’re heading back late Saturday,” she said. “First thing Sunday I’ll be back on the farm feeding the cows again.”

Andrew Morton, author of Meghan Markle: A Hollywood Princess, says that Meghan Markle is uniquely prepared to be a princess after she marries Prince Harry. Reuters
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