A delighted schoolgirl is the envy of all her friends today after being treated to a surprise visit from Meghan Markle – and receiving an invite to her wedding.
Leonora Ncomanzi met Ms Markle and Prince Harry when they visited the Nottingham Academy on their first engagement in December.
And now the 13-year-old will be going to the wedding of the year on May 19 after the bride-to-be personally invited her.
Leonora is among the 1,200 ‘ordinary heroes’, young leaders and community stalwarts from ‘every corner of the UK’ invited by Harry and Meghan to Windsor next weekend.
Leonora Ncomanzi with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Nottingham Academy
Ms Markle and Prince Harry visited the Nottingham Academy on their first engagement in December
Leonora has been inspired by Harry and Meghan and cannot wait for the big day
The schoolgirl is a member of Full Effect, which is supported by the Royal Foundation.
The organisation helps deter children and young people from becoming involved in youth violence and crime through mentorship and training.
Meghan and Harry have invited hundreds of school children to the wedding of the year
When the couple went to Leonora’s school in December, Ms Markle made a promise to return for a private visit.
Ms Markle honoured her promise and returned to the school for a private visit earlier this year and spent some time with Leonora giving her acting tips.
Palace officials then contacted Leonora and the school’s deputy principal that they have two tickets and will be attending the wedding last month.
Leonora says she already has her dress ready for the wedding and will be going along with deputy principal Helen Foulger.
Leonora said: ‘When I found out that I was invited to the wedding, I was speechless. I am so excited.
‘When my mum was told I was invited she screamed for five minutes.
‘Meghan is such an inspiration to me – the first time I met her I asked her if she had any advice for me as I want to be an actress like her.
‘She said I should always be prepared to face rejection but to keep following my dreams. I can’t wait to see what she is wearing on the day. I have already bought my dress too.’
Leonora’s proud father added: ‘I’m very proud of my daughter. This is her highest ever achievement.
‘She is desperate to be an actress and so she was so thrilled to meet Meghan.
‘But we’ve had to keep our lips sealed on the details as it is so highly classified.’
Leonora, left, is pictured on the day of the royal visit alongside her fellow pupils and former Apprentice candidate Elizabeth McKenna
Ms Markle made a promise to return for a private visit – and stood by her promise
The youngster added: ‘They don’t speak to us like they’re royalty, they speak to us like we’re friends.
‘I’m looking forward to the wedding a lot – I can’t wait to see Meghan again.’
Alongside Leonora at the wedding will be hundreds of other ordinary Britons, including an Afghan war veteran, disabled and homeless charity workers and school teachers.
CofE release prayer for Meghan and Harry
The Church of England has released a prayer for the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
It calls for the couple to be blessed by God, and asks that ‘they may both live and grow in your love all their days’.
Harry and the American former actress will be married by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby in a religious service in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19.
Ms Markle has only recently been welcomed into the Anglican faith.
She was both baptised and confirmed in a secret ceremony conducted in March by the Archbishop, who described the proceedings as ‘beautiful’ and ‘very special’.
The prayer reads:
God of love,
send your blessing upon Harry and Meghan,
and all who are joined in marriage,
that, rejoicing in your will
and continuing under your protection,
they may both live and grow in your love
all their days,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Other lucky members of the public given a ‘golden ticket’ to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding include a schoolgirl who survived the Manchester Arena terror attack, a campaigning amputee and a homeless teenager.
In February the couple announced they plan to make their big day a ‘people’s wedding’ by inviting 2,640 members of the public into the grounds of Windsor Castle to view events from a ringside seat.
They will also be the first to see the newlyweds start their carriage procession through Windsor after the ceremony as man and wife.
Of those guests, 1,200 will be ‘ordinary heroes’, young leaders and community stalwarts from ‘every corner of the United Kingdom’ who have made a difference to the areas where they live, chosen by their local Lord Lieutenant.
This week whose who had been picked were sent the news that they had been awarded a coveted invitation by email – with at least one almost dismissing it as a belated April Fool, so shocked were they to be picked.
The allocation underlines Harry and Meghan’s determination that their nuptials on May 19 be as unstuffy as possible – a real ‘people’s wedding’.
The remainder of those outside will include 200 people from a range of charities and organisations which Prince Harry and Miss Markle have a close association with.
There will also be 100 pupils from two Windsor schools – The Royal School and St George’s School – 610 Windsor Castle community members, and 530 Members of the Royal Households and the Crown Estate.
The huge crowd will be gathered in what is known as the castle’s Lower Ward, outside of St George’s Chapel, and will, to the envy of millions around the world, have a first-hand view as the happy couple and their guests arrive.
Kensington Palace said: ‘Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle have said they want their wedding day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too.
‘This wedding, like all weddings, will be a moment of fun and joy that will reflect the characters and values of the bride and groom.’
Meghan spoke to Leonora and promised her a private visit to the academy, which she honoured earlier this year
A Household Cavalry troop of Life Guards leaves the barracks as they prepare for the royal wedding
Household Cavalry Trooper Marvin Gayle sews gold wire trimmings onto uniforms. The unit Prince Harry served in for two years will provide the ceremonial guard at his wedding
‘Heroes’ given a ‘golden ticket’ to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Windsor wedding
The Manchester survivor
Schoolgirl Amelia Thompson (right with her mother Lisa) , who was caught up in the Manchester Arena suicide bombing last year, has found herself on the guest list.
And in a touching gesture, the 12-year-old is planning to take a grandmother who lost a loved one in last year’s terrorist attack.
The youngster, from Dronfield Woodhouse, near Sheffield, has spent a year recovering from the trauma she suffered after she witnessed the aftermath of the bombing.
But the invitation has helped to lift her spirits – indeed, Amelia said she was ‘speechless’ when she saw the message saying she was going to the wedding.
She said she was ‘so excited’ she could not respond, and is already planning to buy a dress for the occasion.
Movingly, she has decided to give her other ticket to grandmother Sharon Goodman, whose 15-year-old granddaughter Olivia Campbell-Hardy died in the attack.
The homeless teenager
Kai Fletcher (right) had a difficult childhood growing up in a household troubled by alcohol and domestic violence, and found himself homeless at the age of just 15.
After turning to Bath-based charity Southside for help, the 18-year-old now works for the organisation as a young advocate team leader having turned his life around.
‘It was a bit surprising. I am looking forward to going, really excited,’ he said of his invitation.
Mr Fletcher, who lives in Bath, said he would be taking his sister Louise with him to the wedding at Windsor Castle next month.
He said he said: ‘I am giving back to Southside what they have given to me, which was a new opportunity.’
The rallying Royal Marine
A former Royal Marine’s love of rally cars led to him leading a charity helping ex-service personnel and has now seen him invited to the royal wedding.
Grant White, 52, (right) spent 23 years as a commando, leaving in 2008 as a warrant officer after being medically discharged, and is now head of operations for the Race2Recovery charity.
The charity, which runs an off-road team that has competed in the Dakar Rally, provides opportunities in motorsport for people who have suffered life-changing injuries.
Mr White, who lost his right leg below the knee in a hit-and-run road accident, said: ‘It was a very pleasant surprise and it caught me slightly off-guard, I must admit.
‘It is a fantastic opportunity and a great occasion.’ He has not met Prince Harry personally but has met other royals during his long military career.
Mr White, who lives in Dorset but is originally from Leicester, started out as a beneficiary of Race2Recovery because of a keen interest in motorsport before working for the charity.
‘The priority will always be wounded, injured and sick service personnel,’ he said.
‘The big area we are hitting on now is mental health and we are getting a lot of PTSD. In the old days it was all amputees, people like me, and wheelchair users. I am now trying to push people’s mental boundaries.’
The deaf teenage campaigner
Fourteen-year-old Reuben Litherland’s school support worker in Derby did not believe him at first when he informed her he would be among the congregation at the wedding, his mother said.
The Saint Benedict Catholic Academy pupil (right), who is deaf and has set up a lunchtime sign language club at school, is still coming to terms with the news, she said.
Jacinta Litherland, who will attend the wedding with her son, said: ‘He is very excited, and probably a bit bewildered. It’s just not quite sunk in.’
She said she was ‘very proud’ of her son’s achievements, which include campaigning for deaf friendly cinema screenings, at such a young age.
‘He is raising awareness of the difficulties and struggles that deaf children face, and he’s doing it very well,’ she said.
The charitable entrepreneur
‘Miss Macaroon’ Rosie Ginday, 34, (right) earned her invitation after Harry and Meghan were blown away by her Birmingham social enterprise and baking business on a visit to the city earlier this year.
Set up in 2011, her sweet treats organisation reinvests profits into developing disadvantaged young people’s potential, training them as chefs, and offering them real world experience.
And the royal couple got the chance to sample some of her trainees’ macaroons during their visit in March.
The qualified pastry chef and former English teacher said: ‘Harry and Meghan came to Millennium Point (Birmingham), and got to taste our macaroons which was really fun.
‘They were both so passionate about meeting all the young girls there and took a real interest.
‘They’re accessible as well, and it’s great to have a younger generation of royals showing they do care and they are invested in what young people can do.’
Ms Ginday’s organisation has worked with care-leavers, the homeless, lone single parents and those with mental health problems, introducing them to working life, at the firm’s shop and bakery, and even giving some the chance to work at Michelin star restaurant Purnell’s.
The inspiring primary school teacher
David Gregory (right) will be will be celebrating his first wedding anniversary on the same weekend as the royal wedding.
Fortunately, though, the 28-year-old from Blyth, Northumberland, is taking wife Hannah to enjoy the festivities in the grounds of Windsor Castle on May 19.
The pair married on May 20 last year and Mr Gregory described the invitation as the ‘perfect’ way to mark their own milestone.
Mr Gregory, who teaches Year 4 at Newsham Primary School in Blyth, said : ‘My mam wanted to go, the headteacher wanted to go, but the only thing that was ever going to happen was for me and my wife to head down.’
He will be wearing his own wedding suit for the occasion, but joked that his 26-year-old wife is stopping short of turning up in her wedding gown.
‘We’d always planned on celebrating our one-year anniversary as you’d expect, but I don’t think it could have been any more perfect,’ he said.
‘I’m planning on going in very formal attire. I felt very comfortable and happy in my wedding suit so I think that’s the right way to go.
‘Obviously we thought about Hannah wearing her wedding dress as well but we’re not going to try and steal any limelight.’
Mr Gregory, who was put forward for an invitation by the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, was singled out for his work strengthening and celebrating his local community in Blyth.
His recycling initiative with pupils won a Love Northumberland award, and he is a driving force behind the Port of Blyth’s STEM hub, designed to encourage pupils’ engagement with STEM subjects, and inspire their future careers.
The youngsters in his school have yet to find out about his invite because they are on holiday.
‘I can’t wait to tell them. We’re looking at how we can make this really relevant and real to the children,’ Mr Gregory said.
He is, however, planning to record a video diary of his experience on the day for them.
The Welsh charity worker
Zoe Ardunell (above) will be lucky enough to see the couple for a second time, having met them during a recent visit to Cardiff Castle.
The 20-year-old from Penygraig in Wales described that as ‘a very happy day’ and said Harry told her she was ‘definitely a role model’ for her work with the Valley Kids charity which helps disadvantaged children and families.
She will take as her guest her 62-year-old grandmother Pat Churches, who she said ‘loves the royals’.
Ms Arundell said she was relieved to see she had no plans that weekend, but quickly added: ‘I think if I did have any plans they would be changed straight away!’
Schoolgirl born with one leg
A schoolgirl born with one leg who became a charity ambassador and mental health champion is now looking forward to buying a new dress.
Jorja Furze, 12, (right) says she will go shopping with her mother, Gabrielle, 39, who will also accompany her on the day, for something to wear for the event.
Describing her delight at receiving an email invitation last week, the schoolgirl said: ‘I was really excited and shocked because I didn’t think I would get an invite.
‘I had been told my name had been mentioned to some people about the wedding, but I didn’t think I’d get close to it.’
The youngster, who was born with only a right leg, is an ambassador for the Steel Bones charity which supports civilian amputees, added: ‘They thought I would be a good candidate.
‘I’ve grown up without a leg and they thought having someone that younger children could relate to would be good.’
Jorja, from the village of Isleham near Ely, Cambridgeshire, has also set up a quiet space at her high school where children with mental health issues can relax.
She said: ‘Me and my friend both suffer from anxiety and mental health, we decided we should do something because we knew a lot of people had similar problems and we convinced the teacher to let us start this up.’
The community lunchers
Tessa Hince (right), who lives near Banbury, Oxfordshire, and Hayley Ash, of Shipston-on-Stour, both 32, have been running the successful Shipston Christmas Community Lunch, since 2016.
The community event brings together people who might otherwise be isolated at Christmas, drawing its funds and produce from public donations.
Both had already got invitations to the Queen’s garden party on May 15, and joked they now needed to find different outfits for the wedding.
Miss Hince, who is taking along her best friend, said she was ‘absolutely speechless’ and ‘so excited’.
‘It’s giving some coverage to this great cause,’ she added.
Miss Ash, who is taking her mother as a guest, said: ‘It’s crazy – it all feels like a bit of a whirlwind.’
The amputee campaigner
Ex-Royal Irish Regiment soldier Phillip Gillespie (right) says it is ‘a wee bit surreal’ to think he will be there next month with his girlfriend, Kirsty Crawford.
The 30-year-old, who lost his right leg in Afghanistan in 2011, is also eagerly awaiting news as to whether he has made the rowing and archery teams for the next Invictus Games – a brainchild of Harry.
Mr Gillespie, who is involved with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, said he was looking forward to a busy few months with the Invictus trial results, the wedding and then a royal garden party following his BEM award last year.
He said he had not told many people yet but expected his friends’ reaction to be muted, compared to the feedback his girlfriend was getting.
‘I think Kirsty has got more of a reaction, I think it (a wedding) is more of a girl thing,’ he laughed.
He added: ‘It’s a massive privilege, it will be a huge spectacle.’
Revealed: The full schedule and timings of Harry and Meghan’s wedding from their arrival at Windsor Castle to a glitzy evening bash
And finally Kensington Palace have released the full schedule and timings for the big day.
Here we look at what we can expect on May 19, from when the first guests arrive at Windsor Castle to the evening celebrations at Frogmore House.
The couple will spend, as according to tradition, the night before their wedding apart.
There will be no American-style maid of honour and all of the couple’s page boys and bridesmaids – who are expected to include Prince George and Princess Charlotte – will be children.
The couple will not go on honeymoon straight away – and will, remarkably, undertake their first public engagement as man and wife just days after the ceremony.
The full details of the schedule for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day have finally been released by Kensington Palace
Members of the public who have been invited to watch the wedding day from the grounds of Windsor Castle begin to arrive.
9.30am to 11am
Wedding guests arrive at the Castle’s famous Round Tower by coach and enter the chapel through the South Door and take their seats.
Guests will be arriving at the Round Tower at Windsor Castle by coach and will be seen walking to the South Door of St George’s Chapel from 9.30am
Members of the royal family begin to arrive and enter via the Galilee Porch, some on foot others by car.
The service begins at 12 noon at St George’s Chapel, pictured, in the grounds of Windsor Castle
Possibly around this time Harry and his brother the Duke of Cambridge arrive at the Chapel’s West Steps, probably on foot walking past the thousands of spectators invited into the grounds of the castle.
The moment will give Harry the chance to acknowledge the 200 representatives from charities he is associated with gathered in the Horseshoe Cloister at the bottom of the steps.
11.55am to 11.59am
Following protocol, the Queen will be the last member of the royal family to arrive for the wedding service.
The Quire in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, where the royal wedding will be held on May 19
Ms Markle arrives at the Chapel’s West Steps by car, from her overnight accommodation, with some of her bridesmaids and pageboys.
She will start her journey, which will take her past some of the crowds in the Long Walk, with her mother Doria Ragland – but when the car stops at the castle her mother will exchange places with he bridesmaids and pageboys.
Ms Ragland will enter the chapel by the Galilee Porch and at some point Meghan’s father Thomas Markle will have arrived at the same entrance and make his way to the West Door where he will meet his daughter before the ceremony begins.
Meghan Markle’s journey through Windsor will take her past some of the crowds in the Long Walk (pictured today)
Service ends and the newlyweds emerge at the West Steps of the Chapel. They will be waved off on their carriage procession through Windsor by members of both families. The congregation will file out of the chapel to see the newlyweds leave before heading to St George’s Hall for the lunchtime reception hosted by the Queen.
St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle where they will hold a reception for the guests until 3.30pm
Possibly around this time the carriage procession through the streets of Windsor begins taking 25 minutes.
Bride and groom departing Windsor castle for the evening reception Frogmore House hosted by the Prince of Wales.
Shopfronts in Windsor have put up decorations to celebrate the royal wedding in the town in two weeks’ time
Union Jack bunting is flown across the streets of Windsor today ahead of the hotly-anticipated royal wedding on May 19
Bunting is pictured flying over the Windsor Castle pub in the Berkshire town today, two weeks ahead of the royal wedding
Preparations for the royal wedding continue in Windsor on the Long Walk today, with just over two weeks to go
Windsor shops are full of souvenirs and memorabilia as the town looks to make the most of the royal occasion