Again, thanks goes out to Linda for sending another fab article about MC's wedding.
There is a saying that all brides are beautiful. Maybe. But surely some are more beautiful than others. One of the most beautiful was Marie-Chantal Miller, fair-haired and fine-boned, exquisite as a Florentine bella of the Quattrocento, who on July 1 in London glided down the aisle of the sumptuous Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Aghia Sophia to become a Royal Highness.
Dressed in shimmering white satin of surpassing elegance with a tulle headdress held in place by a diamond tiara (was it "something borrowed" from the Queen of Denmark?) and trailing an endless tulle veil embroidered with appliqued flowers and butterflies of fine lace, Marie-Chantal was the stuff of dreams. It is just as well that her father, Robert Warren Miller, master of all the duty-free shops he surveys, is a billionaire. It took the House of Valentino two months to make the veil alone.
Waiting for this vision at the altar was the handsome bridegroom, Crown Prince Pavlos, eldest son of King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. With Marie-Chantal and Pavlos it is all hearts and flowers.
Because of its singularly glamorous ingredients, this had been proclaimed the wedding the century, generating giddy excitement in New York, where the bride's parents live part of the year, and in Europe, especially among the royal families, almost all related to the bridegroom. Great crowds gathered outside the Cathedral to cheer the bride and groom as they drove up in separated silver limousines, and to watch the passing parade of heads, crowned and uncrowned, arriving in their finery.
Because Queen Elizabeth was a wedding guest, the tightest security was maintained. Only the wedding party and the royals were allowed to come to the church in private cars. Other guests, the men, full fig in morning clothes with the requisite spats and pearl-gray toppers, the women in fancy frocks and fancier hats, were collected at Claridges before the morning ceremony and driven to the wedding in private coaches laid on by the bride's parents.
The 300-seat cathedral, with its magnificently decorated altar and intricately carved pews, was garlanded inside and out with masses of pink and white roses. Ushering the guests in their smart black uniforms trimmed in gold were members of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Prince Pavlos' regiment for 2 1/2 years when he took his military training in England before attending Georgetown University in Washington. Clad in rich robes and wearing crowns, the Metropolitan of Halkidon, the Patriarch of Antioch officiated, observing the Russian marriage ritual adopted by the Greek royal family, while a heavenly choir sang from the balcony. The bride's only attendants were three tiny flower girls, dressed by Valentino in baby blue, whose job it was to guard her never-ending veil. You will be glad to hear that nothing ripped.
The groom had eight best men, and they were maybe the best-looking men in the world. If ever there was a time when blood and breeding told, it was when the eight approached the altar, standing behind the bride and groom and taking turns holding golden crowns over the couple's heads as is the ritual. Among them were the groom's dashing younger brother Prince Nikoloas of Greece, Crown Prince Felipe of Spain, Crown Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg, Prince of the Netherlands Willem Alexander of Orange, Crown Prince Kardam of Bulgaria, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Christopher Getty, who is married to Marie-Chantal's also-beautiful older sister Pia, and Alexandre von Furstenberg, who is marrying Marie-Chantal's also-beautiful younger sister Alexandra in October.
Sitting in the front row immediately behind the altar was this amazing lineup: Queen Elizabeth in a print dress, a hyacinth coat and matching hyacinth hat worn with low-heeled white shoes and a white Queen Elizabeth-style handbag; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; the Prince of Wales; the Royal Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and their duchesses; King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan; King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden. Directly behind them was the stunning Shahbanou of Iran, who came to London for the wedding with her two sons, Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi and Prince Ali Riza, her two daughters, Farahnaz and Leila, and Prince Reza's wife, Yasmine.
Seated in the front row on the groom's side of the altar were King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece and King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain (she is Constantine's sister). In the front row of the bride's side were the bride's father and chic mother Chantal Miller, dressed by John Galliano, along with Prince Egon von Furstenberg, who will soon become a member of the family when his son Alexandre marries Alexandra Miller. Nearby in the same row sat the same Alexandra Miller, dressed in pale blue, and sister Pia Miller Getty in a wine-colored dress and a saucy matching hat.
Highly visible in the crowd-a royal is a royal is a royal-were King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania; Prince Michael and Princess Marina of Greece; Princess Maria Gabriella di Savoia; Princess Alexandra and Angus Ogilvy; Prince Kubrat of Bulgaria; Princess Alexia of Greece; Karim Aga Khan; Queen Margrethe of Denmark and her sister Princess Benedikte and their mother Ingrid; the former Secretary General of the United Nations Javier Perez de Cuellar and his wife, Marcel; Ann and Gordon Getty; such golden Greeks as Lita George Livanos; Marietta and Alex Goulandris; Karen and Peter John Goulandris; Sophie and George Coumantaros and Caroline and Bluey Mavroleon; Diane Von Furstenberg, dressed by Geoffrey Beene; Donatella Flick (she is the bride's godmother); Veronica and Randolph Hearst (she wore a mauve Chanel suit and a black Karl Lagerfeld hat dripping feathers); Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, who attended the wedding of King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie in the same church 31 years ago, and Astrid and Kip Forbes.
Then there were Princess Ira von Furstenberg, her sister-in-law Princess Egon (Lynn) von Furstenberg; Cecile and Ezra Zilka (she wore a white silk suit dotted in black and the best hat in the room, a Jean Barthet black pillbox with a big white organza bow); Carroll Petrie in a blue-gray a la Fortuny dress designed by Mary McFadden with jeweled cuffs and a white straw hat with matching flowers; Barry Diller; Tatiana von Furstenberg in pink with a pink flower in her auburn curls, and a thrilled Valentino, admiring his handiwork- along with everybody else there.
Greatly missed by both families was Alecko Papamarkou of New York, who was kept away by his recent surgery and his mother's illness. Papamarkou is Marie-Chantal's godfather and a great friend of all the Greek Royals. He was as instrumental in this marriage, bringing Marie-Chantal and Pavlos together, as any matchmaker you would ever want to meet.
The bride and groom left the church as thousands of pink and white rose petals drifted from the ceiling. The waiting crowd roared. Limousines and coaches appeared to whisk the guests to the magnificent wedding breakfast at Hampton Court Palace as hour away, where 500 or more guests awaited them. You all remember Hampton Court. That's where Henry VII idled away the hours dreaming about beheadings and such until the dampness drove him hence. The Millers could have taught old Henry a trick or two, certainly how to warm up a place. Of course, maybe he didn't have their money-and certainly not their taste.
Hampton Court Palace was built by the all-powerful Cardinal Wolsey in 1515. A great, ornate Tudor pile that goes on for blocks with gardens that stretch to forever, Hampton Court caught the King's covetous eye, and nothing would do until he acquired it in 1526. Whatever Henry wanted, Henry got-a woman, a divorce, a reformed religion tailored to his taste, a palace on every corner, his very own side of beef for lunch, another half a cow for dinner. What a prince of a king.
So it was on the vast green grounds of Hampton Court that the magnificent wedding breakfast celebrating the royal marriage took place. Hundreds of guests strolled through the gardens on their way to a ravishing pavilion of enormous size. Many a normally jaded jaw-remember, these are people of privilege who have seen it all and done it all-all but dropped at the brilliance and grandeur of the spectacle that awaited them. In a great fragrant greenhouse under canvas, a dazzling orangerie had been created with heavily leafed orange trees rising to the ceiling and hundreds of orangs piled at the base of each tree. Nell Gwyn would have lost her mind.
After the champagne reception, the parade of guests into the adjoining main pavilion for the breakfast began (never mind that it was already two in the afternoon). And this is where and when the genius of Robert Isabell became stunningly apparent. Brought over from New York by the bride's perfectionist mother, Chantal, to party-plan this gathering and the huge ball given by the bride's parents two nights earlier, Isabell was called in at practically the last minute to design, produce and direct both parties with only three weeks' notice. What a triumph!
The main tent was covered with a beige sisal carpeting, and the sky-high ceiling was draped in countless yards of pistachio-green voile. Twenty 18-foot columns covered in thousands of white and pastel flowers seemed to hold up the ceiling. The 15-foot walls surrounding the room were made of miniature oak leaves-billions of them. Along the walls were 10 double-tiered sideboards holding great collections of antique silver bowls and platters filled with flowers and fruit.
The head table where the bride and groom sat with hers and his parents was on a raised tier and set with white flowers in antique crystal and silver vases and 16-century German marriage goblets. The tables were covered with white linen and set with antique silver.
For breakfast there was lobster and individual, miniature wedding cakes, heart-shaped and frosted in silver and white. To take home as mementos, the mother of the bride presented each guest with a lovely small white, blue and gold cup and saucer of Royal Copenhagen porcelain, and King Constantine's present to each lady was a silk scarf bearing his coat of arms.
And, of course, there was music. Isabell brought over Beryl Diamond from New York to conduct 15 members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Camilla Johnson from New York's Metropolitan Opera sang like a nightingale in Berkeley Square. There were speeches, eloquent and touching, given by Robert Miller and King Constantine, and clever ones given by Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Crown Prince Felipe of Spain while his father and mother fondly looked on.
Everywhere you looked were Nancy and Zubin Mehta and Nan Kemper in a black hat the size of a wagon wheel, Doris Brynner and Alexandra Theodoracopulos and Lord Carrington and Gianni Pigozzi and Doda Voridis and the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra and a smiling Queen of England who seemed, for a few hours, to have forgotten that annus horribilis that turned her gray hair grayer.
Two nights before the royal wedding, 900 guests were on their way to a grand ball at Wrotham Park in Hertford, an hour's drive from central London. Everyone knew how to get there-the organizer of the party and other attendant wedding festivities was none other that Lady Elizabeth Anson of London's Party Planners and Lady E. had sent out very clear instructions. But what almost no one knew how to pronounce was Wrotham. The British pronounce it "Rottem" it is, a bizarre name for a country house that looks more like a palace.
Wrotham Park is a privately owned stately home, but for the dazzling dinner dance celebrating the marriage of their daughter, Chantal and Robert Miller took it over and called in Isabell to create a magical illusion.
As the guests ascended the great stone steps to the entrance, they walked through a veritable English garden of bay and boxwood trees and countless roses, while a classical quartet from the Royal Philharmonic played in the background. The crowd then descended another stone stairway lined with 14 huge urns bursting with golden roses to the back lawns where a mammoth tent, 135 by 240 feet, had been erected.
A tribute to ancient Greece, the space was surrounded by 15-foot ecru muslin draperies bordered in green laurel. The main drapery was three stories high and the ceiling was squared off into 25 muslin panels bordered in real laurel imported from Greece by Isabell. He and Chantal Miller selected the design and colors inspired by ancient Greek vases and architecture. From Ecuador (Chantal Miller is an Ecuadorean), 30,000 roses were flown in and arranged in enormous terra-cotta urns towering over the guests on 10-foot high pedestals.
Just when everyone thought they had witnessed the quintessence of decorative beauty, the three-story central drapery lifted to reveal a second wondrous scene, the dinner tent, to gasps and spontaneous applause. Guests entered through a two-story high portico of white Corinthian columns onto a vast, handpainted floor, the design taken from Greek tiles, as was the 50-foot-square dance floor, designed to make room for maybe 450 killer ballgowns.
Eight musicians played for the perfumed pack, and during dinner 20 dancers wearing antique costumes brought from Greece. Prince Pavlos danced Greek folk dances including the sirtaki with some of the Greek royals joining the joyous circle. (You've heard the Greeks invented democracy?)
After dinner and dancing, news came that something wonderful was going on in the back gardens, where a gorgeous 18th-century carousel was going round and round. Then came fireworks, imported from Macao, giving new meaning to lighting up the sky.
The last diehards left at 6:30 a.m. after watching the sun rise and eating a hearty breakfast to see them on their way. Everyone agreed it was the most fabulous party in years and that it might be many more years before they saw its like again.
One of the loveliest dresses was worn by the bride-to-be, a celadon taffeta embroidered ballgown by Valentino. The bride's mother wore satin and chiffon by John Galliano, and the Shahbanou of Iran was in cream-colored satin and lace by Azzaro. Cecile Zilkha was in Mne. Gres' brilliant blue chiffon and her adorable daughter, Bettina, wore Oscar de la Renta's rose-colored chiffon.
Everywhere you looked you saw Catherine Forbes in strapless pale blue satin, Charlotte Forbes in cream-colored silk, Viscount and Viscountess Linley, the Duke of Edinburgh, Veronica Hearst in a black Chanel and her daughter Fabiola in a Bill Blass that showed her belle poitrine, Countess Marina Cicogna in silver lame, Barry Diller, Lady Helen Taylor, Prince Albert of Monaco, Princess Firyal, Ludovic Autet, Jamie Figg, Astrid and Kip Forbes, Robert Higdon, Vivien Duffield and Jocelyn Stevens.
If I've left anyone out it wasn't because I meant to. You were all so utterly divine, weren't you?