They left their native land – but not their queen or allegiance to Britain’s Royal family.
English ex-pats Florence Smith, Iris Simpson and Maureen Wilkinson of Red Deer are among the millions of people from around the world who are planning turn on their TVs to watch as Prince Harry marries American actress Meghan Markle Saturday (the wedding will be aired live at 5 a.m. MT).
“I love Harry. I can still picture him as a little boy, walking in his mother’s funeral procession,” said Wilkinson, who hopes Markle will make him happy.
Prince Harry’s fiancée is being praised for her warmth with the public and her youthful, up-to-date style, which has invigorated the typically staid royal wardrobe.
Although there are plenty of Meghan fans in England (and especially in the U.S., where this royal wedding has extra cache because Americans have a stake in it), the jury is still out on the Suits actress, as far as these three Red Deer women are concerned.
They noted there are many ‘firsts’ around this Windsor marriage: Markle is not English and has a pre-existing public profile as a television actress. She’s also a divorced former Roman Catholic, who has siblings that have publicly dished about family rifts.
“I hope she makes him a good wife, but it’s a bit iffy…” said Simpson.
Wilkinson wonders if Markle is “a bit bossy” — after all, she put Harry on a diet and hasn’t allowed him to go fox hunting.
“I think she’ll have to grow on us a bit,” added the diplomatic Smith. “The Royal family might have to get used to her.”
At age 90, Smith is Queen Elizabeth’s contemporary and continues to have great admiration for the monarch and her family.
Like the then-princess Elizabeth, Smith joined the women’s “Territorial Army” during the Second World War, learning to repair tanks and other military equipment. She emigrated with her whole family to Canada in 1974 after her husband landed a job here, moving around the province before settling in Red Deer in about 1980.
Simpson, 92, came to Canada as a war bride in 1946. It was a rude awakening, she admitted, to arrive in Salmon Arm, B.C. and discover there was no running water, electricity, or indoor toilets. Initially, there also wasn’t a lot of camaraderie with local women who felt “we had taken the best of their best (men).”
She’s since come to love Canada, adapting to our more informal ways. Although the Royal family continues to remind her of her heritage, the Royals have change too, Simpson said — from the stuffy George V and Queen Mary to the “people’s princes.”
“William and Harry are just the greatest. I hope (William) will be King one day.”
Wilkinson, who moved to Alberta after her husband accepted a teaching job in Rimbey in 1968, has left her heart in England, where most of her family still lives. Like the two other Red Deer women, Wilkinson continues to be a big fan of the late Princess Diana “for raising her boys right.”
She credits Prince Harry for leaving his wild ways behind. He’s now a spokesperson for mental illness after opening up after his own emotional turmoil after his mother’s death in 1997.
“Harry is such a lovely boy. His mother would be so proud of him.”