Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Image Credit: AFP

Madrid: More than one billion people around the world are expected to watch television sets live to watch the fairy tale wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday, May 19. Even the British Broadcasting Corporation is changing its schedule to provide for three days of largely uninterrupted viewing of the wedding of the year.

On average, most British couples spend an estimated £16,000 (Dh79,300) on their nuptials. But the wedding of the Harry, sixth in line in the House of Windsor, and American actress Meghan Markle is no ordinary affair. Security alone for the wedding will set British taxpayers back £30 million, while the bill stationery alone to invite the 2,000 guests comes in at £30,000.

According to experts’ estimates in a series of celebrity magazines and United Kingdom newspapers, the total cost of the weekend-long celebrations will exceed £32.5 million.

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Fans of the royals and the House of Windsor have been awash in glittering titillation over the upcoming nuptials — so much so that counsellors and psychologists warn there is a dark side: extreme and potentially dangerous obsession.

With millions drawn into the fairy tale love story of a prince and his Hollywood bride, mental health experts warn fans to guard against losing touch with reality.

Sue Varma, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at New York University Langone Medical Centre, said fandom can safely intensify into a mild obsession but when it deepens, it can raise red flags.

“I absolutely don’t have a problem with somebody having an obsession with the royal family. I don’t think that’s the problem in and of itself,” Varma said. “It’s the lack of other activities, the lack of flexibility, the fact that you’re taking away time from something else. Is this time that you could have been spending with your kids? Is this time you could be talking with your partner?”

Really? That’s almost enough to drive a royal fan to drink — and for those who do take a tipple, fans with a taste for beer will be able to celebrate the wedding day with a special ale brewed in Windsor, where the couple will tie the knot.

“With the authenticity of being brewed here in Windsor in the shadow of Windsor Castle, using local ingredients, it has got a fantastic appeal,” said Will Calvert, 60, one of the directors of Windsor and Eton brewery.

British pottery makers are producing royal wedding mugs emblazoned with the couple, with companies cashing in on tea towels, plates, key rings — even miniature dolls of the pair.

All told, the event will likely give a £10-million boost to the British economy.

Why, even the late Princess Diana would approve. Andrew Morton, Diana’s biographer, has also said that the late princess would also give Markle her seal of approval.

“Diana died at 36, Meghan comes into the scene at 36. In a way she’s picked up Diana’s baton — she’s both elegant, she’s glamorous and also, she’s a humanitarian,” Morton said. “So, Diana would have very much have approved of Meghan and seen that kind of working of fate almost.”

Morton’s biography of Diana was an international best-seller, revealing her union with Prince Charles was broken beyond repair and that she had suffered eating disorders and been driven to suicide attempts by the misery of her life with Charles. After her death in a Paris car crash in 1997, Morton revealed she had been his prime source and had smuggled tape recordings out of the palace to him.

In his latest book about Markle, which he describes as a snapshot, saying a fuller picture would probably emerge in 10 years’ time, he has had to rely on those who knew her growing up in California where he conveniently has a home, some family members and colleagues as well as people who work at the palace.

Extracts from the book include how Ninaki Priddy, a childhood friend of Markle said the actress had been fascinated by the royal family. “She wants to be Princess Diana 2.0,” Priddy is quoted as saying.

Markle made her final TV appearance as an actress last week, marrying long-time love interest Mike Ross in the US legal drama Suits.

Viewers saw her walk down the aisle in a sleeveless beaded dress with black sash before telling the groom: “You’re the husband I always wanted. I can’t wait to begin our adventure together.”

Markle has starred in Suits, which follows the fortunes of a New York legal firm, since the show first aired in 2011 but will end her acting career once she marries Prince Harry.

It’s a fairy tale come true for the American who, last week, also choose an open-top Ascot Landau carriage to greet well-wishers as they ride through Windsor after the wedding ceremony.

Another Harry and Meghan will also be saying “I do” the same day — Harry Hindley, that is, and Megan Morley, who both teach performing arts to children in Nottingham and marry in London after a hasty eight weeks of planning.

“The other Meghan is perfect for the other Harry and I am perfect for this Harry,” said Megan.

“I think every wedding — royal or not — is a special day and everybody is sharing the day with the people they love around them so yeah amazing, I’m really excited.”

The non-royal couple met at college and later started running their own musical theatre courses in the central English city of Nottingham — the first place Prince Harry took his fiancee on an official engagement when they embarked on a pre-wedding tour of Britain.

Any other similarities?

“Well, I have never been the army, I have never stripped off, but I have been in a show called ‘The King and I’ if that is some sort of link,” grinned Harry.

Prince Harry, who served two tours with the army in Afghanistan, was famously snapped naked in a Las Vegas hotel in 2012.

For the other Megan, her Harry’s first attraction was his voice. “I just really fell in love with his singing voice,” she said. “I am really into the royals, really love the royal family and I am very excited to see their wedding.”

— With inputs from agencies