When Meghan Markle says her royal wedding vows to Prince Harry on Saturday, she’ll be following in the footsteps of Princess Diana and Kate Middleton by choosing to omit the traditional promise to “obey” her husband, the palace confirms.
During the ceremony, officiated by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Meghan will tell her royal groom: “I Meghan, take you, Harry, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part; according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.”
The decision doesn’t come as a surprise: Meghan has long been a vocal feminist, working with organizations like One World Vision to learn about the challenges facing women and girls living in Dubai and Mumbai. She also served as an ambassador for United Nations Women. And when she was just 11 years old, she personally wrote to Procter & Gamble because she thought one of their advertisements was sexist. (Her tactic was effective: The company ended up changing their slogan to make it more gender inclusive.)
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Diana was the first to break royal precedent when she didn’t promise to “obey” Prince Charles at their 1981 wedding. A long line of royal brides before her included the phrase in their wedding vows, as prescribed in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer dating from 1662. But Diana, choosing to follow the ritual of the Church of England, instead promised only to “love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health.”
The decision was controversial at the time, and others after her did vow obedience when they married into the royal family, including Sarah Ferguson and Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1986 and 1999, respectively.
But in 2011, Princess Kate followed in her late mother-in-law’s footsteps by also omitting the promise “to obey” from her vows during her wedding to Prince William. At the time, their official wedding program provided the wording to their vows, in which Kate promised to “love, comfort, honor and keep” William.
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One extremely famous royal who did vow obedience? Queen Elizabeth, during her 1947 wedding to Prince Philip — the first of its kind to be broadcast live on the radio. At the Westminster Abbey ceremony, the then-future Queen vowed “to love, to cherish, and to obey” her husband in front of 2,000 guests and 200 million people listening around the world.
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The phrasing caused a touch of controversy, as many thought the future monarch should not be obliged to obey anybody — even her husband.