Speculation is mounting that an Australian design team are the brains behind the hand-stitched dress to be worn by Meghan Markle at her May 19 wedding to Prince Harry.
Ralph & Russo, the label headed by Sydney-born Tamara Ralph and Brisbane-born Michael Russo, has firmed as the favourites to make the dress after a photo was posted by the seemingly innocuous Royal School of Needlework.
The hand embroidery school tagged Ralph & Russo in a photo with members of the label’s team looking at some of the school’s students’ embroidery portfolios.
Students from the same school were in 2011 led to believe they were making a dress for a film shoot when they were in fact working on the appliquéd lace for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress for her marriage to Prince William.
Ralph & Russo Haute Couture Atelier team view hand embroidery portfolios by RSN Degree students at Hampton Court Palace @ralphandrusso #couture #fashion #rsndegree #ralphandrusso pic.twitter.com/mIzhDnDJ81
— Royal Needlework (@RoyalNeedlework) May 1, 2018
This followed British media reports of Ms Ralph, 36, being seen leaving a central London office on the same Meghan attended her final wedding dress-fitting at a secret London location.
It also follows the announcement that bookmakers Ladbrokes had suspended betting on the dress designer, after a royal insider was quoted by British media claiming Ralph & Russo were the frontrunners.
That choice has some foundation. Meghan wore a $75,000 Ralph & Russo’s $75,000 creation in her official engagement photos with Prince Harry.
Harpers Bazaar noted in early March: “Should Meghan Markle ever find herself in need of a special gown – something floor-sweeping, exquisitely embellished and suitable for marrying a real-life prince, say – then she could do no better than turn to Ralph & Russo (after all, she already chose the couturier for those all-important engagement photos).”
Meanwhile, Kensington Palace has released more details of the May 19 wedding, ending speculation that Meghan’s father had been snubbed from the ceremony.
“Mr Markle will walk his daughter down the aisle of St George’s Chapel,” the palace’s statement read, with the service expected to take just one hour.
“Prince Harry and Ms Markle are very much looking forward to welcoming Ms Markle’s parents to Windsor for the wedding.”
Despite speculation Thomas Markle, 73, was excluded, he will now fly in from Mexico a week before the wedding. Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor will also jet in ahead of the May 19 nuptials at Windsor Castle, “allowing time” to spend with Prince Harry’s family including the Queen before the “big day”.
“Ms Markle is delighted to have her parents by her side on this important and happy occasion.”
A Kensington Palace statement confirmed both parents, who divorced in 1988, would play “important roles” in the wedding, saying Harry and Meghan’s personalities will be reflected in the wedding as well as being guided by tradition.
The statement said Ms Ragland would spend Friday May 18 with Meghan at an “overnight location” and on the morning of the wedding, will travel by car with her to Windsor Castle.
While Harry’s brother Prince William will be best man, it was also revealed that Meghan, 36, will not have a maid of honour, using children instead as bridesmaids and page boys and won’t have any of her friends in the bridal party.
“There will also be a brief stop at the Castle where Ms Ragland will head onto the Chapel and Ms Markle will be joined by some of the Bridesmaids and Page Boys before she continues her journey to the church, where she will enter via the West Steps,” the statement read.
It will be the first time Prince Harry, 33, will meet his future father-in-law.
A Kensington Palace spokesman said she simply couldn’t decide which of her friends to select for the important roles, according to The Sun.
He said: “She has a very close knit group of friends and did not want to choose one over the other.”
Suits co-star Sarah Rafferty, actresses Janina Gavankar and Priyanka Chopra and best friend and stylist Jessica Mulroney were the likely candidates.
According to the April edition of Vanity Fair, Mulroney was reportedly the front-runner for maid of honour and was working with her on a daily basis behind the scenes to help co-ordinate “every detail” as a wedding planner.
“She is Meghan’s best friend and the person Meghan trusts with helping to plan every detail,” a source told the magazine.
“She’s the one helping Meghan to make all the key decisions. They are on the phone daily discussing every element of the wedding, from the dress to the flowers to the canapés and the photography.
“Meghan is very dependent on Jessica and Jessica has been totally indispensable. She’s helped Meghan and Harry with so much already,” Vanity Fair reported.
The Princess Diana link
Prince Harry is also keen to involve his mother’s family in his wedding.
Taking their seats in St George’s Chapel, siblings Earl Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, who will give a reading, will represent a link to Harry’s late mother.
Both sisters read poems at Diana’s funeral while Earl Spencer gave a controversial eulogy which was seen as an attack on the royal family.
He vowed to Diana in his speech that her “blood family” would do all they could to protect the Duke of Cambridge and Harry “so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned”.