Sunday 21 July 2019

Royal wedding: Eugenie's 'second-tier' royal nuptials gets full marks for heart and soul

Princess Eugenie's wedding made up for lack of status with lots of celebs, and might have been more fun for it, says Sarah Caden

Princess Eugenie opted for Zac Posen for her second wedding dress
Princess Eugenie opted for Zac Posen for her second wedding dress
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Princess Eugenie makes her way to their car as she leaves Windsor Castle after their wedding for an evening reception at Royal Lodge on October 12, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Sarah Caden

Early last Friday afternoon, when Princess Eugenie and new husband Jack Brooksbank emerged from St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, they were met by a cheering crowd.

It was about the size of a crowd you'd see at a garden fete and had that same polite jollity about it. Later that day, the streets of Windsor were a little more thronged for the newlyweds, but still no match for the crowds that met Prince Harry and Meghan Markle there in May.

Oh, the comparisons. Last Friday was a day of comparisons, few of them in Princess Eugenie's favour.

The dress was a heavy satin and off the shoulder, not dissimilar to Meghan's in May. The weather was shocking.

Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank kiss as they leave St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding
Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank kiss as they leave St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding
In this handout image provided by the Royal Communications, Princess Eugenie and Mr Jack Brooksbank at Royal Lodge ahead of the private evening dinner, following their wedding on October 12, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Bramall/Royal Communications via Getty Images)
Princess Charlotte falls on the steps, as the bridesmaids and page boys arrive for the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Happy couple: The official wedding photograph of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in the White Drawing Room, Windsor Castle, with (left to right) Back row: Thomas Brooksbank; Nicola Brooksbank; George Brooksbank; Princess Beatrice of York; Sarah, Duchess of York; The Duke of York. Middle row: Prince George and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge; The Queen; The Duke of Edinburgh; Maud Windsor; Louis De Givenchy; Front row: Theodora Williams; Mia Tindall; Isla Phillips and Savannah Phillips. Photo: Alex Bramall/PA Wire

Out of 850 guests, only 30 were royal family, apparently, and as they arrived it seemed very celeb heavy. And what an odd bunch of celebs. Naomi Campbell, Stephen Fry, Jimmy Carr, Ellie Goulding, Cara Delevingne, Pixie Geldof, Robbie Williams, whose daughter was a bridesmaid. And many more, though George Clooney, who founded the tequila brand for which the groom is Europe ambassador, was not in attendance. He was at Harry's, though.

The coverage was on ITV, the BBC having declined to have them. Camilla was a no-show, apparently due to long-standing bad blood with Sarah Ferguson, mother of the bride and ally of Diana. Prince Philip made it, but he too is no fan of the mother of the bride.

Sarah, Duchess of York. Photo: Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Sarah, Duchess of York. Photo: Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

In advance, there was just something a bit off about the whole affair, particularly when it came so closely on the heels of the Harry and Meghan extravaganza.

Holding one's wedding in the same venue as Harry and Meghan made direct comparisons easy, of course, though apparently the Queen insisted on Windsor, rather than the bride herself. The bride who, it has been reported, also postponed her nuptials to allow her A-list royal cousin to go first.

And that issue of the royal pecking order coloured everything last Friday.

Eugenie might have had moments, in the lead-up to her big day, when she wondered why William and Harry, second and sixth in line to the throne, seem to come out tops in everything.

Naomi Campbell. Photo: Gareth Fuller/AFP/Getty Images
Naomi Campbell. Photo: Gareth Fuller/AFP/Getty Images

Charles and Diana divorced, like Eugenie's parents, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson did. But people really like Camilla these days, while they've never really forgiven Fergie for being, well, Fergie.

It's just not fair, is it? A point, it seems, that Prince Andrew has been making most of his life. In fact, less than two years ago, he was reported to have implored the Queen and Prince Charles to improve the lot of his daughters, Eugenie and her older sister, Beatrice.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Princess Eugenie makes her way to their car as she leaves Windsor Castle after their wedding for an evening reception at Royal Lodge on October 12, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Princess Eugenie makes her way to their car as she leaves Windsor Castle after their wedding for an evening reception at Royal Lodge on October 12, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In December 2016, Andrew is reported to have asked the Queen to bestow titles on any future husbands of his girls. This would avoid any children of theirs having no title at all. The royal rules have it that Beatrice and Eugenie would lose their titles on marriage, turning their children into, whisper it, commoners.

It's just not fair.

And yet, watching Princess Eugenie last Friday, there was no sense that she felt second best or short-changed.

Last Thursday night, she was interviewed on ITV with her groom-to-be as if it was the stuff of bridal dreams to talk love with Eamonn Holmes.

Big budget: Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank outside St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding
Big budget: Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank outside St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding

It's not easy being an also-ran, something which has always seemed to rankle with Eugenie's parents. Poor Andrew, though youthfully more handsome and 'fun' than his older brother, has always been the second son. He wears it heavily, and apparently this weight has only increased with age, as his 'Air-Miles Andy' nickname is used more in popular chastisement for costing the taxpayer a fortune than out of any affection.

And in marriage, he and Fergie were always the also-rans to Charles and Diana. Sarah Ferguson may have been a more fitting Windsor bride, with her slightly off-the-mark fashion sense, her manner that suggested she'd be happier with ponies than in a posh frock, and her old-school pluckiness. She should have been more appealing compared to the highly-strung Di and yet, she was not.

The toe-sucking scandal and other gaffes embarrassed the royals and lost her the support of Philip, who had previously enjoyed her gutsiness, and there was always the sense that Fergie just wanted it all a bit too much.

Sarah Ferguson and Princess Beatrice arrives for the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Sarah Ferguson and Princess Beatrice arrives for the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle

Eugenie and her sister have suffered, to an extent, for the behaviour and the perceived behaviour of their parents. They are seen as try-hards, the ones who steal the show in the worst possible way with awful wedding hats and garish outfits. Who are work-shy and too fond of holidays and gauche.

Oddly, though, it is the gaucheness of this branch of the Windsors that made last Friday's wedding rather nice.

The bride's dress was a bit too heavy and a bit too curtain-like with its thistles and shamrock motifs - nods to the Queen's love of Scotland and to Ireland, the birthplace of Eugenie's late maternal grandmother. But it meant something heartfelt that the dress had a low back, showing off the scars of Eugenie's scoliosis surgery.

Princess Eugenie walks down the aisle with her father, the Duke of York, for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Princess Eugenie walks down the aisle with her father, the Duke of York, for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle

The groom was touchingly nervous, blushing and fumbling enough that his bride endearingly reassured him regularly. He seemed to suppress giggles during God Save the Queen, when he caught the eye of a member of the congregation. He had a very un-royal waggly-fingered wave to the crowd as they drove away in a fairytale horse-drawn carriage.

Beatrice, sister of the bride, gave an almost Billie-Barry kid reading from The Great Gatsby, one which compared the groom to Jay Gatsby. The bride had read this book soon after they met and thought of the man whom she had loved at first sight - and no one since thought fit to tell her that Gatsby was a manipulative social climber. But dud notes and ill-judgment are the stuff that real weddings are made of. Including the Dean of Windsor's reference to the multitude of marriages that go wrong - hello, Princes Charles and Andrew, oh and their sister Anne, too - in his "triumph of hope over adversity" homily.

If Princess Eugenie was disappointed by the crowds outside the church last Friday, she didn't let it show.

She looked happy. It also looked like her wedding might actually be a bit of fun. That's allowed when you're an also-ran and Eugenie looked able to embrace that.

Robbie Williams and his wife Ayda Field. Photo: Alastair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Robbie Williams and his wife Ayda Field. Photo: Alastair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Cressida Bonas (left) after the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Princess Eugenie during her wedding to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank leave St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding
Cara Delevingne after the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Pippa Middleton after the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Happy couple: The official wedding photograph of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in the White Drawing Room, Windsor Castle, with (left to right) Back row: Thomas Brooksbank; Nicola Brooksbank; George Brooksbank; Princess Beatrice of York; Sarah, Duchess of York; The Duke of York. Middle row: Prince George and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge; The Queen; The Duke of Edinburgh; Maud Windsor; Louis De Givenchy; Front row: Theodora Williams; Mia Tindall; Isla Phillips and Savannah Phillips. Photo: Alex Bramall/PA Wire
Bridesmaids and page boys, including Princess Charlotte and Prince George, walk down the West Steps after the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank take a carriage procession around Windsor following their wedding at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
The Countess of Wessex, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge after the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle
Kate Moss and Lila Grace Moss Hack (Matt Crossick/PA)
Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank kiss as they leave St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding

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