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I don’t want to be crude, but I have some serious concerns about my best friends Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s upcoming wedding night. I recently learned that the pair would be spending their first night as a married couple … at his grandma’s house, of all places.
Granted, the prince’s grandmother is Queen Elizabeth II and the aforementioned “house” is actually Windsor Castle, a place that apparently has 1,000 rooms. But still … this just doesn’t sound very romantic.
But as a royal expert, I know that having to spend the night on the same 13.5-acre property as Queen Elizabeth isn’t the worst thing to ever happen to a newly-married royal couple. Here, let’s dive into some of the horrible royal wedding night customs of yore, shall we.
For centuries, newlywed royals across Europe were forced to partake in “bedding ceremonies.” You have likely already seen such ceremonies depicted in movies and on TV, like in Game of Thrones (before all the murder) or Marie Antoinette. The customs of these ceremonies varied across cultures and royal families, but they all followed a common theme: the newly married couple would be escorted to bed by certain wedding guests, then they’d be expected to consummate their unions while others were around.
In the instance of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI in particular, the young couple were escorted to their chambers by the King of France and essentially the entire French court of the 1770s. While in bed — but simultaneously surrounded by dozens of other people who lined each side of their chamber — an archbishop blessed the couple, they were given some sweet wine and snacks, and then they started to undress. Only then were the bed curtains drawn, affording the newlyweds the privacy of a thin piece of fabric.
Bedding ceremonies also occurred in England, of course. Historian Alison Weir explained that in medieval times, royal newlyweds were put to bed by their wedding guests, toasted, and then blessed by a bishop or priest. After the wedding of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon (whom he eventually left for Anne of Boleyn, whom he later had beheaded, how heartwarming), such a ceremony took place.
“Catherine was led from the wedding feast by ladies in waiting, then courtiers de-robed Henry in the bedchamber,” historian Lucy Worseley told the Daily Mail in 2014. “Until the very last minute the room would have been full of people cheering them on. Then, in the morning, there would have been the ‘inspection of the sheets’ by the ladies of the bedchamber to see if the marriage had been consummated and maybe an heir was on the way.”
Doesn’t that sound horrible? Thankfully those traditions stopped by the end of the 17th century.
Even though Meghan and Prince Harry will be under the same giant roof as his grandmother following their nuptials, at least they’ll presumably not be led to their “bedchambers” by pipers and a priest.