Belfast Telegraph

Picture perfect day for Northern Ireland guest whose poignant story moved Prince Harry

By Leona O'Neill and David Young

A Northern Ireland woman who attended Saturday's royal wedding says the day spent with Meghan and Harry was a "magical one she will never forget".

Julie-Ann Coll (35) from Tullyally and her mum Catherine Cooke (53) were picked to be among the 1,200 VIP guests to attend the ceremony.

For Julie-Ann, the day had an extra special poignancy, for it was the death of her baby son Mark that sent her on a journey with charity Life After Loss that led to her sharing the couple's special day.

After weeks of excited preparations she travelled on Friday to London for the nuptials with Catherine, sister Stephanie Cooke and her mother-in-law Marcia Coll. Julie says it was the experience of a lifetime.

"We set our alarm for 5am and we were ready and out of our London hotel at 7am," she said.

"We got a taxi to Windsor but the traffic was so bad at one point that the driver said we'd have to walk the rest of the way. There we were in our wedding gear, walking for 40 minutes through Windsor in our finery, in our high heels, carrying our picnic.

"We got to the castle eventually and checked in. The atmosphere was unbelievable. We got a buggy up 'The Long Walk' to the castle and the crowds were there waving, cheering and clapping at us because they knew we were going to the wedding.

"When we got to our position right outside the door of the church they gave us a goody bag, which was beautiful. It was a canvas bag with Windsor Castle on it, Harry and Meghan's name and the date and had inside a bottle of water, a big chocolate gold coin, a fridge magnet, shortbread and an order of service.

"We had a brilliant spot. We saw absolutely everyone. We saw David Beckham and Victoria going in, they waved to us. We saw Harry and William walking past. And Sarah Ferguson stopped to chat to us on the way past. We saw the car coming to the church with the Queen in it and the car carrying Meghan and her mum. We saw Meghan going into the church. She was beautiful.

"Then the ceremony began. We had the order of service so we were able to say the prayers along with Harry and Meghan and sing the hymns with the congregation. We really felt part of it. It was just magical."

Julie-Ann - who is mum to Kerri-Lynn (17), Mackenzie (12), Robbie (4) and Jayden (2) - volunteers for Life After Loss, a pregnancy and infant loss charity.

She joined after she lost Mark while she was 22 weeks pregnant.

At last year's royal garden party at Hillsborough Castle she met Prince Harry and told him of her journey. So taken was he by her inspirational story, a wedding invitation was dispatched.

And on the day she made sure that Mark was not forgotten.

"I wore a special necklace all day," she said.

"It had Mark's November birthstone on it. It was very special to me and meant that I was taking him along with me to Windsor Castle.

"It was a poignant day for me in many ways because a good thing has come out of such a tragedy for me. I knew that I was there because of him. And that is always the case. Anything good that happens I know that it is because of him that I am where I am today.

"It was the most amazing and magical of days and one I will cherish forever."

Also among the local guests were Ballymena school girl Daniella Timperley and mum Marie, and DUP councillor Darryn Causby and his wife Sarah.

Darryn is no stranger to royaity, having hosted the visit of Prince Charles to Portadown while serving as mayor, but he said the royal wedding experience was something else.

"We got a really prime spot in the front row, where all the guests were coming in, and could see everybody arriving - not only the royals - but people like George Clooney and his wife Amal.

"The atmosphere inside the grounds of Windsor Castle was incredible. The highlight for Sarah and I was when Harry and Meghan passed us in the royal carriage, just yards from where we were standing, after the wedding service was over.

We could've just reached out and touched the carriage, they were that close. That was just a wonderful moment for us."

He added: "There's just something about the British monarchy and its ability to unite the whole country, regardless of day to day politics. The monarchy overshadows all that, and unites everybody. That was so evident yesterday by the diversity of people who were present at Harry and Meghan's wedding."

Belfast Telegraph

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