It was a neat device – cynical, some might say – to shield Princess Beatrice’s wedding behind the greater event, the knighting of Sir Tom Moore.
But the Covid-19 crisis, and the 100-year-old Army captain’s colossal act of gallantry in raising £33 million for NHS charities, happily combined to spare the Royal Family’s blushes over what to do about the beleaguered Duke of York.
Importantly, it also opened the door to change in the scale of royal celebrations – a change which has been urged by the Prince of Wales for many years.
The ‘secret’ wedding, arranged at short notice, eradicated the gnawing problem of how to handle the public profile of Prince Andrew as he comes under increasing pressure in the Ghislaine Maxwell affair.
Princess Beatrice and Edoardo posed together as their engagement was announced. This photograph was taken in Italy by Princess Beatrice’s sister Princess Eugenie
The idea of replicating the full bells-and-whistles affair her younger sister Eugenie (pictured) enjoyed two years ago at St George’s Chapel would have been to risk a PR disaster
Princess Beatrice married her fiance, property developer, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a secret ceremony at Windsor Castle. Pictured on July 9, 2019 in London
Her father’s fall from grace had left Beatrice in a no-man’s land.
Princess Beatrice and Edoardo at a wedding in Paris last year
And while no one could deny her wish to be married, the idea of replicating the full bells-and-whistles affair her younger sister Eugenie enjoyed two years ago at St George’s Chapel would have been to risk a PR disaster.
And so the ideal compromise was reached – an unannounced and private wedding with around 20 guests in the out-of-the-way Chapel of All Saints on the Windsor estate – with Captain Tom invited to the Castle for the higher-profile ceremony.
This choreographed coincidence of events deftly concentrated the public mind on the old soldier’s remarkable achievement, happily allowing Beatrice her day in church, untouched by controversy.
Most would agree she deserved that much at least.
And in any case, another royal wedding with carriages, guards of honour, and all the pomp would not have been to the public taste in the current pandemic crisis.
Prince Charles, who was pointedly not present on Friday, would nod his head in agreement with that.
For years, the future King has argued for a streamlined family, concentrating the public gaze on core members only.
The Covid-19 crisis, and the 100-year-old Army captain’s (pictured) colossal act of gallantry in raising £33 million for NHS charities, happily combined to spare the Royal Family’s blushes over what to do about the beleaguered Duke of York
The ‘secret’ wedding, arranged at short notice, eradicated the gnawing problem of how to handle the public profile of Prince Andrew as he comes under increasing pressure in the Ghislaine Maxwell affair
In one sense, he’s already achieved that ambition, with the retirement from public life of his younger brother, and the defection of his second son, Prince Harry, to America.
Others might claim the trend has gone too far, with insufficient Royals to go around.
Charles – who wants smaller Royal events – was pointedly not present
But in Charles’s mind, change had to come.
Inevitably, this led to tension between him and Andrew, who was very concerned that his daughters – the only two ‘blood princesses’ of their generation, he often stressed – might be deemed surplus to requirements and rudely sidelined. Indeed, it was claimed that Andrew wrote to the Queen asking her to intervene on behalf of the girls.
He even went so far as to issue an unprecedented and angry rebuttal, on Palace writing paper, to reports that his family was being phased out or that he’d asked for earldoms for his future sons-in-law.
Now, at last, Beatrice’s ‘secret’ wedding (pictured) seems finally to have broken the trend of more and more costly public celebrations
It came after a photograph showing the future face of the House of Windsor – the Queen, Charles and Camilla, and William and Kate, laden down in sashes and garters, presenting themselves to the world’s diplomatic corps – did not include him.
It was a wake-up call to the Duke that he was no longer part of Royal Central, and he didn’t like it.
It was also reported – long before his recent ignominy – that Andrew faced losing his status altogether as a working royal when Charles becomes King, or more brutally, have the funding he receives from the Sovereign Grant to run his private office removed.
And long ago, the round-the-clock security provided by the Metropolitan Police at the taxpayer’s expense for Beatrice and Eugenie was taken away.
The Queen has gone out of her way to keep Beatrice and Eugenie close, as proved by her beaming presence at Friday’s wedding (pictured)
But Andrew’s future public role in the Royal Family has become academic in view of him stepping down as UK trade envoy, being named in legal papers during the Jeffrey Epstein investigation, the closure of the Prince Andrew Charitable Trust, his disastrous Newsnight interview and his withdrawal from public life.
Yet throughout all these troubles, the Queen has gone out of her way to keep Beatrice and Eugenie close, as proved by her beaming presence at Friday’s wedding.
She got every bride’s wish – to be walked up the aisle by the father she loves
‘The Queen absolutely adores a wedding,’ her late cousin Margaret Rhodes once explained to me. ‘She is, at heart, a romantic, and her own wedding day was perhaps the happiest of her life.’
Of late, however, Her Majesty’s fondness for nuptials seemed to have stretched the definition of who qualifies as Royal.
When in May last year she granted permission for Lady Gabriella Windsor – a virtually unknown sprig of the House of Windsor and ranking 52nd in the order of succession – to be accorded the full St George’s Chapel treatment, many were surprised.
Significantly, Prince Charles was an absentee from that event, too.
Now, at last, Beatrice’s ‘secret’ wedding seems finally to have broken the trend of more and more costly public celebrations –although as one observer wearily pointed out this weekend, there aren’t many Royals left to marry off.
For Beatrice, it allowed her an untroubled day in the presence of close family.
It also gave her every bride’s wish: to be walked up the aisle by a father who, for all his indiscretions, she still loves.
- Christopher Wilson is author of The Windsor Knot: Charles, Camilla And The Legacy of Diana, which has been published by Graymalkin Media.