British royal weddings are usually grand affairs of state, where presidents and prime ministers rub shoulders with obscure European monarchs. Not so, the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Kensington Palace announced on Tuesday that the royal couple would not be inviting political leaders to the event, at least not on the basis of their official position. Which means neither US President Donald Trump nor his predecessor Barack Obama will be there. Not even British Prime Minister Theresa May was deemed worthy of a place on the guest list.
Instead, only personal friends of the couple will be inside Windsor Castle for the royal event of the year on May 19.
“It has been decided that an official list of political leaders — both UK and international — is not required for Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s wedding,” a Kensington Palace spokesman said. “Her Majesty’s Government was consulted on this decision, which was taken by the royal household.”
A White House official confirmed neither Trump nor first lady Melania were invited; nor was Prime Minister May, Downing Street said.
A royal source said that while Harry and Meghan hoped to see Barack and Michelle Obama soon, the former US President and his wife would not be at the wedding. The source would not say definitively whether the Obamas — who are close to the royal couple — had been invited.
Unlike the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, this royal wedding is not an official state occasion and is regarded as a private ceremony, so there is no onus on the couple to invite political leaders.
CNN understands that some world leaders may be invited on the basis of their personal relationships with Harry and Meghan.
The ceremony, which will take place in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, is being held in a much smaller venue than Westminster Abbey, where Harry’s older brother, Prince William, married Kate Middleton. Around 1,900 people attended the ceremony in 2011, while the chapel hosting the wedding in May has a capacity of just 800.
Rumors about the guest list — specifically the inclusion or not of the Obamas and President Trump — have been swirling for months.
While Prince Harry, who is obliged as a royal to be politically neutral, has never spoken publicly about Trump, Markle strongly criticized the now president in 2016.
In an interview on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore in May that year, two months before Harry and Meghan first met, she described Trump (who was then a Republican candidate for the presidency) as “divisive” and “misogynistic.”
There had been speculation in the UK media that British officials feared the political consequences if the couple decide to invite Barack and Michelle Obama, with whom they are friends, but not Donald Trump.
Harry has become close to the Obamas through their support for the Invictus Games, an event for injured servicemen and women that was started by the UK royal in 2014.
He recently interviewed the former president on BBC radio and the pair were previously involved in a light-hearted social media war after the Obamas made a viral video challenging Harry to “bring it” at the Invictus Games in 2016.
Guest lists have been problematic for many royal couples in the past.
The royal family was accused of favoring the UK Conservative Party over Labour when former Conservative Prime Ministers John Major and Margaret Thatcher received invitations to Prince William’s wedding, while Labour leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did not.
On that occasion, Buckingham Palace responded that Major was invited in his role as former guardian of William and Harry when their mother Diana died in 1997, not for his status as a former prime minister.