There is nothing quite as romantic as the phrase ‘summer bride’ and so it is hard to believe that Princess Beatrice was yesterday married in a ceremony of such secrecy that – so far – not even a photograph has been issued to mark it.
No royal wedding in living memory has been co-ordinated with such an absence of public joy and celebration.
Even Princess Anne, the least sentimental of the Queen’s children, posed briefly for the cameras on a freezing December day at Balmoral when she wed for a second time.
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Deprived of even that, Beatrice’s big day will be remembered instead for the two long shadows cast over a royal nuptials blighted by misfortune. And the tragedy for the Princess is that neither were of her making.
One was Covid-19, which has thwarted the plans of so many people up and down the land. The other was the downfall of her father Prince Andrew, once a national hero, now a figure so diminished by the ongoing Jeffrey Epstein scandal that he dare not even be seen giving his own daughter away.
Whatever spin the Royal Family handlers put on yesterday’s modest event, it will inevitably be seen as Andrew’s ultimate disgrace that Beatrice was obliged to marry in this way.
Her wedding plans have been dogged by his spectacular fall. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, it was widely expected to be held in private and in the absence of television cameras following the fallout from Andrew’s disastrous Newsnight interview last November.
It was even unclear if the Duke of York would walk his daughter up the aisle – as he did at the Windsor wedding of Princess Eugenie two years ago in October.
Scarcely a week has gone by since that interview without more revelations about friendships that plumbed fresh depths of tawdriness and heaped yet more embarrassment on the royals.
There is nothing quite as romantic as the phrase ‘summer bride’ and so it is hard to believe that Princess Beatrice was yesterday married to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a ceremony of such secrecy that – so far – not even a photograph has been issued to mark it
The arrest of his friend Ghislaine Maxwell this month, accused of procuring girls for Epstein, must have been the final blow in banishing any remaining chance that Beatrice and her fiancé Edo Mapelli Mozzi could have a ‘normal’ wedding.
Their plans to marry in front of 1,560 guests in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, followed by an outdoor reception in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, had long since been swept away by the corona crisis.
In its place, then, was a ceremony tucked far from public view and conducted with none of the blessings that are normally part and parcel of a royal marriage – a wedding like no other royal wedding.
In another twist, Beatrice became a stepmother by marriage to her husband’s young son Christopher, known as Wolfie, from a previous relationship.
Certainly there was nothing grandiose or extravagant about the simple ceremony in the little All Saints church in the grounds of Windsor Great Park. It is more often the venue for much sadder royal events.
It was where gamekeepers kept vigil around the coffin of the Queen Mother after her death in 2002 and it is often the scene of the funerals of Windsor estate staff and royal friends. Weddings are almost unheard of.
But All Saints is also the Queen’s parish church, where she worships most Sundays when she is at Windsor.
And of course she has been in residence at the Castle ever since lockdown. Yesterday she was wearing the same unshakeable smile she has worn for all her adult life – and displaying that same remarkable fortitude – as she and Prince Philip arrived by car for what must have been the most unusual of family gatherings.
‘Her thoughts would have been for her granddaughter,’ says one of the Queen’s friends.
The arrest of his friend Ghislaine Maxwell this month, accused of procuring girls for Epstein, must have been the final blow in banishing any remaining chance that Beatrice and her fiancé Edo Mapelli Mozzi could have a ‘normal’ wedding
‘She knows it is not Beatrice’s fault that so much has impacted on her and she will have wanted to support her.’
The church is also close to Royal Lodge, where Prince Andrew and his ex-wife the Duchess of York live and where Beatrice is believed to have spent her last night as a single woman.
If it was chosen for mere privacy it couldn’t have been bettered. But secrecy was the order of the day. So scant were the details of the service – thought to have been led by Canon Martin Poll, a former Royal Navy chaplain – that it was not even clear how many people were actually present.
One report said 20, another suggested the numbers may have been no more than eight.
Perhaps most bizarre of all was the announcement from the Palace that no photographs of the event would be released for 24 hours.
This was because it was decreed that nothing should upstage the knighthood the Queen was bestowing on the nation’s favourite charity fundraiser, the extraordinary Captain Tom Moore.
This, surely, was the flimsiest of arguments. Because if this was truly the case, wouldn’t it have been more sensible to postpone one or the other ceremonies? Certainly there was pressure on the Queen’s timetable.
Due to the restrictions on travel because of Covid-19, the wedding had to be held before the Queen leaves for Balmoral at the end of the month.
And it has been only since July 4 that weddings with up to 30 guests have been permitted.
Princess Beatrice with sister Princess Eugenie and parents Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew
In a brusque statement that spoke of the sadness of the service, the Palace said: ‘The small ceremony was attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and close family.
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The wedding took place in accordance with all relevant Government guidelines.’ There was no mention of the bride’s father let alone the presence – if indeed there were any – of bridesmaids or pageboys.
Such lack of information can hardly be to avoid overshadowing Captain Tom. Indeed, the only conclusion can be that it was rather to avoid drawing attention to Prince Andrew.
Surely no other royal wedding has been blighted quite like Beatrice’s. Even the Duke of Windsor, who had more reason than anyone to hide his wedding away after abandoning the throne for the divorcee Wallis Simpson, celebrated his marriage in France with friends and photographers in attendance.
Of course nothing, not even the apparent meagreness of the event, will take away any of Beatrice and Edo’s happiness.
There are plans for a much larger ‘second’ ceremony in Italy and the fact is that Beatrice, only too well aware of the criticism of the lavish scale of her sister’s wedding, wanted a less formal service.
But for Andrew, so used to being the centre of royal attention, the humiliation must now be complete.
Rarely chastised as a child, he grew up, says one courtier, ‘with a pompous level of self-importance’ based on being second in line to the throne. He felt it when he was pushed down in the line of succession.
The Queen has always tried to help in this respect, by making sure he has a ‘role’, not always, as we know, with much success.
Andrew has always been the son who pointedly bows and kisses her hand whenever he visits her at Buckingham Palace, and he is the son who, in her eyes, saved the treasures of Windsor Castle when flames were licking across it in 1992.
The Prince was on leave from the Navy, and he organised staff into a human chain to rescue its priceless paintings, furniture and artefacts.
To the Queen, Andrew could do no wrong. Only a few months ago, royals and their advisors looked towards Beatrice’s wedding as being the moment when Andrew’s public rehabilitation might, possibly, begin. Yesterday showed that it is as far away now as ever.