Royal wedding 2018: What Harry and Meghan need to know about Sussex

Harry and MeghanImage copyrightReuters

While Prince Harry has spent enough time in the south-east of England to know a bit about Sussex, his American-born bride can be forgiven for being more in the dark.

Now the Queen has made the royal couple the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the BBC has produced this invaluable county guide.

It has its own dessert

Not much looks lovelier than a bride on her wedding day, but this oozing, calorific number is pretty stiff competition even for Meghan.

Royal wedding 2018: What Harry and Meghan need to know about Sussex
Royal wedding 2018: What Harry and Meghan need to know about Sussex

British stodge at its best, the Sussex pond pudding traditionally used an obscene amount of butter to create a melted “pond” of dairy gold when cut open.

Image copyrightBBC Food
Image caption Suet is the raw, hard fat of cows or sheep found around the loins and kidneys. Food truly fit for a princess

In the 1675 cookery book The Queen-like Closet, author Hannah Woolley describes a suet pastry case, filled with butter, boiled in a pudding cloth and served with fruit.

It later became fashionable to put a whole lemon inside this classic pud – celebrity cooks including Delia Smith and Mary Berry both plump for the tang of citrus this approach provides.

And as if one pudding wasn’t enough, the county is also the home of banoffee pie, which was invented at The Hungry Monk restaurant in Jevington, East Sussex.

Image copyrightGetty Images

But just how much dessert the image-conscious couple will be shovelling down remains to be seen.

In a 2012 interview, the Duchess – then plain old Ms Markle – mentioned chicken adobo and fish tacos as among her favourite foods, but the nearest thing she got to a dessert option was the revelation that she likes to nibble on cinnamon-laced watermelon.

It has its own dog

Image copyrightSussex Spaniel Association
Image caption “Just poke your tongue out. They won’t notice we squashed the bluebells”

Although Harry might wish to carry on his grandmother’s tradition of keeping corgis if, like his brother, he has a soft spot for spaniels then Sussex has the very breed.

The Sussex spaniel is the rarest of all the spaniels and for years it was close to extinction.

It’s short and powerful, having been bred near Hastings specifically for working in the dense local terrain.

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We’re hopeful that dog-lover Meghan will take to this little-known breed, especially as she has a canine-shaped hole in her life at the moment.

She has two rescue dogs, a labrador-shepherd mix called Bogart and a beagle named Guy. But she had to leave Bogart in Canada, reportedly because he was too old for the big move.

Image copyrightInstagram/Meghan Markle
Image caption Is Bogart still smiling now Guy is gone?

It’s undeniably beautiful

Harry and Meghan will need to invest in a decent pair of walking boots to enjoy Sussex’s spectacular countryside.

A huge 80% of the county is rural, and it contains the South Downs National Park, which covers more than 1,600 sq km and is the UK’s newest national park.

Image copyrightGraeme Lyons
Image caption The round-headed rampion is also known as the Pride of Sussex

In July the vivid Pride of Sussex flower blooms, growing almost exclusively on the chalk grassland of the South Downs.

Of course during the summer months, rather than taking a sweaty inland ramble, the duke and duchess might prefer instead to flaunt their beach-ready bodies beside the seaside.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Mr and Mrs Invisible enjoy the view of Brighton pier

The county has mile upon mile of majestic and imposing coastline for the couple to enjoy, although many of its beaches might prove a little uncomfortable for Californian Meghan who will be more familiar with the sandy stretches of the Pacific coast than the shingle of Sussex.

Possibly its most famous beachfront is in Brighton, although the royal couple would presumably prefer to steer clear of its nudist zone – which was the first public naturist beach in the UK.

Of course there’s more to the seaside than lounging in the sun or paddling in the surf.

If the duke and duchess fancy a stirring constitutional to take in a bracing sniff of sea air, then they could do worse than visit the dramatic white cliff face and picture-perfect striped lighthouse on offer at Beachy Head.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Beachy Head’s name has nothing to do with beaches. It’s a corruption of the French “beau chef” (beautiful headland)

And if Meghan hankers for a stretch of sand to remind her of home, then we recommend she heads to West Wittering with its colourful beach huts.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Spot the Barbie garage

It’s home to the rich and famous

There’s no shortage of the great and good to rub shoulders with in Sussex, from the sharp-dressing former world champion boxer Chris Eubank, to the superstar DJ Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook to his mum).

The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson also lives in the county, while daytime TV favourite Holly Willoughby grew up in Brighton and Horsham.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption “Meghan, you’ve come a long way, baby”

“The Forces’ Sweetheart” Dame Vera Lynn, who toured the globe during World War Two singing to the troops, was born here – and still lives in the county at the grand age of 101.

And Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived in Sussex from 1907 to his death in 1930, writing a number of works in the county, including The Valley of Fear and His Last Bow.

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Media captionWhat the Duke and Duchess of Sussex need to know about Sussex

It has a royal past

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption “Harry! Mind your eye!”

The Romans, the South Saxons (from whom the name derives – Suth-Seaxe means land of the South Saxons), and the Vikings all reigned supreme here until the most famous conqueror of the lot staged the last successful invasion of England.

In 1066 William of Normandy landed in Sussex to seize the throne, with the Battle of Hastings marking the bloody end for the last Anglo-Saxon ruler, King Harold II.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption The royals are known for their understated architecture

While William the Conqueror didn’t hang around here, Sussex would prove popular with the royal family in later centuries.

In the late 1700s Harry’s great-great-great-great-great uncle, King George IV (at this point still the Prince of Wales) built a magnificent seaside pleasure palace.

Brighton’s luxurious Royal Pavilion is one of the most architecturally striking buildings in Britain.

As the resort was disliked by Queen Victoria, in 1850 the pavilion was sold to the town, and the building would go on to serve as a military hospital during World War One.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption “Don’t worry Meghan, this is completely normal”

Of course Sussex has more to offer than the rakish charms of Brighton.

In Lewes, what began in the early 17th Century as a celebration of the defence of the Protestant King James, and the defeat of popery, has morphed into the biggest Bonfire Night in Britain.

Costumes are a must for the 5 November gathering, so if the couple fancy donning a pair of Viking horns and applying some face paint, they could even have a cheeky night on the town undetected.

It has an anthem

Sussex by the Sea has been adopted by fans of both Brighton & Hove Albion and and Sussex County Cricket Club.

Written in 1907, it was used as a marching song by the Royal Sussex Regiment during World War One – something that might strike a chord with Harry, who has served with the British army in Afghanistan.

Image copyrightEddie Mitchell
Image caption The fans of Brighton & Hove Albion always mark “throw your litter in the air” day

And when you go to Sussex, Whoever you may be, You may tell them all that we stand or fall, For Sussex by the sea” is tweaked by the fans of Premier League outfit Brighton to: “Oh we’re going up to win the cup, For Sussex by the sea“.

So maybe the royal couple will pay a visit to The Amex next season to see Brighton play Harry’s beloved Arsenal (even princes have flaws), who they beat only a few weeks ago.

Who knows, maybe the Seagulls will gain a new fan in Meghan? Perhaps they’ll beat the Gooners again? Or even win that cup?

Stranger things have happened and – after all – everyone loves a fairytale ending.

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