For many Americans, Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry was the only royal wedding that mattered in 2018. But Harry is not the sole British royal to wed this year: On October 12, Princess Eugenie of York will marry her fiancé, Jack Brooksbank, at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Eugenie is the daughter of Sarah, Duchess of York, and Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s third-born child.
Since Eugenie isn’t a “working royal,” meaning she doesn’t carry out royal duties on behalf of the queen, she isn’t in the spotlight as much as her first cousins Harry and William. The ninth in the line of succession, the 28-year-old is also further than they are from assuming the throne. But Eugenie’s nuptials to Brooksbank, the European manager for Casamigos Tequila, the alcohol brand started by George Clooney and Rande Gerber, will thrust her into the spotlight — to a degree.
Unlike the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, her wedding won’t be broadcast on all of the major television networks. Americans will be able to watch the marriage ceremony exclusively on TLC, where it will air live at 4:25 am ET and will repeat three hours later.
In Britain, the wedding will air on ITV instead of the BBC, considered a snub since the latter network has traditionally broadcast royal weddings. The BBC reportedly did not think enough viewers would tune in for the event, even though the queen and other high-ranking royals will attend, such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle; Prince William and Kate Middleton; and Princess Charlotte and Prince George, who will serve as flower girl and pageboy.
But whether Eugenie capitalizes on the attention her wedding does get depends on if she makes bold choices during the event. So far, she appears to be taking a “go big or go home” approach to her nuptials. The wedding will already be a larger affair than Meghan and Harry’s. Events will take place for two days instead of one, and 1,200 members of the public have been invited onto the Windsor Castle grounds for the event. At 850, Eugenie’s guest list has 250 more people than Harry and Meghan’s did. And some of the superstar couples, like George and Amal Clooney and David and Victoria Beckham, who attended that couple’s May wedding, are also expected to attend Eugenie’s wedding. Singer Andrea Bocelli will reportedly perform at the service. Just don’t hold your breath for Oprah.
So if Eugenie’s wedding will be a more lavish affair than the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s, why is there purported disinterest in the event? For one, Eugenie’s divorced parents have sparked various scandals related to infidelity, financial impropriety, and their ties to dishonorable people. Many Brits aren’t exactly fans of this wing of the royal family.
While Eugenie herself has not been embroiled in such controversies, she and sister, Princess Beatrice, her maid of honor, live largely outside the public eye, since they don’t carry out official engagements for the firm. The York sisters don’t receive an income or security detail paid for by the public, and Prince Andrew has described them as “modern working young women, who happen to be members of the royal family.” Eugenie is an art gallery director at Hauser & Wirth, and Beatrice is a strategist at the US technology firm Afiniti.
Working is not the only way the women have distinguished themselves as the “normies” of the monarchy. This March, Eugenie signed up for Instagram, making her the only royal with her own social media account. (Beatrice does have a LinkedIn.) And though many members of the British royal family dress conservatively, Eugenie and Beatrice both have embraced their sense of style, wearing bold prints, outrageous fascinators, and vivid colors. This could make Eugenie’s wedding day a thrill to watch.
While Meghan Markle wore a conservative, almost austere, wedding gown, Eugenie might choose an edgier dress that makes a real impact on bridal trends. But she could also go more conservative on her wedding day, defying expectations for a gown that’s every bit as eye-catching as one of her fascinators. With Eugenie it’s all about nonconformity, which is why her wedding is bound to stand out no matter what she wears.
Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle had to follow tradition; Princess Eugenie has a chance to express herself on her wedding day
Princess Eugenie tends to display a somewhat zany sense of style for informal events, but don’t expect her to completely part with royal tradition when she ties the knot.
“Eugenie has known from the beginning, as all brides marrying within the royal family, that her dress should be conservative in style,” said Christine Ross, editor of the popular royal style blogs What Would Kate Do? and Meghan’s Mirror. “There will always be photographs sent around the world and at the end of the day, her style choice is a reflection on the British monarchy.”
This doesn’t suggest the princess’s dress will be dull by any means. Ross noted that when Eugenie’s cousin Zara Tindall (Princess Anne’s daughter) married in 2011, she chose a strapless modern gown with removable cap sleeves. Since Eugenie is having a church ceremony in autumn, and sleeves are the norm for royal brides, don’t expect her to go strapless. However, she could have some fun with the cut and silhouette of her dress. Eugenie’s gown might be slightly off-shoulder or have a mermaid silhouette, Ross predicts.
“Eugenie has a bit more freedom in her wedding gown choices than any other royal bride,” Ross said. “Her personal style is more daring and adventurous, and her lesser role allows her to be more expressive.”
Although Eugenie has been overshadowed by Middleton and Markle for years now — she even had to delay her wedding to avoid upstaging Meghan and Prince Harry’s nuptials — Katharine Polk, founder of the bridal fashion label Houghton, anticipates that she could be a major influence on bridal style. What Eugenie and her bridal party wear could usher in new trends.
“She is a fashion force in her own right,” Polk said. “I predict that Princess Eugenie will most certainly have a showier dress than Meghan — however, that wouldn’t be particularly challenging, as I think her dress was a little on the plain side. On the flip side, I adored Kate’s dress, and while I envision Eugenie fashioning something considerably different, I think it will be equally as beautiful.”
Polk expects Chantilly lace, an unusual neckline, or a gown with unique detailing on the top of the bodice. Since Eugenie has a curvier figure, Polk suspects that her dress will be structured and accentuate her waist and bust. But if the bride goes conservative during the ceremony at St. George’s Chapel, she will likely be more expressive during the reception that follows.
“It would definitely be within Eugenie’s taste to have a second gown with some flair and drama!” Ross said.
And her wedding day will mark the first time she gets to wear a tiara. There’s a reason the York sisters have repeatedly used their fascinators to make fashion statements: Tiaras are reserved for married royals.
Polk predicts that Eugenie will borrow the York tiara that her mother, Sarah Ferguson, wore on her wedding day to Prince Andrew in 1986. The headwear was a gift from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Polk describes it as “diamond-encrusted” with a “five-carat diamond at the center of the headpiece, flanked by diamond-covered leaf details.”
Because of Markle’s marriage ceremony to Prince Harry in May, expect every choice Eugenie makes at her wedding to garner more attention than it otherwise would have.
“The world definitely has royal fever right now,” Ross said.
The British royal family has conflict, just like any other family
Since Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip bought Sarah Ferguson a glorious diamond tiara to wear on her wedding day, the relationship between the couple and their ex-daughter-in-law has soured. In 1996, Prince Andrew and Ferguson formally divorced; the split had been in the making ever since photos were released in 1992 of a bikini-clad Ferguson kissing and having her toes sucked by a Texas financial adviser named John Bryan. The pictures, predictably, were considered an embarrassment to the royal family.
While Ferguson and Prince Andrew have managed to remain on good terms, other members of the royal family have given her the cold shoulder. Long after the photo leak, Ferguson found herself mired in controversy after she was recorded in 2010 offering to give a tabloid news reporter access to Andrew for £500,000. The following year, Prince William and Kate Middleton left her off the guest list for their wedding. Prince Andrew has had a number of his own scandals, related to finances, dictator ties, and an underage sex ring.
The “sins” of Eugenie’s parents reportedly played a role in the BBC not airing her wedding, as the network wondered if enough Brits supported the Yorks. And speculation persists that Prince Charles will phase out this branch of the family once he ascends to the throne.
It’s certain that some Brits aren’t on board with Princess Eugenie’s wedding — at least not their role in it. Although the royal family will reportedly pay most of the wedding costs, taxpayers will foot the bill for security. By some estimates, that bill could approach $2.5 million, and a petition from an anti-monarchy group demanding that no taxpayer funds be used for the event has netted nearly 35,000 signatures.
But the economic impact of the royal wedding will more than compensate for the cost of security, according to experts. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding gave the British economy a $1.4 billion boost, while Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding had an economic impact of $2.6 billion. Even if Eugenie and Brooksbank’s wedding gives the British economy a pickup of just a fraction of that, the security costs will be covered.
“The cost of … security might sound like a lot of money, but to the British economy, it’s an incredible return on investment,” Hamish Shephard, a wedding expert and founder of Bridebook, told ABC News.
Don’t expect the higher-ranking royals to upstage the bride on her big day
Princess Eugenie’s ceremony may be far from the royal wedding of the century, or even of the year, but the presence of the senior royals — from Queen Elizabeth on down — make it an event of notable interest. While Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle will likely attend the wedding, don’t expect them to upstage the bride. Since her May marriage ceremony, Markle has taken pains to avoid stealing the spotlight from other brides. In June, she and Prince Harry attended a family wedding, and the Oscar de la Renta dress she wore for the occasion drew fierce criticism for being unflattering. Kate Middleton, meanwhile, often wears muted colors to weddings.
Polk suspects that Middleton will wear a fitted two-piece ensemble to the event, and Markle will wear a garment with her trademark bateau neckline. Ross also predicts the duchesses to make understated fashion choices at the wedding.
“I imagine we will see pieces that they have already worn before,” Ross said. “This allows the spotlight to stay firmly on the bride, with less opportunity for chatter about what Meghan or Kate are wearing.”
But there’s also anticipation about what Beatrice, the older sister of the bride, will wear to the wedding. Those hoping that the princess pulls out one of her show-stopping fascinators are probably in for a disappointment, though. Beatrice is expected to serve as Eugenie’s maid of honor, which means she, too, will wear an ensemble that doesn’t detract from the bride.
“I think Princess Beatrice will wear something that will beautifully complement the bride’s look,” Polk said. “I envision her wearing something quite subtle, allowing her sister to take center stage on her big day. I think she will fashion a simple yet feminine ivory lace creation by the same designer as the bride.”
The identity of that designer will remain a secret until Eugenie’s nuptials, but bookmakers consider the brands Erdem, Suzannah, Jenny Packham, Preen, Suzanne Neville, and Stella McCartney to be favorites. Ross asserts that the cultural impact of the princess’s gown and the wedding overall will ultimately depend on how willing she is to make bold fashion statements.
“Smaller royal weddings have been known to set trends,” Ross said. “… If she chooses a style that is more simple and timeless, we may see less of an impact. If she chooses something daring and unique, it could grab everyone’s attention!”
Want more stories from The Goods by Vox? Sign up for our newsletter here.