From opting out of a maid of honor to making progressive royal history, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry‘s impending nuptials are significant for many reasons. The location where the ceremony will take place, St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, is yet another one. When Markle and Prince Harry announced they would be getting married at the church on May 19 at noon, a spokesperson for the royal family shared, “Windsor is a very special place for Prince Harry, and he and Ms. Markle have regularly spent time there during the last year,” before adding, “They are delighted that the beautiful grounds of Windsor Castle will be where they begin their lives as a married couple.” But what, exactly, makes it special?
For one, St. George’s Chapel dates back all the way to the 14th century, when King Edward III established it. Then and now, it remains one of the most iconic examples of Gothic architecture in England. It also houses the bodies of royals who preceded Prince Harry. Not only are his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II’s immediate family members buried there—including her grandfather George V, her father George VI, her mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and her infamous sister Princess Margaret—but the royal matriarch will eventually be buried there as well. Last year, it was revealed that when the 92-year-old Queen passes away, she will be buried nine days later at a State Funeral held at St. George’s Chapel, as The Guardian reported.
Even more notable, though, is the fact that Markle and Harry chose St. George’s Chapel over Westminster Abbey, where Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and Prince William and Kate Middleton all married. The reason why? Markle and Harry wanted a more casual—if you can call a royal wedding that—celebration.
Unlike Westminster Abbey, which seats 2,000, St. George’s Chapel is relatively discreet. The venue, which accommodates up to 800 people, offers more privacy. (Sorry to say that means there won’t be a very public balcony kiss this time.) According to royal biographer Andrew Morton, the decision to wed at St. George’s Chapel is “a signal to people that they’re not going to be full-on attention-seeking royals,” as he revealed to Town & Country. “With St. George’s Chapel, it’s more like the wedding of [Prince] Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones. They’re a more low-key couple,” he said.
The last wedding at St. George’s Chapel took place in 2008 between Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s oldest grandchild, Peter Phillips, and Autumn Kelly. Although it’s been widely misreported that the most recent vows exchanged there were between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. (The royals actually held a service of “prayer and dedication” in the Chapel and wedded nearby at Windsor Guildhall.) Meanwhile, the next royal wedding to be held in the Chapel after Markle and Prince Harry will be between Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank on October 12 of this year.
While few will be able to see what happens inside of the chapel at Markle and Harry’s wedding, anyone can visit St. George’s Chapel, which is 22 miles away from central London. The chapel, which has housed more royal residents than any other building, is open to the public.