The royal wedding is officially over, and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have begun their lives as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. However, the couple made time to uphold one more royal wedding tradition before closing the book on their nuptials. Meghan Markle placed her wedding bouquet on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey. In doing so, she kept up a sentimental tradition that royal brides have been carrying out for nearly a century now.
An official tweet from Kensington Palace both confirmed the news, and offered an explanation as to why Markle had her bouquet placed on the grave, rather than keep it as a memento of her special day. The tweet reads,
"The Duchess of Sussex has sent the bouquet she carried during yesterday's #RoyalWedding to Westminster Abbey to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior"
According to the official Westminster Abbey press release, the tradition began when Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, placed her bouquet on the grave after marrying King George VI. The gesture was meant to honor her brother, Fergus, who was killed at the Battle of Loos during World War I. People reports that since then, almost every royal bride has kept the tradition alive, including Queen Elizabeth II, her sister, Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, and Kate Middleton. Seeing Markle join them feels incredibly symbolic — it's not only a way to continue to honor Fergus, it could also be a way for her to connect with the women of the royal family.
Even before she joined the royal brides before her in placing her bouquet on the grave, Markle's flowers were packed with meaning. In a statement from Kensington Palace on the wedding day, it was revealed that Prince Harry picked some of the flowers for the bouquet himself. He purposefully chose forget-me-nots from the palace's private garden, because they were Princess Diana's favorite.
According to Town & Country, the official statement read,
"Prince Harry handpicked several flowers yesterday from their private garden at Kensington Palace to add to the bespoke bridal bouquet designed by florist Philippa Craddock. The spring blooms include Forget-Me-Nots which were Diana, Princess of Wales' favourite [sic] flower. The couple specifically chose them to be included in Ms. Markle's bouquet to honour [sic] the memory of the late Princess on this special day."
The bouquet also included myrtle, a tradition that began with Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Victoria.
As for the grave itself, it's the final resting place of an unknown WWI soldier, and it's exists thanks to the suggestion of the Reverend David Railton, who was an army padre during the war. At his urging, one of the fallen men from the battlefield was returned to London and buried in Westminster Abbey. Since his identity is unknown, his resting place symbolically honors all those who have died in battle. The Unknown Warrior's grave is the only one in Westminster Abbey that is never walked over.
The fact that it has become part of a tradition upheld by so many royal brides adds another layer of meaning to all that the grave represents.
Now that the wedding is over, Markle is officially a member of the royal family — she even has the biography to prove it. And while she's definitely doing things her own way, it's so nice to see that she decided to take part in a tradition that was begun by a past royal bride. It's a powerful way for her to connect to Prince Harry's family's history, while also honoring fallen soldiers.
While it couldn't have been easy to let such a beautiful bouquet go, Markle sent it to Westminster Abbey for the best reason.