All brides dream of being the centre of attention on their wedding day, but newly-engaged Maria Sharapova could face some stiff competition from the congregation thanks to her future husband’s royal connections.
Art dealer Alexander Gilkes, 41, went to Eton with Prince William, 38, and Prince Harry, 35, employed Princess Eugenie, 30, and even counts Kate Middleton’s younger sister Pippa as a family friend.
He attended both the 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the 2018 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, so it is quite possible he will extend an invitation to both couples when he and Maria, 33, decide to tie the knot.
However there could very well be some awkwardness among the royal guests, for Alexander’s ex-wife is US-based fashion designer Misha Nonoo, 35, one of the Duchess of Sussex’s most trusted confidantes.
Happy couple: Art dealer Alexander Gilkes, 41, went to Eton with Prince William, 38, and Prince Harry, 35, employed Princess Eugenie, 30, and even counts Kate Middleton’s younger sister Pippa as a family friend. He is engaged to tennis ace Maria Sharapova (pictured in 2018)
Royal connections: Alexander, second from left, with Sarah Ferguson and Princess Eugenie in 2014. Gilkes gave Princess Eugenie a role in the New York office of his arts company
The couple married in 2012 but split four years later. Misha has also found love again – she married American oil tycoon Mike Hess in a lavish Rome wedding last year.
One of the most fascinating things about Gilkes is that he isn’t terribly posh but from solid upper-middle-class stock. Gilkes’s father is a top dermatologist, while his mother Robyn held an administrative role at the University of Oxford’s Department of Russian and East European studies for many years.
Alexander and his younger brother Charlie, who is rumoured to have dated Pippa Middleton, started boarding at the age of seven before moving onto Eton.
Even though he is three years older than William, the pair be
came friends. He later befriended William’s younger brother.
At Eton, as well as French and Spanish, Alexander learnt Russian.
After studying languages at Bristol University he did work experience with the film-maker Stanley Kubrick, then took a job arranging luxuries for the rich and famous with concierge service Quintessentially. This provided another handy pass into the world of the A-listers.
A kiss for Kate: Gilkes attended the 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Pictured, Gilkes greets Kate at an event in the US in 2014
Meghan’s best friend: Alexander’s ex-wife is US-based fashion designer Misha Nonoo, 35, one of the Duchess of Sussex’s most trusted confidantes (pictured together in London in 2019
There followed a few years in a swanky job as international communications manager for Krug champagne in Paris, then a stint as chief auctioneer at Phillips de Pury (now Phillips) in London, before he moved to New York with his then girlfriend Misha Nonoo. In 2011 he founded a company called Paddle8, which pioneered a new era of fine art trading, with online auctions for the ‘middle market’ of $100,000 or less.
Gilkes gave Princess Eugenie a role in the New York office of his arts company. She worked there for two years, from 2013 to 2015, as an auction manager.
His romance with Nonoo lasted more than a decade: they met when she was 17, he was 25 and they both worked at the concierge firm Quintessentially. Recalling their meeting, she said: ‘I thought he was gay. He was so handsome and well dressed.’
He said: ‘The first thing I noticed was how incredibly beautiful she was. The fact that I was looking at her sort of sheepishly probably gave her reason to believe I wasn’t interested. But we quickly became very enraptured.’
Their 2012 wedding in Venice lasted for three days and was attended by Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice — whom he had presumably met through his friendship with Prince William.
Family ties: Alexander’s younger brother Charlie reportedly dated the Duchess of Cambridge’s younger sister Pippa Middleton (pictured at an event in 2008)
Singer Lana Del Rey performed a set, there were jazz bands, shucked oysters and gelato, and parties in a hill fort and on the roof of a museum.
When he and Nonoo split in 2016, the only explanation given was that the union had been a casualty of their mutual ambitions.
Although he is based in New York, Gilkes can be found looking dapper at parties around the globe — you can expect him at top art fairs in Miami, Basel and London.
He was first spotted with Sharapova at an airport in January 2018 and the couple have been loved-up ever since.
Last summer they enjoyed a glamorous getaway to Spain with friends to celebrate Alexander’s 40th birthday.
And now the couple are set to tie the knot. Sharapova announced the news on Instagram, sharing a gallery of loved-up images and videos with the caption: ‘I said yes from the first day we met [heart emoji] This was our little secret, wasn’t it [diamond ring and champagne emojis] @gilkesa’
Although there has been a trend towards micro society weddings – think Beatrice or Cressida Bonas – Alexander and his bride-to-be might choose to wait for a bigger blow out once restrictions lift.
One thing is for sure: all eyes will be on the guests, no matter what they choose to do.