Canadian expats in London celebrate royal wedding, empathize with Markle’s move

  • May. 17, 2018 5:00 p.m.

LONDON — Although Joanna Newman hasn’t lived in Canada for nearly 20 years, the English expat says she’ll be celebrating Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding with homegrown pride.

“I’m secretly pleased that so many Torontonians kept the secret that they were dating for ages, because that’s just awesome,” she says from her adopted home, a village near Stonehenge.

“My feeling is that it couldn’t have happened in the (United) States, somebody would have papped them.”

Newman will be among the many Canuck transplants pointing out Canadian trivia to U.K. friends and family who gather to watch the nuptials on Saturday.

Her plan is to get together with several other Canadian expats at an all-day celebration at nearby Salisbury Cathedral, about two hours by car from London and 90 minutes from the wedding site at Windsor Castle.

The former Torontonian says the local party, hosted by the BBC, is set to feature live music performances, children’s crafts and a live broadcast of the ceremony on a big screen in the cathedral grounds.

It’s just one of several public events across the United Kingdom that will herald the much-hyped union of the people’s prince and the former California actress, who spent recent years in Toronto shooting a seven-season run on the T.V. series “Suits.”

Pubs were expected to be packed Saturday but not just with royal watchers: also charging street chatter Thursday was the upcoming FA Cup final following the wedding ceremony Saturday afternoon, in which soccer fans will gather to watch Chelsea vs. Manchester United, taking place at Wembley Stadium.

That game held far more appeal for former Ontarian Wade McElwain, who’s been in London for 12 years. He’s skipping the wedding broadcast and was making plans Thursday to host a post-footie barbecue with other Canuck expats at his north London home.

Ottawa-born Judy Williamson says the royal nuptials offer a rare opportunity for British patriotism to unfurl unabashed.

“It’s definitely one thing they do very, very well — that whole pomp and ceremony. It was quite exciting, definitely,” the 41-year-old says, recalling “this outpouring of colour.”

“The British are quite reserved and they don’t tend to kind of build these things up. However, come the day, suddenly it just kind of explodes and all of these things are happening.”

The wedding of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge was an “impressive show,” especially jubilant because it involved the second-in-line to the throne, she notes. It took place at Westminster Abbey on Fri., April 29, 2011 and was declared a bank holiday so that more of the country could celebrate.

Williamson admits to being less enthused about the royal party this time, noting her fascination with the monarchy has waned in the 16 years since she moved to London.

“Before I went to the U.K. it was kind of an exciting thing, the royal family, the King and Queen and all that. And then now living (here) and seeing it more on a day-to-day basis, the news coverage and all that kind of stuff, I’ve just become a bit more indifferent about it.”

Williamson has actually booked a vacation to San Francisco that begins Friday, but she says it wasn’t to avoid the wedding hoopla specifically.

She says she may tune in to the broadcast if jet lag works in her favour, suspecting it will be hard to not get sucked into the excitement Saturday.

Former Ottawa resident Kelly Crawford says she’s steeling herself for an expected influx of 100,000 visitors to her town of Windsor, normally home to about 30,000 people.

“I think it’s just going to be utter chaos,” says Crawford, who expects a gleeful bustle akin to Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa.

“We’re literally a 10-minute walk into town so I think we’re just going to go in and sort of mill about and see what we can see. If it’s too crazy we’ll head back home.”

The 43-year-old says she moved to the U.K. three years ago for love, and that’s made it easy for her to identify with some of what she imagines Markle is facing in her transition to a new life abroad.

“I’m here for the same reason as Meghan — my now-husband is from the U.K.,” says Crawford, who met her prince through a mutual friend in Ottawa when he visited six years ago.

While she suspects Markle is gaining much by following her heart, Crawford says it’s not without sacrifice.

“She just gave up her career and her family and her life to come over here,” says Crawford.

“I empathize with her in that way.”

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