Big thanks to Linda for sending me this detailed article.
There are certain people who are having to pretend that they have all sorts of things to do out of town on the weekend of 1 July. That is because the social event of the decade will be taking place on 1 July, and anyone who is anyone but has not been invited had better take cover. People twittered on for months about the Livanos wedding that took place in London last year. But this one looks set to go down in the history books.
For Marie-Chantal Miller, 26-daughter of British billionaire Robert Miller, the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers-is to wed Crown Prince Paul of Greece (known to his friends as Pavlos), eldest son of King Constantine of the Hellenes. Theoretically, the future queen of Greece could be British.
No expense has been spared: the wedding, which is allegedly costing Mr Miller around 1 million pounds, will take place at the Greek cathedral of St Sophia in Moscow Road, W2. The reception afterwards will be held at Claridge's. But it is the guest list that is really winding up those whose invitations seem to have been waylaid in the post. For starters, two of Paul's aunts will be there-Queen Sophia of Spain and Queen Margrethe of Denmark- and so, of course, will the Duke of Edinburgh, being a relative of the groom. Dates had to be jiggled around a bit- but fortunately 1 July fitted into the Queen's diary.
Funny how good marriages can run in the family. Take Marie-Chantal's sisters: Pia Getty,28, who recently married Christopher, the son of Ronald Getty; and Alexandra,22, who has just announced her engagement to Prince Alexander von Furstenberg, the achingly handsome son of Diane and Prince Edward Egon von Furstenberg. 'They're not very interested in Americans,'a 'friend' was quoted as saying in American W, in whose pages the Miller sisters are a permanent fixture: 'No title, no accent, no play.'
Already they have been dubbed the 'new Cushings' by Manhattan society. (The Cushing sisters did extremely well for themselves: one, Babe, married William Paley; another, an Astor.) Of course, there are the Clemence girls, too, chronicled a couple of months ago in Tatler, but as one observer has put it, the Miller girls' marriages make even those of the Clemence girls seem low-key. Cash meeting class is not exactly a new phenomenon. Would that Edith Wharton were still around to chronicle the wedding for, as W pointed out, 'not since the gilded age have three heiresses been so well betrothed.'
What makes the story of the Miller girls so tantalising is the amount of cash involved. No one is more thrilled about the marriage than the gossips of Gstaad, who have set about drumming up speculation about prenuptial agreements. Rumors abound that the Greek royal family is fresh out of drachmas and that King Constantine and his wife, Queen Anne-Marie, are frequently the beneficiaries of 'little envelopes' from the rich Greek community. The gossips are whispering about money Marie-Chantal will bring to the union and whether she'll be able to keep her title if they divorce.
Though born in America, the girl's father, Robert Warren Miller, is a British subject and has lived in Hong Kong for 34 years. It was there that he made his fortune co-founding Duty Free Shoppers, the largest retail outfit of its kind in the world. He is mow chairman of his own thriving investment company, The Search Group, but he is also said to have made millions buying preference shares at just the right time in Murdoch's news corporation. Very much behind the scenes by all accounts and also very pleasant, the press-shy Miller has allowed his daughters and, to some extent, his beautiful wife Chantal, to take centre stage. Although his daughters are always in the social pages, little is known about the reclusive billionaire except, as one banker said, 'Whatever he touches turns to gold.'
Meanwhile, the Miller girls are the undisputed queens of New York City's jeunesse doree, partly because they can afford to look so good-27 couture dresses from Valentino have been ordered for Marie-Chantal's wedding. 'And that's cash up front,' one acquaintance remarked dryly. Naturally, the three devastatingly soignee sisters had always been contenders for Eleanor Lambert's famous make-or-break best-dressed list. One little problem cropped up at a recent confidential judges' meeting, dispensation was given to the Miller girls whereby three counted as one. 'Oh I wish I were a Miller girl,' one of the male judges, a designer, was said to have sighed upon the decision.
But life has always been a bit of a smooth sail for Pia, Marie-Chantal (known to her friends as MC) and Alex. The girls were first schooled in Hong Kong and then at Le Rosey in Switzerland. Pia, supposedly the most academic of the three, attended Georgetown, while Alex went to Brown. Marie-Chantal also attended Georgetown briefly, but now studies art history at NY University. She met her future husband via Greek businessman Alecko Papamarou, one of NY's leading social scions. Prince Paul was a graduate of Georgetown and a former lieutenant in the Scots Dragoon guards, and is now enrolled in Washington DC, where he shares a pad with the Infante Felipe of Spain.
Although not as spoilt as jealous tongues would have it, the girls have never wanted for anything. As one who knew the sisters while they were at college says: 'Everybody at Georgetown had a BMW, everyone at Brown had a BMW- but the Millers were past that league: they were the kind of girls who had a private jet to take them, straight after class, to New York for dinner and back.'
For Alex's 21st birthday party, her father spent a reputed $250,000 transforming the Rainbow Room in Manhattan into a recreation of a Twenties speakeasy for a white-tie-sit-down dinner for 130. Life for the teenage girls were spent shuttling between Gstaad, Paris (where the family have a beautiful townhouse in the Ile St Louis), Hong Kong and New York.
For a while, the entire family lived in the Carlyle, arguably New York's most expensive hotel, and , coincidentally, home of Alex's future mother-in-law, Diane von Furstenberg. Recently, the Millers moved into a palatial town house off Fifth Avenue, recently revamped by interior decorator Renzo Mongiardino, whose client list includes Baron Heini Thyssen and Gianni Agnelli. Millions have been spent by Chantal Miller on the house. One piece of furniture, for example, a boulle armoire, is said to be worth $10 million.
Chantal, an incredibly glamorous woman, is said by some to be something of a daunting presence and many are envious of her wealth. One ex-boyfriend who has not been invited to 'the royal wedding' as he puts it, remembers going with the family to Bali one summer. 'They had rented two huge luxurious houses from Adrian Zecha-one for the parents, one for the three girls and their friends. One evening after dinner, Mrs Miller declared that she wante some champagne and asked Marie-Chantal to fetch some from the house next door. The house were set about 50 feet apart from each other, separated by a small lawn. Marie-Chantal offered to drive to get a bottle. I made some comments about it and the next morning I was told my room was needed and I was promptly turfed out.'
Of the three sisters, MC, tiny, pencil-slim and somewhat glacial, would probably make the best royal. Decidedly uptown, she runs with the crowd or, as one ex-boyfriend put it, 'very junior international league.' Friends include Prince Dmitri of Yugoslavia, Alex Nicolai, Anna-Louise Herrera (daughter of designer Caroline), Alessandro Corsini and his wife Michelle (nee Kwaitkowski) and Astrid Kohl, the niece of Helmut and the sort who, it was once commented, 'buys Renoirs when she is depressed.'
While in Paris, MC also won the heart of Nicky Mavrolean, former husband of Barbara Carrera. 'That crowd never slums it,' explains one acquaintance. 'They are New York's version of BCBG [bon chic bon genre] and Paul is a little stiff- he sometimes looks as if he's just swallowed an umbrella.'
Pia, supposedly the highly strung sister, has, arguably, married the richest of the three suitors, but possibly the one with the lowest profile. She and Christopher, a native San Franciscan, have an 18-month-old baby daughter. Interestingly, according to one friend who has weekended with them, they have just one nanny.
Of the three sisters, Alex is probably deemed the coolest and most down to earth. Nonetheless, she and Alexander, nicknamed Alex von by friends to differentiate the pair, have already had two lavish engagement parties thrown: one at Diane country spread in Greenwich, Connecticut, the other at the Miller residence in New York. They plan to marry, surely with no less pomp and circumstance, in Venice. How many guests of the wedding that looms ahead will be echoing the refrain ' I wish I was a Miller girl'?
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This page was created on October 27, 2000 by Alex B.