If your invitation Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was lost in the mail, don’t fret. Here are some ways to rock it like a royal in Edinburgh.
Start with the Royal Mile, which is actually 1.12 miles (based on the old “Scots’ mile”) and is about as royal as miles come. The sloping backbone of the Scottish capital is bookended by Edinburgh Castle, crowning the imposing Castle Rock at the top of the road, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the queen’s official residence in Edinburgh) at the bottom. The street in between is lined with higgledy-piggledy, charming old stone buildings, most with shopfronts displaying cashmere, kilts, whisky, wine, Harris tweed and wee gifts. “Thistle Do Nicely” definitely wins for worst pun/best shop name.
Once you’ve visited the drafty chambers of Edinburgh Castle and seen the stiff grandeur of Holyroodhouse, head to the Royal Yacht Britannia to see how modern monarchs actually prefer to live. It’s so modern, in fact, that visitors enter through … a shopping center.
While it’s fun to picture the queen popping into Poundworld for a pair of pantyhose, the mall isn’t actually part of the relatively modest, 412-foot yacht. The queen’s floating palace was simply moored out the back after it was decommissioned in 1997.
As the ship was built shortly after the end of World War II in an era of “make do and mend,” Queen Elizabeth was keen to steer clear of majestic excess. In fact, she famously rejected initial designs by Patrick McBride as being too lavish and asked Sir Hugh Casson to collaborate on a more casual, comfortable style. Ship guide Roger Moran relates an anecdote he heard from Casson’s daughters, who said their father drew McBride aside and assured him, “I’m going to treat your design like a lawn — and just take the whole thing down about half an inch.”
So instead of silk and tapestries, the State Drawing Room is kitted out with floral sofas and a practical electric fireplace, as well as a grand piano whose ivories have been tinkled by the likes of Noel Coward, Princess Diana and Nancy Reagan. While the dining room is large, with a 32-seater mahogany table, it also did double duty as the ship’s chapel and cinema. “James Bond and Disney were particular favorites,” Moran reveals with a smile.
The coziest rooms, however, are Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s adjoining bedrooms. Both are sparsely furnished, with a writing desk, precious little in the way of clothes storage, and a twin bed each. Seriously. You’d have thought Liz would spring for a queen-size bed, at least. In fact, the only double bed onboard is in the “Honeymoon Suite,” where newlyweds Prince Charles and Diana spent 16 days sailing around the Med.
Unfortunately for Harry and Meghan, this yacht’s sailing days are over. But hey, there’s always Royal Caribbean.
MORE WAYS TO MAKE LIKE A ROYAL IN THE UK
Toast the happy couple
Want to toast the newlyweds? Try a themed drink like the Windsor Knot. The Windsor and Eton Brewery originally produced this pale ale for Will and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and has rebranded their bottles for Harry and Meghan.
Alternatively, opt for a tot of Gin&’er, a ginger-infused gin that the Queen Charlotte pub in Windsor commissioned to celebrate redheaded (aka “ginger”) Harry getting hitched. The pub sent the first of 250 limited edition bottles to the prince himself, so if you wake up with a hangover fit for a king … or rather, sixth in line for the throne … you’re in good company.
Keep it classy by popping the cork on a bottle of Chapel Down English Sparkling Wine, available at Marks & Spencer locations around the UK. The winery’s brut rosé featured at Will and Kate’s reception, and it’s strongly rumored that their British bubbly will by quaffed by Harry and Meghan’s guests this May. (Might we suggest they call it the “The Markle Sparkler”?)
Sterling shopping spree
Whether you’re after an outfit for Ascot, an audience with the queen or a rather high-profile wedding (ahem), ladies can’t set a foot wrong with British fashion house Catherine Walker. Founded in 1977 by Said Cyrus and his wife, the late Catherine Walker, the label’s famous fans have included Princess Diana, Kate Middleton and her mother, Carole. Visit the showroom in Chelsea for made-to-measure creations, or check out their new “e-couture” service, which enables Catherine Walker to collaborate with your local tailor.
For gentlemen, there’s Gieves & Hawkes, offering ready-to-wear and bespoke luxury menswear. For centuries, it has also produced military regalia, including uniforms for the monarch’s bodyguard. A custom suit will set you back around $7,000, but you’ll be joining a brotherhood that includes Sean Connery, Winston Churchill, David Beckham and Michael Jackson. A replica of the gold-embroidered tailcoat Jackson wore on his “Bad” tour occupies a glass case in the tailor’s headquarters at 1 Saville Row.
For scent-sational style, follow your nose to Floris, the only perfumer to hold a royal warrant from the queen. Floris has wafted from the wrists of everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Ian Fleming, and they’ve created fragrances for royal weddings dating back to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The exact recipe for Harry and Meghan’s special scent is secret, but word is the bride will come up smelling like roses.
Aside from a royal wedding, there are few occasions on the British social calendar more sartorially daunting than Royal Ascot, held seven miles from Windsor. The queen herself is in the habit of attending this legendary racing meet, scheduled for June 19-23 this year. While it’s fun to watch the thoroughbreds run, it’s even more entertaining to watch the people, decked out in top hats, tailcoats and women’s headwear ranging from feathered headbands and hats to gravity-defying “fascinators” that Lady Gaga might shudder to wear on a dare.
Love “The Crown”? London is rife with film locations for the series. Dewi Evans, a guide for BritMovieTours (britmovietours.com), offers a two-hour walking tour, beginning at Temple tube station and ending near Buckingham Palace. Evans dishes out the insider scoop as you take in highlights like Middle and Inner Temple, Trafalgar Square, and Admiralty Arch.
“The writer doesn’t really like the royals,” Evans reveals in a conspiratorial tone, “so he’s able to make them much more human.” The series should not, however, be viewed as a documentary.