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Congratulations from the Historical Society to the British Royal Couple of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan usher in a new era for British royalty.

Windsor, England (CNN)The masses roared, as they always do on such occasions, and under a cloudless English sky in the historic town of Windsor, there was a new beginning.

It was a royal wedding like no other; a gospel choir sang, Dr. Martin Luther King was quoted in a rousing address and a young couple was united in a marriage that will change a venerable institution forever.

Greeted by cheering crowds, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex emerged from St. George’s Chapel and kissed on the steps as the sun shone down.

The marriage of the sixth in line to the throne to Meghan Markle, a biracial American, saw the British monarchy transform into something more representative of its people than it has been before.

On the cobbled streets of Windsor, among the snaking river of people who turned out to celebrate, there was a sense from many that the newest member of the royal family had reinvigorated “The Firm.”

“It’s good there’s diversity in the royal family, it means a lot,” said Abha Trivedi, a Californian who had relocated to London two weeks ago and slept overnight on a chair for a prime spot of the royal procession.

Daljit Sidhu, of South Asian heritage but from Langley near Windsor, echoed such sentiments.

“As Asians it’s important,” the 41-year-old said. “I was born and bred here, but you were always different. Ten years ago you wouldn’t have thought this would happen.”

The Duke of Sussex and the Duchess of Sussex were greeted by a ripple of applause.
Pageantry with majesty

Much has been spoken and written about of the newest member of royal family shaking up the establishment.But for all that was different about this royal wedding there was still the pomp and circumstance of old royalty.

It was an impeccably choreographed wedding. A marching band paraded through the streets, aristocrats arrived and departed in supersized hats. Overseeing the service was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

No one does pageantry with the majesty of the British. It comes by virtue of hundreds of years of practice.

Some of those who headed to Windsor hailed a new age of diversity in the British royal family.

An estimated 100,000 had descended on this picturesque town 20 miles west of London on a glorious spring day to witness a wedding that has charmed not only the inhabitants of the UK but millions around the world.

From Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to Ghana, the United States, Switzerland and Australia, thousands were captivated by tradition and glamor.

They lined the cobbled streets, snacked on sandwiches drank Pimm’s and waited and waited — and waited — for a chance to say “I was there.”

There was joy, giddiness and much affection for the couple, now one of the world’s most powerful and influential pairings. In this part of England, for Saturday at least, everyone was a royalist and romantic.

Seventy-three-year-old Australian Carleen Quirk had been sleeping on the streets of Windsor for two nights to ensure she was in prime position to witness her eighth royal wedding.

Why does the British monarchy seduce and enchant so many? “Having a royal family as head of a country is stabilizing,” explained Quirk. “And Meghan is a breath of fresh air.”

For Histria Soler, from the Dominican Republic but in London visiting friends, it was an opportunity to experience something usually seen in Disney movies. “It’s not often that you see a prince get married,” she said. “She was just a normal girl.”

Britain’s Prince Harry and his best man Prince William wore military dress uniforms.
Love and Britishness

Prince Harry and William are also, of course, the sons of Princess Diana and much interest in them stems from memories of her, a woman loved by the people, but whose own fairytale wedding ended in divorce.Though living extraordinary unusual and privileged lives, it is the brothers’ ability to appear as regular men which has helped the family overcome the tumultuous final decades of the last century.

Images of the young princes walking solemnly behind their mother’s coffin remain strongly etched in the memory, so there has always been much goodwill for the boys who have now found love and married women considered unthinkable as prospective royal brides only a generation ago.

Many wore Union flag facepaint or outfits to the celebrations.

“My mum was a big fan of Diana and we got raised on that. Harry has his mother-like ways with the public. He’s a people’s person,” said Daljit Sidhu.

For all the ostentation, for all the millions spent, this was a day for all generations and all people. Windsor was filled with the sound of ecstatic cheers and jubilation in a celebration of love and Britishness.

Along the treelined Long Walk in front of the Castle, where the majority of the wedding watchers congregated, families and friends gathered to eat, drink and party. Even at 9 a.m. an orderly line had formed for chicken and french fries from one of the many food trucks.

Some wore dresses inspired by the UK flag, others donned paper crowns on their heads and simply waved flags towards the azure sky.

Polish-born Angelica Kasperska had brought a ladder and binoculars for the occasion, a wise move when necks had to be craned for a glimpse of the great and good.

Children played football and chased balloons, while bellowing traders peddled Harry and Meghan scarves and flags to a crowd thirsty for commemorative paraphernalia.

The sight of homeless men, some sleeping, some sitting on the streets, was a reminder of the problems still facing this society, as it was eight years ago when the public mood before Prince William’s wedding was weighed down by recession, unemployment and austerity.

Prince Harry has married in the age of Brexit and he and his new bride have offered respite from the division that that has created.

There were gasps from the crowd as the dress and train were revealed.
Gasps of delight

Ahead of the ceremony, there was applause from the throng on the Long Walk as big screens broadcast the first glimpse of Prince Harry arriving with his brother and best man Prince William. Both wore the frock coat uniform of the Blues and Royals regiment, made specially on London’s Savile Row. It was showtime.

Every familiar face was greeted warmly, with as much affection reserved for the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, as the future king, and father of the groom, Prince Charles.

Wedding watchers gasped on first sight of the bride’s dress and there was an audible intake of breath when the train emerged. The crowd cooed as the cameras flicked to a nervous-looking Harry and clapped as Prince Charles took Meghan by the arm before presenting her to his son.

There was the glitz associated with any great royal wedding; the bride arrived in a Rolls-Royce and departed in a gilded carriage. She wore a Givenchy dress and Cartier earrings.

Bishop Michael Curry: “Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.”

But it was the zeal of the Most Rev. Michael Curry’s stirring address which ensured that those watching were left in no doubt that this was now not the British monarchy as they knew it only yesterday. It felt different. It was different.

The African-American bishop began and ended with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, he talked of discovering the “redemptive power of love,” he compared the power of love to the power of fire, mentioned Instagram and caused a chuckle when he promised to wrap up his lengthy oration so “we can get you two married.”

There was a sense that the crowd on the Long Walk did not know what to make of the groundbreaking moment, but they reserved some of their loudest cheers for Curry upon the conclusion of his sermon.

Crowds line the route to catch a glimpse of the couple.
‘This is history’

“Thank God the world is watching this,” tweeted black British TV presenter Ore Oduba. “Never seen or heard a ceremony like it. This is history.”

As the gospel choir sang “Stand By Me” the hordes lining the Long Walk sang along to the chorus of the 1961 classic. It was another unexpected moment. British royal weddings are usually packed full of hymns. Never before have they been a multicultural celebration.

Sleep-deprived and jaded, the crowd’s energy understandably abated until returning to full voice and renewed vigor when Prince Harry walked out of the chapel arm-in-arm with Meghan and embarked on a procession through Windsor’s streets and park.

The sound of clapping rippled through the town as a captivated public was given its opportunity to see husband and wife in the flesh.

“That was so cool,” said a young American as the couple passed in a horse-drawn Ascot Landau carriage, flanked by the household cavalry soldiers, Prince Harry’s former regiment.

The new Duchess perhaps needs to practice her royal wave. It must be from the wrist, always from the wrist. But scorn cannot be poured on an occasion such as this. As the Most Rev. Curry said in his sermon: “Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.”

Two women watching a video screen cry as the bride enters the chapel.
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Germany to expand global military missions

By DW

The German government wants to extend six military missions, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pushed for more Bundeswehr interventions, but not everyone backs the move.

 

Peshmerga soldiers came to Hannover in 2016 to receive military training.

The German government wants to expand and adapt its foreign military missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Mali, Angela Merkel’s Cabinet agreed on Wednesday. The German parliament will have the final say, as it does on all of Germany’s military operations.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told public broadcaster ARD on Wednesday morning that the Bundeswehr needs to redirect its efforts in Iraq after the successful defeat of the Islamic State (IS) militia in the country. The focus would now be supporting Iraq’s reconstruction efforts.

“It’s in our interests that it becomes a stable country over the years,” she said.

Von der Leyen claimed that the Bundeswehr mission to train the Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq, which is due to end at the end of April, had been “a great success,” and pushed to expand it. In the future, the Bundeswehr would also maintain a presence in Baghdad and Irbil, where it would advise on building ministries and providing soldiers with medical supplies, the defense minister said.

Germany would also continue to fly reconnaissance missions with its Tornado fighters and keep refuelling planes in Iraq. The total number of troops involved in the Iraq mission would drop to a maximum of 800.

Neu was critical of von der Leyen’s interview and of German military policy in the Middle East

MP questions Germany’s motivation

The Bundestag will now have to vote on the proposed Bundeswehr extensions and expansions. While approval is likely due to support from CDU and Social Democratic (SPD) politicians, the two parties that will make up Germany’s long-awaited government, the measure will not be without dissent.

Alexander Neu, security policy spokesman for the Left party, expressed skepticism about the underlying purpose of Germany’s planned capacity-building mission in Iraq.

“Beneath the cipher of reconstruction and strengthening security forces, of course it’s about the politics of influence,” Neu told DW. “Anyone who builds up security forces of course has a significant influence on the political direction of the country. In Iraq it’s about limiting the influence of Iran on the Iraqi army. That’s the reason behind the German engagement,” he argued.

He also criticized why Germany was involved in Iraq in the first place. “Who expects us to take part? The US? It is completely irrelevant what the US wants,” Neu said. “Germany has its own sovereign interests.” Since December 2015, German Tornados have been flying reconnaissance missions to support the US military operation against Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, known as Operation Inherent Resolve.

“When it comes to Iraq, one could say that the Iraqi government has made this invitation — but in Syria it is not at all clear that there is a basis under international law, and, of course, the Bundeswehr is operating in Syria with the deployment of Tornados over Syrian territory,” Neu added. “That definitely does not conform to international law.”

His words took aim at Defense Minister von der Leyen’s interview, in which she had underlined the international legal basis as it pertained to Germany’s mission in Iraq. “We have the invitation of the [Iraqi] prime minister, and we are there shoulder to shoulder with the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and many other countries,” the defense minister said. Syria was not discussed in the interview.

The German Embassy in Kabul was bombed in June 2017.

The never-ending Afghanistan mission

Von der Leyen also used Wednesday’s interview to call for an expansion of the Bundeswehr’s mission in Afghanistan, where Germany has contributed to NATO missions for the past 17 years.

Von der Leyen described the Bundeswehr’s contribution to NATO’s two missions (ISAF from 2001 to 2014; Resolute Support since 2015) as a “story of progress on the one side, but of course also setbacks.”

The defense minister argued that the educational opportunities for children, the status of women, health care and infrastructure in Afghanistan had all improved over the years, but that Afghanistan’s own army, now comprising some 350,000 soldiers, was still struggling to keep the country safe. The Afghan military controls around 60 percent of the country, though Taliban fighters still have managed to carry out attacks on government facilities — as well as on the German Embassy in Kabul.

Up until now, the Bundeswehr has kept a maximum of 980 troops in the country, though von der Leyen wants to raise that limit to 1,300.

German soldiers have been stationed in Mali since 2013.

Mali: the most dangerous mission

Meanwhile, the Bundeswehr is to send an extra 100 soldiers to join the United Nations’ mission in Mali, increasing the German contribution in the western African nation to a maximum of 1,100 officers. The proposal came in a joint letter to the Cabinet from von der Leyen and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel seen by news agency dpa.

The Bundeswehr has been part of the Mali mission since 2013, when the UN sent troops to help maintain a peace agreement that was set in place after a French military operation against Islamist rebel groups in the north of the country. There are a total of 12,000 UN soldiers in the country, as well as 1,700 UN police officers. Some 100 soldiers have been killed in Mali so far, with hundreds more seriously injured.

Neu argued that the Germany was allowing itself to be dragged into the conflict without properly reflecting on its origins. “These are conflicts that the West also has to take some of the responsibility for,” he said. “The situation in Mali can’t be explained without talking about NATO’s toppling of the regime in Libya. It was only after that the problems in Mali began. For me it doesn’t seem credible to send more troops there without even mentioning the fall of [Libyan dictator Moammar] Gadhafi and drawing the consequences from that.”

Germany also is planning for a year-long extension of the Bundeswehr’s contribution to the UN mission in Darfur, South Sudan, and its contribution to the NATO Sea Guardian mission in the Mediterranean, which is supposed to secure shipping routes.

Germany currently has a total of 3,900 soldiers in active operations around the world.

Can the Bundeswehr manage?

In recent months, the German military has been dogged by stories of equipment shortages and underfunding, leading to a general perception that the Bundeswehr is under-prepared in Europe. Some soldiers have already criticized von der Leyen’s new ambitions.

The Darmstädter Signal, a “critical forum of citizens in uniform” that views itself as a military watchdog organization, said the army would struggle to fulfill the extra commitments. “No, it won’t manage it,” spokesman Florian Kling told broadcaster SWR. “We don’t even have the planes to get our soldiers to the foreign missions. The situation with personnel and equipment is so tight that the Bundeswehr is actually close to collapse.”

Kling also said that expanding the mission in Iraq would make it more dangerous for German soldiers. “Where troops are in movement, they will be in danger of touching mines and being attacked by terrorists,” he said. “It can really only end badly.”

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