As any live-broadcast presenter will testify, it’s not always possible to know quite what will unfold once the cameras start to roll. Kirsty Young does know one thing, though: ahead of a six-hour broadcast marathon as one of the anchors of the BBC’s live coverage of the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, she will be getting her hair done at the crack of dawn.
“There will be an early call time, so I will definitely be at the hairdresser’s very early in the morning,” she laughs. Until the conclusion of the carriage procession after the wedding, it will be Young – alongside Dermot O’Leary – who will present the BBC’s coverage of a wedding that will be watched around the world.
Huw Edwards, at his post on the roof of the Guard Room of St George’s Chapel, will describe the wedding ceremony itself. While cameras from all the main UK broadcasters will be positioned along the route of the procession, only BBC cameras are allowed inside the chapel.
They will then feed pictures to other broadcasters, both in the UK and globally, who in turn will be jostling for position outside.
“I thank God I’m not at the logistics end of things – the broadcast presence from around the world will be phenomenal,” says Young. “I heard that one American channel alone is sending over 15 anchors!”
The royal wedding is certainly a “big gig” – not that Young isn’t used to those. Although, as she quickly points out, “Often big gigs can be dramatic news stories. The lovely thing about this is that it’s something joyful.”
Both joyful and informal – relatively, at least: the usual pomp and ceremony notwithstanding, this is a royal occasion that is parting from tradition, so it seems fitting that Young and O’Leary have been charged with providing the main BBC television commentary.
Their job, says Young, will be to try to bring into people’s sitting rooms a flavour of the excitement of being there. “We’ll be trying to capture the mood. And of course there’s the arrival of the guests. While there aren’t the reams of foreign dignitaries you normally get for an occasion like this [no politicians, and that includes the Prime Minister, have been invited], it’s likely that it will be a glamorous crowd, so the people and hat-watching opportunities will be top drawer.”
The absence of dignitaries from the guest list is just one way in which this wedding will differ from that of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Details released by Kensington Palace reveal a number of personal touches introduced by Prince Harry and Meghan.
The service, for example – led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby – will feature a gospel choir; and it will be Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, who will travel with her by car to the chapel.
Harry has also ensured that Princess Diana’s side of the family is prominent by asking her sister, his aunt Lady Jane Fellowes, to give a reading.
“It’s an interesting change in protocol,” says Young. “It’s putting the mother of the bride at the centre. The way they are organising it feels creative, it feels modern and contemporary.”
Which is one way of describing Harry and Meghan. “They’re showing a rather different way of being royal,” says Young. “Of course you want them to be glamorous and special, but they’re doing that in a very modern way.
“They are both in their 30s and have lived a life, which makes them much more typical of most couples these days – although of course they are entirely untypical in other ways.”
Young also predicts a few more surprises, too. Will one of them be that Meghan, unlike the Duchess of Cambridge, pledges to obey her husband? “We shall see – that’s all part of the fascination, isn’t it?” she grins. “What I am sure of is there will be some lovely original touches.”
Having worked on a documentary released after the couple’s engagement, Young was left with the impression of a couple “very much in love”.
“I got a sense of two grown-ups who are mad about each other, but who also have their heads screwed on,” she says. “You get the sense that they understand the giant step they are taking. They have their feet firmly planted on the ground. And that is part of what has made people warm to them.”
Not everyone: there are naysayers, among them Germaine Greer, who has described this future member of the royal family as a “bolter” who won’t last the course.
Young is too canny to speculate, but it’s clear she doesn’t agree. “We can’t possibly comment in that way on someone we don’t know intimately,” she says.
“What I will say is that it’s a huge thing for a young woman to take on what the royal family entails and I think that you must have to love someone very much to do that. What is lovely about this occasion is that, ultimately, for all the ceremony that we do so splendidly, at the centre of this we have an extremely tender love story between two people.”