The setting for our interview couldn’t be more apt on the day before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding.
At Cafe Diana, located just yards away from the royal residences at Kensington Palace, almost every inch of the walls is covered in pictures of the late Princess of Wales. After all, when it used to be a low-key eatery, Diana made this one of her go-to spots for a cup of tea or a quick bite.
It’s here that I meet Marie Evelyn Seidel, the matriarch of the Lady Di Club Germany and very much the royal family’s unofficial German ambassador.
And it’s no surprise that Seidel and Anja Biere, one of the club’s newer members, chose this location to meet ahead of the royal wedding. A few yards from where we sit, Harry is preparing for the big day. Paparazzi and onlookers line the gates leading from the palace grounds onto Bayswater Road, while we look on from the cafe window, hoping to catch a glimpse.
Almost every inch of wall is dedicated to the People’s Princess at Cafe Diana
Germany’s royal ambassadors
Seidel, who hails from the German town of Hamelin, has been on a whirlwind media tour of Germany in the days leading up to Saturday’s royal wedding — from biographies in the local press to appearances on national talk shows.
Seidel founded the club in 1998 as a means to bond with other Diana fans in Germany and preserve the Princess of Wales’ memory after her tragic death. Today, around 15 women meet up three-to-four times a year to organize charity and school events in their home towns.
“We’re not just about following the royals and wearing nice hats,” said Seidel. “We want to make sure that Diana’s charitable spirit lives on, whether it’s helping children, the elderly or the less fortunate. That’s why we go together as a group a couple of times a year to visit kindergartens and hospitals, and try to do our part.”
Guerilla marketing: Seidel leaves some flyers for her club on the gates of Kensington Palace
Harry: The one-time wild boy
Seidel admits that she has long been waiting for Harry’s big day. Of course, William’s wedding to Kate was a big deal. But it’s Harry who is Seidel’s favorite of the two brothers.
“William always had to be the more traditional of the two, since from birth he was anointed the role of monarch,” said Seidel. ”But Harry has always had the right to a bit more freedom and he’s gone and embraced that.”
“Of course Harry’s made mistakes in life,” said Seidel, “but the thing is that he’s actually allowed to make mistakes. And that’s why we love him.”
So, is Meghan fit for the prince?
If Harry is the wild child-turned-golden boy, then what do the club members think of Meghan?
Seidel and Biere agree that it’s a great moment for the royal family to introduce some new and unfamiliar blood into the royal household.
“This wedding represents just how much things have changed since Europe’s monarchies just married among themselves,” said Seidel. “And it opens the door to others joining the monarchy — let’s see who little George and little Charlotte bring into the family when their time comes.”
Read more: Tracing Meghan Markle’s ‘German roots’
Biere said that Meghan will breathe a new lease on life into the royals, as the first mixed-race member of the monarchy. “But the most refreshing thing about her is how normal she seems, and how normal she makes Harry seem, as well,” she said. “When I saw the interview they gave shortly after they announced their engagement, I really thought they looked and behaved just like the people in my own friends group.”
Is Meghan the new lady Di?
Like Lady Di before her, Meghan is widely seen as someone who doesn’t always abide by strict royal protocol. The Princess of Wales caused a stir back in the day when she removed her gloves to shake peoples’ hands, or when she bent down to greet people at eye-level.
Meghan, meanwhile, has reportedly told friends that she intends to continue greeting people by hugging them. It’s what makes her American, despite it not being particularly princess-like.
So is Meghan set to become the new people’s princess?
“Never — we will only ever have one Diana,” said Seidel. “My advice to Meghan is for her to be herself and not try to follow in Di’s footsteps. After all, Diana had a special aura, the type that instantly made everyone who met her feel as they knew her personally. That’s not something you learn — it’s god-given. But I’m sure Meghan will find her own.”
Just as we’re wrapping up, there’s a roar outside the cafe. Paparazzi scramble as a black jeep pulls away from the palace grounds onto the main road. Some of the people sitting around us, with a star-struck look on their face, are convinced they saw Harry in the back of the vehicle.
Seidel and Biers just missed him, but they aren’t too upset. They intend to be at the very front when the newlyweds greet the crowds in Windsor on Saturday.
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