Windsor: US actress Meghan Markle will become a duchess when she marries Prince Harry on Saturday after Queen Elizabeth bestowed the title of Duke of Sussex on her grandson hours before their glittering wedding.
Thousands of fans gathered in the English town of Windsor for the marriage at the 15th-century St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, a ceremony that will propel the star of the TV drama "Suits" to the senior ranks of the British royal family.
As dawn broke over the castle's stone walls, excited crowds gathered behind barriers lining Windsor's genteel lanes, many draped in British and American flags. Police armed with semi-automatic rifles patrolled streets and watched from rooftops.
"This is a moment when we can all celebrate the rebirth of the royal family," said Kenny McKinlay, 60, who had come down from Scotland and was heading to Windsor by train.
"It's a time when all the nation can come together rather than being divided. It`s a day when you can be proud to be British."
More than 100,000 fans are expected to cram the narrow roads of Windsor, about 20 miles (30 km) west of London. Visitors had to pass through police search points set up around the castle, home to 39 English monarchs since 1066.
The world`s media has been gripped by the union of Harry, 33, sixth-in-line to the British throne, and Markle, 36, a divorcee whose mother is African-American and father is white, and hundreds of TV crews have descended on Windsor.
To some black Britons, the wedding personifies the breakdown of barriers and reveals a more modern Britain where background is no bar to even the most elite and traditional of institutions.
To others, it is an irrelevance or mild distraction from the schism of Brexit, which has deeply divided the United Kingdom; polls suggest that most Britons will not bother tuning in.
The hour-long ceremony begins at 1100 GMT.
The bride will arrive at the church with her mother, Doria Ragland, 61, with whom she spent Friday night at a luxury hotel. Harry was staying at another hotel with elder brother and best man Prince William, whose daughter Charlotte and son George will be among the bridesmaids and page boys.