Soon-to-be royal wedding guests have told of their disbelief at being invited to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day – with one saying she thought it was a belated April Fool’s prank.
Members of the public chosen to attend the Windsor wedding next month include a teenager who campaigns to raise awareness of difficulties for deaf people, and a mother who uses the arts to help people with mental health issues.
Schoolgirl Amelia Thompson, who was caught up in the Manchester Arena suicide bombing last year, is also on the guest list, with the 12-year-old planning to take a grandmother who lost a loved one in the terrorist attack.
Pamela Anomneze said she felt “excited and overwhelmed” to be one of the chosen guests.
She said: “I got an email informing me, and I thought it was an April Fool’s prank.”
The mother-of-three described the honour as “truly unbelievable”, saying the engaged pair are the “world’s most beautiful couple”.
The 52-year-old, from Haringey, London, will take her 15-year-old son Jude Anomneze-Collins as her plus one, after he made a heartfelt plea to attend alongside her.
“He used to watch Suits. When I came home and informed him of the invite he was down on his knees begging to go. He said ‘Oh mum, just to get a glimpse of Meghan Markle!’”
She said she may wear a colourful outfit traditional to her native Nigeria, but will leave the decision up to her colleagues at the Studio 306 Collective, a social enterprise which helps people with mental health problems.
The couple has asked that 1,200 people, from all corners of the UK be selected by Lord Lieutenants, include young people who have shown strong leadership and those who have served their communities. pic.twitter.com/aIraJiXg6B— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) March 2, 2018
“I want to think about what to wear and seek advice from my team. I want the Collective collectively to advise me,” she said.
Amelia Thompson said she was “speechless” when she saw the message saying she was going to the wedding.
The 12-year-old from Dronfield Woodhouse, near Sheffield, has spent a year recovering from the trauma she suffered after she witnessed the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.
Now she has decided to give her other ticket to grandmother Sharon Goodman, whose 15-year-old granddaughter Olivia Campbell-Hardy died in the attack.
The youngster said: “I was speechless. I could not respond I was so excited,” and she is now looking forward to buying a dress.
Kensington Palace announced in March that 1,200 members of the public would be among the crowds allowed into the grounds of Windsor Castle to share in the atmosphere of the May 19 wedding at St George’s Chapel.
Prince Harry & Ms. Meghan Markle are incredibly grateful for the goodwill they have received since their engagement, & have asked that anyone who might wish to mark the occasion of their wedding considers giving to charity, instead of sending a gift. https://t.co/lzfrRmoeUv pic.twitter.com/nxrTZtIKBY— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) April 9, 2018
The lucky group were nominated by the nine regional Lord Lieutenant offices after Harry and Meghan asked for those picked to come from a broad range of backgrounds and ages, including young people who have shown strong leadership, and those who have served their communities.
On Monday, the couple appealed for donations to charity, rather than wedding gifts, from well-wishers and nominated seven good causes.
Fourteen-year-old Reuben Litherland’s school support worker in Derby did not believe him at first when he informed her he would be among the congregation at the wedding, his mother said.
The Saint Benedict Catholic Academy pupil, who is deaf and has set up a lunchtime sign language club at school, is still coming to terms with the news, she said.
Jacinta Litherland, who will attend the wedding with her son, said: “He is very excited, and probably a bit bewildered. It’s just not quite sunk in.”
She said she was “very proud” of her son’s achievements, which include campaigning for deaf friendly cinema screenings, at such a young age.
“He is raising awareness of the difficulties and struggles that deaf children face, and he’s doing it very well,” she said.
The pair will miss Ms Litherland’s brother’s birthday as it clashes with the wedding.
“He will understand – but he will have something to say about it,” she joked.
Zoe Ardunell will be lucky enough to see the couple for a second time, having met them during a recent visit to Cardiff Castle.
The 20-year-old from Penygraig in Wales described that as “a very happy day” and said Harry told her she was “definitely a role model” for her work with the Valley Kids charity which helps disadvantaged children and families.
She will take as her guest her 62-year-old grandmother Pat Churches, who she said “loves the royals”.
Ms Arundell said she was relieved to see she had no plans that weekend, but quickly added: “I think if I did have any plans they would be changed straight away!”
Entrepreneur Rosie Ginday, 34, who set up the social enterprise and baking business Miss Macaroon in Birmingham in 2011, said she was “delighted” to get an invitation, after impressing Harry and Meghan with some of her trainees’ macaroons during their visit to the city in March.
Her sweet treats organisation reinvests profits into developing disadvantaged young people’s potential, training them as chefs, and offering them real world experience.
The qualified pastry chef and former English teacher said: “Harry and Meghan came to Millennium Point (Birmingham), and got to taste our macaroons which was really fun.
“They were both so passionate about meeting all the young girls there and took a real interest.
“They’re accessible as well, and it’s great to have a younger generation of royals showing they do care and they are invested in what young people can do.”
Ms Ginday’s organisation has worked with care-leavers, the homeless, lone single parents and those with mental health problems, introducing them to working life, at the firm’s ship and bakery, and even giving some the chance to work at Michelin star restaurant Purnell’s.
Another wedding guest was Rashid Bhayat, 38, who founded and runs Coventry’s Positive Youth Foundation, which offers youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds opportunities in areas like music and sports.
He described his wedding invitation as “a glowing testament” to work of the youth organisation’s volunteer trustees and staff who give up days, evenings and weekends, providing and running activities.
In January, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited and saw their work first-hand.
Speaking of his invite, he said: “I feel honoured to go and represent – it’s not for me, but for all the people who have driven and keep driving the organisation forward.”
He added: “I will be using the opportunity to raise the profile of our young people’s work and the value of reinvesting in our youth.”