May 18, 2018 / 7:12 AM / 3 months ago

Meghan Markle's mother due to meet Queen Elizabeth on eve of royal wedding extravaganza

* UK prepares for royal wedding on Saturday

* Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle

* Markle’s mother to meet Queen Elizabeth

* Crowds gather in Windsor for wedding

* Graphic of the wedding tmsnrt.rs/2IhvlgJ

By Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden

WINDSOR, England, May 18 (Reuters) - Meghan Markle’s American mother was due to take tea with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry’s grandmother, on the eve of a sumptuous royal wedding that will be watched by millions across the world.

Outside the ancient stone walls of Windsor Castle, home to the English royal family for nearly 1,000 years, well-wishers mingled with tourists and swarms of television crews under swathes of British and American flags.

Harry will marry Markle, a star of the TV drama “Suits”, in Windsor Castle’s 15th-century St George’s Chapel at a ceremony that begins about 1100 GMT on Saturday.

The newly weds will then be driven around Windsor in a horse-drawn carriage.

Markle’s African-American mother, Doria Ragland, was due to meet Queen Elizabeth, 92, for tea in Windsor on Friday. The yoga instructor charmed Harry’s father, Prince Charles, when they met on Wednesday.

But it is still unclear who will walk Markle down the aisle after her father, Thomas, pulled out of the wedding in a family drama that was played out under the glare of global media attention. Markle said she was sad he could not make it.

After the schism of Brexit divided the United Kingdom and triggered a wave of doubt about its future place in the world, the glittering union of one of the most popular royals and an elegant U.S. divorcee may offer some distraction.

The British remain broadly supportive of the monarchy albeit with a sense of mild irony about the pomp and pageantry that accompanies it, though many have deep respect for the current monarch, Elizabeth, after her decades of dutiful service.

For some black Britons, the prospect of a mixed-race royal princess has increased interest in the monarchy, which has so far been all white. A black American bishop is to give the address at the wedding.

But for some other Britons, the event has as much relevance as the union of two distant super stars. Many will not even bother to watch the wedding despite massive media interest.

After the hour-long ceremony, the couple will take part in a procession through the town’s ancient streets on a 19th century Ascot Landau carriage pulled by four Windsor Grey horses.

Police are expecting more than 100,000 people to throng the streets outside the castle, the queen’s home west of London and the oldest and largest inhabited fortress in the world, and have said there would be tight security for the event.

Harry, 33, the younger son of the late Princess Diana, has always been a popular member of the royal family.

A cheeky child who stuck his tongue out at photographers, he left a lasting memory in the minds of many when aged just 12, he walked solemnly behind his mother’s coffin as her funeral cortege made its way through London after her death in a car crash in 1997. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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