Bride-to-be Meghan Markle has chosen to formally self-identify as an Anglican and is expected to be baptised by the head of the Anglican Church ahead of her May 19 wedding to Prince Harry.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will baptise Meghan in a private service at Kensington Palace this month, Britain’s The Sunday Times reported.
Meghan has not yet publicly identified as belonging to a particular religion despite being raised as a Protestant and educated at a Catholic school.
She has chosen to be baptised as “a sign of respect” for Queen Elizabeth’s role as head of the Church of England, according to The Sunday Times.
Anglican priest and Professor of Sociology at Monash University Gary Bouma said Anglicans “tend to have a low bar for baptism”.
“If someone seeks it they are showing a willingness to commit and be part of the Anglican community,” Professor Bouma said.
Although Meghan is not required to become Anglican to marry Prince Harry, there are some legal qualifications for any couple wishing to marry in the Church of England.
Mr Welby will officiate at the wedding of Prince Harry, 33, and Meghan, 36, in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
One or both of them must show a “qualifying connection” to St George’s Chapel, according to the Church of England Marriage Measure.
While this may already be the case for Prince Harry, baptism may be a way to give Meghan that link.
What will be required of Meghan in baptism
Professor Scott Cowdell, an Anglican priest and theologian at Charles Sturt University, said in preparation for the baptism service, Meghan may have to do “a period of instruction”, possibly with the Archbishop of Canterbury or one of the royal chaplains to “help her think through what she’s doing”.
“There would be a period of meetings – open, very relaxed pastoral conversations – where we sit down and talk about the aspects of the Christian faith that are involved in the baptism service,” Professor Cowdell said.
“Very often this is an opportunity to give reassurance to people that they’re not doing something that’s inauthentic.
“There are times when people do this preparation and they conclude it’s not for me. I don’t imagine that’d happen in this case.”
Professor Cowdell said there were distinctive things about the Christian belief that she would need to assent to during the baptism service.
“She will have to make statements of faith in response to being asked questions about her belief, whether she will commit herself to Christ and the Christian way of life,” he said.
“She will have to answer out loud in public that she does.”
Her father Thomas Markle, a member of the US Episcopal Church, the main Anglican church in America, and her mother Doria Ragland, a member of the Protestant faith, will both be in attendance alongside other members of the royal family, according to The Sunday Times.
At the culmination of the ceremony, Meghan will be asked whether she believes in “God the father, creator of heaven and earth” in “Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God … the Holy Spirit, in the church and in the life eternal”, Professor Cowdell said.
She must also declare her faith by reciting the Apostles’ Creed, a document of the early Church outlining core Christian beliefs.
At the end of the service, Meghan will be baptised by the pouring of water over her head and she may be anointed on her forehead with holy water, Professor Cowdell said.
“She may receive a candle, symbolising the light of Christ and there will be prayers said for her and her family.”
There are many people who choose to get baptised and join a church if their spouse-to-be is actively involved, he said.
“I suspect she’s on a journey of faith and she’s taking it very seriously and it’s part of this extraordinary experience that she’s having.”