“It is totally crazy – I have never been so shocked.”
Only a select few have received an invitation to the most talked about wedding of the year – but one local celebrity will join the glittering guest list on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day.
Didcot’s not-so-secret Santa Courtney Hughes will be one of 1,200 people singled out for their contribution to their communities to be invited to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19.
The 20-year-old, who has collected more than £100,000 worth of Christmas presents in seven years, has struggled to contain her excitement since revealing her invitation to the celebration last week.
Courtney has been singled out for her achievements by Prime Minister Theresa May and last year received an esteemed British Citizen Award at Westminster – but this tops the lot.
The Didcot Community Hospital nursing assistant set up charity Secret Santa in 2012 to collect gifts for sick and vulnerable people at Christmas in memory of her nan who was a great supporter of the royal family.
“The day will be something I treasure for always,” she said.
“I know nan would be beaming from ear to ear. I’m very grateful and honoured to have received this and hope I do nan proud.”
Courtney, who said she looks up to the ‘role model’ young royals, will have one of the best views as the bride and groom arrive and depart the ceremony.
Details of what the day will involve are scant at this stage but she said she is most looking forward to sharing the ‘once in a lifetime experience’ with the other people who have been invited for their amazing achievements.
Courtney was nominated by Didcot mayor Jackie Billington in a process that involved Tim Stevenson, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and Jane Cranston, the High Sherriff of Oxfordshire.
A total of 2,640 members of the public, including Courtney, have been invited on the day, while around 600 people are invited to the service.
She added that she will wear her BCA to the once-in-a-lifetime event “as a thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last seven years”.
She said: “Without the donations and help from everyone else, Secret Santa never would be as big as it is.
“For Harry and Meghan to not only acknowledge that, but include you, well that’s just amazing.
“I’m extremely emotional. I keep thinking what it’s going to be like and how nan would be feeling about it all.”