Folks, once more thanks goes out to Linda for sending this fabulous article for us to read.
LONDON WAS HOST in July to the largest gathering of world royalty since the marriage of the present Queen to Prince Philip in 1947. The occasion was not a British royal wedding but the marriage of Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece to an American billionairess.
Prince Pavlos, eldest son and heir of King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie of Greece, married in style and despite the family's exile from Greece in 1967, the event was considered one of the weddings of the century. In Greece, despite more opposition by the socialist government, millions of Greeks watched the event live on television and saw the support and genuine affection that world leaders and ordinary citizens alike feel towards the exiled Greek Royal Family and their latest addition, the bride, Marie-Chantal Miller.
This royal love story began three years ago when the couple met in the United States. "Marie-Chantal and I met at a party of friends of mine in New Orleans," the 28 year-old Prince Pavlos explains. "We were seated next to each other at dinner and we spent the whole evening together, talking, and dancing. I guess you could call it love at first sight."
For Marie-Chantal-a year younger than her royal husband-this chance meeting was to change her life completely. "I was totally enchanted by Pavlos and it was obvious from the beginning that we had many of the same interests," she said.
Indeed, the relationship was to grow and last year the Crown Prince decided to propose. "Pavlos proposed to me in Switzerland when we were out with the dogs. We both were in a telecabine and he found enough space to get down on his knees and propose." Marie Chantal laughs. "He asked me would I marry him and I have to say I was a little surprised and was not expecting it".
For Pavlos it was perfect timing. "When you are away on a skiing holiday, it is hard to get away from friends and family. I don't remember exactly everything I said as it was far too emotional-except that she said 'Yes'".
The next appointment Pavlos had was to formally ask Marie Chantal's parents for their permission for the marriage. Mr and Mrs Robert Miller, owners of the billion-dollar Duty Free Shop world empire were delighted. "My father was very touched that Pavlos formally asked for my hand in marriage," Marie-Chantal said. "He was more surprised than I was nervous but was very happy and delighted," the Prince explains.
King Constantine was next and Prince Pavlos remembered his father's reaction was "What has taken you so long?" Formalities over, Pavlos presented his bride with a sapphire and heart shaped diamond ring which had belonged to his grandfather, King Paul I.
Now it was time to prepare for the big day and the series of grand events which were to surround their special day. The Queen's cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, was appointed organiser for the July 1 wedding. The venue was decided-St Sophia Cathedral in London's Bayswater. Founded in 1877, this ornate Cathedral is the spiritual home of Greeks in the United Kingdom and is familiar to the Greek dynasty. King Constantine has worshipped there with his family and his son was christened there. Hampton Court Palace was made available for the reception and Claridge's Hotel-the traditional home of visiting royalty-was to host a reception for the visiting guests. A ball, hosted by the Millers for the 1,000 guests, was arranged at Wrotham Park, a stately home outside London.
Valentino was Marie-Chantal's choice to design her wedding dress and a series of fittings resulted in a masterpiece. In heavy ivory silk, the dress featured a tulip-shaped front with two deep pleats forming a train of four-and-a-half metres. Petals and flowers in the same material were added with opaque beading. Twenty five people worked on it and it took over four months to complete. The wedding invitations-engraved in Paris with the Greek Royal Arms-were then dispatched around the world and this soon became the most talked about event of the year.
"European royalty to marry American billionairess" made headlines in all four corners of the globe, not least in Greece. Television, radio and newspapers clamber- ed to be accredited for the event and press conferences were held for the international media. On 22 May 1995, Marie-Chantal was received into the Greek Orthodox faith in St.Paul's Chapel in New York. The Greek royals and the Millers attended.
Talk of the wedding had caught everyone's attention in Greece. The socialist government of Andreas Papandreou which has persecuted the Royal Family ever since their exile in 1967 when King Constantine was unsuccessful in removing the military coup leaders who had seized the country, continued the attack on the wedding, calling it a "provocation". On his first return to Greece since 1980-two years ago in the summer of 1993-the Government expelled King Constantine and his family and even used the Greek military to harass him. The reason: ordinary Greeks came out to welcome the King on this historic return and the authorities feared the surge in support for the monarchy which had been formally abolished in 1974.
Soon after, Papandreou stripped the king of his private property in Greece and-in a move likened to that of Stalin's behaviour towards East European monarchs-stripped the Greek Royal Family of its Greek nationality and cancelled their passports. However, the Greek people demonstrated their loyalty-thousands of well-wishers sent messages to the royal couple and many booked flights to London to be with them for the marriage on 1 July.
Several Greek members of the parliament also agreed to attend, despite warnings from Papandreou that they would lose their parliamentary seats. Despite this opposition from the Greek Government, the acceptances to attend began to roll in. Unusually for exiled Royal Families, Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Queen Mother all accepted, as did The Dukes and Duchesses of Gloucester and Kent, Princess Alexandra and Prince Michael of Kent.
The rest of Europe was also well represented. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (sister of the Greek Queen) travelled by royal yacht which was moored on the River Thames for the occasion. The Danish Queen also held a lucheon on board the Danesborg for Pavlos and Marie-Chantal. King Constantine's sister, Queen Sofia of Spain and her husband King Juan Carlos, also agreed to attend accompanied by the entire Spanish Royal Family. Members of the Royal Families of Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Liechenstein were also there, along with the exiled monarchs of Bulgaria, Romania, Italy and Yugoslavia. The Middle East was represented by King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan, and the exiled Shah Reza II and Empress Farah of Iran.
The wedding ceremony lasted more that an hour and over four hundred and fifty guests packed the Orthodox cathedral. The other 850 guests, unable to be housed in the Cathedral, watched the event live by satellite at Hampton Court Palace.
First to arrive was King Constantine and Crown Prince Pavlos, both of whom greeted personally many of the Greek well wishers who had surrounded the Cathedral and nearby streets with pictures of the royal couple and Greek flags. Marie-Chantal arrived with her father a few minutes later to loud cheers from well wishers. The bridesmaids included Princess Theodora of Greece and Isabel Getty and the pages included Prince Philippos of Greece and Anthony Chandris.
In the Greek Orthodox ceremony there are crown bearers. This has nothing to do with royalty and every orthodox couple had them during their wedding, for they are all kings and queens for a day. However, on this occasion, royalty were the crown bearers. For Pavlos he had his brother, Prince Nikolaos, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Prince Gustav zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg. For Marie-Chantal her crown bearers were Crown Prince Felipe of Spain, Crown Prince Kardam of Bulgaria, Mr Christopher Getty and Prince Alexandre von und zu Furstenberg. The service was conducted in Greek and 10 prelates officiated. A Greek choir sang the liturgy.
After the service the royal guests assembled on the steps of the Cathedral to bid farewell to the new Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Greece off. King Hussein of Jordan drove his own car and the rest of the royal guests travelled by coach to Hampton Court Palace. Prince Pavlos said "I have just graduated from Georgetown University in Washington DC with a master in international relations and I am starting work in September with a ship-broking firm in Connecticut, USA. Marie-Chantal and I plan to live in New York where she will continue her education at New York University whers she is studying Art History."
"I will be working as a director for the Mari-Cha Collection which is a major collection started by my father of renaissance paintings and sculptures named after my mother." Marie-Chantal announced.
Marie Chantal is now learning Greek and when asked about a visit to her new homeland she said "I have visited Greece many times and have many Greek friends. I am looking forward to when I can visit the country again and see it with Pavlos".
The reaction to the wedding was great. Opinion polls revealed a huge boost in the popularity of the Greek monarchy and led to further outbursts by Premier Papandreou who claimed that by attending the wedding ceremony in Londo, members of parliament lent tacit support for the abolition of the republic and the restoration of the monarchy. The Greek Defense Minister then in turn ordered a court appearance of an Airforce Commander who had attended the wedding. "It is clear that his actions in London are criminally irresponsible and constitutionally illegal," the Minister said.
Hopes of a restoration are still forlorn, but the wedding certainly put the matter back in people's minds as well as in their hearts.