A royal wedding in England is always a big deal, combining the history of the country with the pomp and spectacle of the trappings from the wedding gown to the guests’ outrageous hats.
While the upcoming royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is of global interest, Americans are particularly intrigued by one of our own becoming royalty. It’s Grace Kelly for a new generation, and the fact that Markle is also biracial lends additional meaning to her high-profile status.
It’s been six years since the last royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, and TV programming and streaming technology has come a long way since then. The elder prince’s big day drew an estimated 3 billion pairs of eyes worldwide, with 23 million coming from the States.
Prince Harry and his soon-to-be princess will tie the knot on Saturday, May 19 at the historic St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, and all the specials and movies are in full swing. Here’s how and where to watch all the Harry and Meghan-related programming up to and including live coverage of the big day:
[Editor’s Note: This post has been updated.]
All times are Eastern
Friday, May 18
10:30 pm: “Royal Wedding Watch,” PBS
PBS will take a more informational approach to their programming, which should appeal to viewers fascinated by British royals. This is the conclusion of the broadcaster’s five-part series airing nightly from London running up to the wedding that will go inside the preparations for the big day. Hosts Meredith Vieira and British television presenter Matt Baker will be joined by experts, commentators and special guests. Live reports will come from host Anita Rani, and “English historian Lucy Worsley, Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, will delve into the pageantry, pomp and protocol surrounding Harry and Meghan’s nuptials.”
Saturday, May 19, aka Royal Wedding Day
Two live events are worth noting for their distinctly different voices:
4 am: Royal Wedding Live Coverage, BBC America
No, that is not a typo. That is 4 am Eastern time. Even taking into account the time difference between London and the East Coast, this is damn early. But royal diehards who don’t want to miss an iota of the anticipation and the armchair chapeau critiques, starting this early is a must. BBC America’s live and direct simulcast of BBC One’s coverage provides that British legitimacy, insight, and flavor to the analysis. You provide the PJs and bottomless cups of English breakfast tea. Coverage will also include the carriage procession from St. George’s Chapel through Windsor Town returning to Windsor Castle via the Long Walk. If you have a cable subscription, you can access the live stream. For the Yanks who might want sleep in, an encore presentation of the wedding will air at 10 pm.
7:30 am: ”The Royal Wedding Live with Cord and Tish!” HBO
For a very distinctly American take on the wedding, comedians Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon are back as their Pasadena broadcast alter egos Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan, who had made a splash with their live Rose Bowl commentary this past New Year. Expect inane conversation, misunderstandings, impromptu singing, and much more as the hosts broadcast live from London. Old friend Tim Meadows and other guests will stop by to add to the hijinks. HBO will replay the event at 9:45 pm.
All Other Ways to Watch Live:
TV: CBS and Fox News at 4 am, NBC “Today Show” at 4:30 am , ABC and CNN at 5 am
Streaming: CBSN Live at 4 am, PBS at 4:30 am, ABCNews.com and GoodMorningAmerica.com at 5 am, The New York Times, Reuters and People TV
App: ABC, Dreams
Theater: Fathom Events in 200 venues at 10 am local time
10:30 am: ”Dater’s Handbook” (2016), Hallmark
See description in the Bonus section below.
8 pm: ”Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance,” Lifetime (Encore performance)
Lifetime, purveyor of pop culture biopics and Hallmark-style rom-coms, found its calling with this feature-length treatment of how Prince Harry (the appropriately redheaded and bearded Murray Fraser) and Meghan Markle (Parisa Fitz-Henley of “Midnight, Texas”) met, fell in love, and then became media sensations when their relationship was revealed. Although this plays up the fairy-tale aspects of their relationship, it doesn’t ignore some of the rougher patches such as the “brooch” incident or Meghan calling out the racism she’s encountered her whole life, including now that she’s in the global spotlight. Of course, we all know this ends with an engagement, which makes this happy Mother’s Day fare. Check out IndieWire’s non-spoilery review.
8 pm “Royal Romance: The Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle,” CBS
In this two-hour special, CBS recaps what you may have just watched earlier in the day. Of course, if you planned on sleeping in and doing weekend-y things, this would be a great way to get the highlights with a little context about the modern marriage and impact on the monarchy.
Bonus 1: Movies and TV Series Starring Meghan Markle
For those gaps of time without Harry and Meghan programming, there’s still plenty to watch to familiarize yourself with Markle. As a working actress, she has a few projects on her resume that are worth checking out.
”Suits,” USA Network
Nigel Parry/USA Network
One of USA Network’s last “blue sky” programs, “Suits” follows the talented Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) navigate various financial and legal issues for Pearson Specter Litt, even though he didn’t technically have a license to practice law for most of the series. During this time, he met, romanced, and eventually married Rachel Zane (Markle), a senior paralegal/part-time associate. Both actors left the show at the end of Season 7 when their characters moved to Seattle to handle class-action lawsuits. Fun fact: Meghan Markle’s legal first name is also Rachel. Available to stream on USANetwork.com, the USA Now app, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Xbox One.
”When Sparks Fly” (2014)
Before Hallmark began airing its reality show “Meet the Peetes,” most people of color on the network were relegated to playing the sassy best friend in the channel’s rom-coms. Markle is one of the few who got to be the star (the hapa Katrina Law also has this honor) of her own movie. “When Sparks Fly” is a typical prodigal daughter returns tale set against a patriotic Fourth of July backdrop. Markle plays Amy Peterson, a big-city journalist who goes back to her hometown to cover the Independence Day festival. In the process, she rediscovers the man she left behind. Available to stream on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play and Vudu.
”Dater’s Handbook” (2016)
Cass (Markle) is romantically challenged even though she’s a successful businesswoman. What to do? Consult “The Dater’s Handbook” of course, which offers all manner of advice that may actually not be so helpful when she puts it into practice. In no time, she’s torn between two men (Kristoffer Polaha, Jonathan Scarfe), one of whom seems perfect. Available to stream on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play and Vudu. Or catch it after the Royal Wedding at 10:30 am on Hallmark.
Bonus 2: Royally Adjacent Programming
”King Charles III,” PBS
In the PBS “Masterpiece” adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s innovative play, the movie imagines what happens to Prince Charles (the late Tim Pigott-Smith) in the days following the death of his mum, Queen Elizabeth. In the months before coronation, Charles already starts to make waves by opposing Parliament, Harry causes a royal scandal by dating a black commoner (sound familiar?), and Kate Middleton kills a soliloquy. Shakespearean in narrative, the movie sets up Charles to be a tragic hero. Oh, and all of the dialogue is in blank verse. Available to stream on PBS Passport, iTunes, and Amazon.
”The Crown,” Netflix
This one is a no-brainer, but in case you haven’t heard of or sampled this lush Netflix series yet – where the hell have you been? The Queen in question is Harry’s grandmother and will soon be Markle’s royal in-law, which gives this series contemporary context. Claire Foy is fantastic as the young Queen Elizabeth as she ascends the throne and begins to find her way as a monarch with husband Prince Philip (Matt Smith) occasionally by her side. But this historical drama series intends to cover all of Elizabeth’s reign, and as everyone is aware (Charles sure does), the Queen yet lives to this day. The proposal, therefore, is that the series continues each 10-episode season to cover a chunk of the Queen’s life, swapping out actors when aging becomes necessary, which appears to be every two seasons. Foy has the royal duty for the first two outings, which are available to stream now, and Olivia Colman will have her chance to play royal when the series returns for its third season.
If you’re ripe for another binge, this series goes back more generations into Harry’s past with the original long-reigning British queen. Former “Doctor Who” companion Jenna Colman stars as the young queen who set the monarchy on its head by being far more brash, progressive, and vital than the people of Britain had been used to. Her famous romance with Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) is front and center in Season 1 with palpable chemistry between the two stars. Season 2 continues this trend as the royal couple can’t keep their hands off each other, and thus have more children. Rufus Sewell is also magnetic as her former Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. Available to stream on iTunes and Amazon.