Remembering ‘Mr Wales’, soldiers look forward to Harry and Meghan’s big day

Members of the Household Cavalry, which will provide ceremonial support to the forthcoming wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle, are inspected in the Regimental Square at the Hyde Park Barracks in London, Britain, May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) – Soldiers involved in the marriage of Britain’s Prince Harry to Meghan Markle are no strangers to pomp and pageantry, but for Corporal Major Daniel Snoxell, it’s the wedding of an old colleague rather than a royal.

The Household Cavalry have a ceremonial role to play in most major royal events, from the opening of parliament to “trooping the color,” a large parade to mark the Queen’s official birthday.

But Harry’s wedding this month will have extra meaning for members of the regiment who served with him during his 10-year army career, where he rose to be “Captain Wales” after his father, Charles, Prince of Wales.

“We didn’t view him as Prince Harry. We viewed him as Mr Wales, our troop leader,” Snoxell, who will line the staircase for the departure of the wedding party, told Reuters at Hyde Park Barracks in London.

“It just adds that next level of pride, on that personal level, knowing him, knowing that he’s found someone to settle down with and to be part of that special day.”

Harry, 33, joined the British army in 2005. After training at Britain’s top military academy in Sandhurst, he became an officer and undertook two tours of Afghanistan. He rose to the rank of captain before leaving the army in 2015.

While Harry was at the Household Cavalry’s operational wing, based in Windsor, most of the soldiers Harry served with spent time in London’s Hyde Park, and many in the London barracks remember their time serving with him even now.

Corporal of Horse John Brophy served in the same squadron as Harry in Helmand, Afghanistan, and will also form part of the staircase party at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, where Harry will marry former TV star Markle on May 19.

“He was very forthcoming, he was very friendly, very helpful – he would do his best to ensure those under his command were looked after,” Brophy told Reuters.

The Household Cavalry was formed in 1992 after the union of the two most senior regiments of the British Army: the Blues and Royals, which Harry and brother Prince William served in, and the Life Guards, who date back to the 17th century when they were formed as bodyguards to Charles II.

The ceremonial wing of the regiment, based in Hyde Park, is still used for the daily changing of the guard at Horse Guard’s Parade, as well as royal occasions.

But while this mounted regiment performs ceremonial duties, the operational wing of the Household Cavalry, which Harry served in, uses armored reconnaissance vehicles rather than horses.

Corporal of Horse Frankie O’Leary served with Harry in Afghanistan in 2007, and will form part of the escort in the carriage procession after the service, from Windsor castle through the town before returning up the Long Walk, a tree-flanked straight promenade that leads to the castle gates.

“On a personal level, he was a courageous, honorable young man when I knew him,” O’Leary told Reuters

“Now he’s a courageous honorable middle-aged man since he’s going into marriage.”

Additional reporting by Edward Baran; editing by Stephen Addison