After a quiet engagement, there is every expectation that Princess Beatrice of York is about to confirm the details of her wedding. The Queen’s granddaughter announced her marriage plans in September last year with speculation now mounting that she will be a May bride. There are also reports that her granny is to throw open the doors of Buckingham Palace for her reception, meaning all eyes are on London for wedding venues for Beatrice and fiance, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. And one rather discreet but very historic church with long royal links might well provide the perfect setting.
It’s hosted dazzling and trend setting royal weddings before and while it traces its history back to pre Conquest times, the current building on the site is a Tudor creation with plenty of tales to tell. It also has a special link to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the beloved uncle of Beatrice’s grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh. So is this royal bride set to wed at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster?
If she did say ‘I do’ there, she would be following in Lord Mountbatten’s footsteps for it was in St. Margaret’s, almost exactly 100 years ago, that he married Edwina Ashley, one of the most famous socialites of the day. The couple, who sped to the altar after a whirlwind romance, took their vows on July 18th 1922 in front of a congregation packed with royals and celebrities . Louis Mountbatten might not have been a royal (he lost his princely status in 1917 when King George V gave up all German titles on behalf of his whole family) but this was the wedding of the year. The Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, was best man while crowds thousands strong lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the bride who was dressed in fashionable silver for her big day.
Decades later, it was the setting for another much talked about royal wedding. The Queen’s nephew, David Armstrong-Jones, wed Serena Stanhope at St. Margaret’s on October 8th 1993. The bride wore a pure white gown inspired by the famous marriage outfit of her new mother-in-law, Princess Margaret, while there was huge interest in the guest list as Diana, Princess of Wales took her seat in the pews just months after her separation from Prince Charles. The now Earl and Countess of Snowdon left St. Margaret’s to cheers from another big crowd.
The church is nestled in the heart of Westminster. It sits on Parliament Square, next to Westminster Abbey, and the two buildings have a lot in common. It was founded by Benedictine monks in the 12th century as a place for local people to come and worship so that they could carry out their religious duties in the Abbey without interruption. It was dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch who was a hugely popular figure of veneration at the time.
Henry VII set about rebuilding the church soon after seizing the throne at the Battle of Bosworth. The new church was dedicated in 1523 and since then it has developed a number of unusual royal links. The explorer, and great favourite of Elizabeth I, Walter Raleigh was buried there following his execution in 1618 on the orders of her successor, King James I. A famous regal mistress, Barbara Villiers, was baptised at St. Margaret’s in 1640 and two decades later she brought her son by King Charles II to the same font for christening.
All its discreet royal links would make it an interesting setting for what has become a rather more low key celebration than many might have expected for Beatrice, ninth in line to the throne and most likely the last of the Queen’s grandchildren who will marry in her lifetime. However, the ongoing controversy surrounding her father, the Duke of York, and his relationship with the convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, have cast a shadow over the princess’ big day. St. Margaret’s is easily accessible to the public – hence the crowds for previous regal marriages there – which might well take it off the list of potential venues if total privacy is the order of the day.
Further details of Princess Beatrice’s wedding are expected imminently. And if she did choose St. Margaret’s, Westminster, she would be adding another royal chapter to its already rather regal history.