Monday, 23 September 2013

Marrying the spare

The wedding of an heir to the throne is always a big event.  But when the second on the list gets married, a big do isn't always guaranteed.  The marriage of Felix of Luxembourg at the weekend raises interesting questions.  His discreet-ish wedding, held away from his home country, came nowhere near the pomp, circumstance and glitz of an heir's marriage. 

Prince Felix of Luxembourg and Claire Laidemacher in an official photograph following their wedding at  Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in the south of France on September 21st 2013

While big brother, Guillaume, walked into his wedding to find royal representatives from around the world jostling in the pews and wondering what was on the dinner menu, little brother Felix was the subject of a far more low key affair.  Felix is still number two on the list of heirs although all expectations are that sister in law, the hereditary duchess Stephanie, will be in her own state of great expectations sooner rather than later and provide an heir for the heir making the spare truly spare.
 Both brides wore dresses by Elie Saab but that's where the similarities between Stephanie and Claire end.  The future consort of Luxembourg is seen in an official photograph following her wedding on October 20th 2012 surrounded by kings, queens, princes and princesses

So it's perhaps understandable that his wedding had none of the royal razzamatazz of other major hitchings.  It was more a wedding for the bride and groom that an affair of state, as the weddings of heirs tend to be. But being second in line doesn't always mean you can get away with not inviting most of Queen Victoria's descendants and a cold buffet.  It just depends on whether the future will see you moving up or down the rankings from the silver medal position.

A future ruler and a future consort - Guillaume and Stephanie's wedding in October 2012

Prince William is a case in point.  Like Felix, he is number two in line to the throne but one day that whole realm that watched him marry Kate Middleton will be his so the wedding had to be big and flash.  And it was.  While it's impossible to know how many people tuned in to see the event on TV, it's thought viewing figures hit at least one hundred and sixty million worldwide and they got a pretty big spectacle.  The whole day lasted over twelve hours with carriage processions, official bank holidays in the UK and enough royal guests to fill a flower decked abbey that has hosted major royal events for a millennium.  And a big kiss at the end. 

 The biggest wedding the world has seen since his dad tied the knot first time round - William and Kate seal their epic marriage of April 29th 2011 with a Buckingham Palace balcony kiss
(photo John Pannell)

On the other hand, Andrea Casiraghi is also second in line for his country's throne but again with the expectation that he won't rule as uncle Albert will provide the future monarch.  So Andrea's recent wedding to Tatiana Santo Domingo was a private affair with just a couple of very relaxed official photographs and no tiara for his bride who wore flowers in her hair.
In Spain, the last wedding of a second in line to the throne was a huge affair but for different reasons.  When the Infanta Elena got married in 1995, Spain hadn't seen a royal wedding for 89 years.  The ceremony, in Seville, was huge and partly a statement of monarchical intent as it was the first royal marriage since the restoration of the crown in 1975.  Although it was obvious then that Elena would, one day, slip down the line of succession her wedding was still a major event and a much bigger affair than the marriage of her sister, Cristina, in 1998. 

The wedding of the Infanta Elena in Seville in 1995 was the first royal wedding in Spain since 1906 when her great grandfather, Alfonso XIII, married Victoria Eugenie of Battenburg

Norway's second in line, Martha Louise, married just under a year after her brother, Haakon Magnus, but while her wedding was a public event it was on a much smaller scale than the marriage of the Crown Prince to Mette-Marit in 2001.  That had been the first big royal wedding of the 21st century with an epic guest list of kings and queens that kept Oslo partying all night.  And while the royal count on the guest list might have been reasonably high (in part thanks to all the Scandinavian cousins turning up in their best tiaras), the event was far more low key and took place in the same year as the princess changed her title, losing her 'royal' and becoming just a highness.

So low key, they didn't even worry about putting the carpet in.  A family shot of the wedding of Princess Martha Louise of Norway

And it will be several years before we see another second in line to the throne tying the knot.  Gabriel of Belgium is ten, Alexia of the Netherlands is just eight and Sofia of Spain is currently six years old.  By the time they get round to marrying, they may well be third or fourth in line depending on when their older siblings find consorts and produce heirs of their own.  And it's likely their weddings will be very different from those of Christian of Denmark and Estelle of Sweden who are both number two on the succession list at the moment but who are in line, one day, to rule.  While it might be easier for them to plan their nuptials, knowing that mum, dad, granny and granddad will have to dominate the guest list with their endless royal relatives, they do lose the freedom that other second in lines get.  Some, like Felix and Claire, perhaps end up with a wedding far more to their choosing being the spare, rather than the heir.

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