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Great Britain: A Bra ‘, Bonny Bride And a Fortune Fair

5 minute read

Toward noon of a soft London day last week, Westminster Abbey glowed as richly as a Renaissance painting. From the banner-draped high altar to the flower-banked west door, the great Gothic nave was adazzle with tinted plumes and winking tiaras. Packed into rows of rented wooden chairs, the 2,000 waiting guests put their best profiles forward for the 30 TV cameras covering the abbey. At 12:02, two minutes behind schedule, a trumpet fanfare sounded from the rafters, the organ thundered Holy, Holy, Holy, and the bridal procession started its stately advance up the blue-carpeted aisle.

In tingling silence, Princess Alexandra and Angus Ogilvy stood before the Archbishop of Canterbury to recite their marriage vows. In the hearing of some 200 million TV droppers-in around the world, the princess promised in a soft, firm voice “to love, cherish, and to obey” her commoner husband. When they had knelt at the altar and signed the register, the Ogil-vys marched merrily back into the pale afternoon. As they drove off in a crystal coach, bagpipers skirled a pibroch, and the great bells pealed.

Twisting Before Breakfast. All in all, Britons agreed that it had been the jolliest royal clambake in memory. It was happily unmarred by the malicious cluckings that counterpointed Princess Margaret’s marriage to Photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. And, Londoners noted proudly, it attracted 70 members of Europe’s royal families.

Royals and commoners had a rip-roaring time. Highlight of the pre-nuptial festivities was a wingding for 2,000 guests in Windsor Castle’s Waterloo Chamber, which is only slightly less spacious than the battlefield itself. Fueled by a lavish buffet, 1,600 bottles of a pleasant, non-vintage champagne and rivers of stronger stuff, the guests twirled and twisted until breakfast. To a man, the roistering royals approved warmly of Alexandra’s match. “Thank goodness,” whispered one, “she’s not marrying one of those awful double-barreled German names.”

Her husband has no title and works for a living, but Princess Alexandra, 26, was hardly rewriting Cinderella. Angus James Bruce Ogilvy, 34, is the handsome, well-heeled second son of the Earl of Airlie, whose ancient Scottish clan (motto: “To the End”) won its English title for supporting Charles I in the Civil War—and lost it for 81 years after fighting with Bonnie Prince Charlie against Alexandra’s ancestor, George II. After Eton, Oxford and the Scots Guards, Ogilvy joined the investment firm of Harold Drayton, a self-made London multimillionaire whose interests Ogilvy represents (for $300 weekly) on 50 boards of directors.

Though he hurtles around London in a Mark X Jaguar—which he rammed into a lowly Morris on his way to Kensington Palace last week—Ogilvy is a canny, quiet businessman who is rarely seen with the popinjay set that used to surround Princess Margaret. Only a year ago, he confided to a friend: “I’m too old for marriage.” The Airlies are frequent guests at the Palace, and Angus is his wife’s 18th cousin, but he met Alexandra only eight years ago; their engagement last fall was approved “with great pleasure” by her first cousin, Queen Elizabeth.

Chinese in the Tub. To older Britons, Ogilvy’s robust charm and self-assurance recall Alexandra’s father, the Duke of Kent, who was killed in a wartime plane crash when she was five. Left with a lessthan-princely income, the duke’s widow, handsome, Greek-born Princess Marina, raised her children modestly. “Puddy,” as her daughter is still known to intimates, was the first royal princess to attend boarding school, later took up nursing at a children’s hospital. The slim, green-eyed Maid of Kent tickled Londoners by wearing her mother’s hand-me-downs and driving a Mini-Minor—and worried them by her avoidance of romantic entanglements. “I could only get married,” she once said, “to a man who is tall, rich, and madly in love with me.”

Her choice seemed to fill the bill. It proved a huge hit with the Scots, who called her a “bra’, bonny lassie,” and also with the Sassenachs, who have dubbed her “Alexandra the Great.” Britons of all walks of life have become increasingly fond of effervescent Alex in recent years as their fascination with Princess Margaret has faded. Since her marriage, the senior princess has drawn heavy criticism for shirking her royal duties while drawing a $42,000 yearly stipend from the government. Alexandra, unsubsidized and unstuffy, has filled the vacuum with easy dignity and endearing warmth. On her first, grueling tour of ten Southeast Asian nations, she delighted her native hosts at a state banquet in Hong Kong by proposing the toast in their language—and then confessing in a loud aside: “I’m practicing Chinese in the bath.”

Snakes & Storks. In a housewifely break with royal precedent, Alex gave Harrods’ department store a list of the wedding presents she wanted; they included an ironing board, a dozen plain Whitefriar glasses ($1.16 each) and a roulette wheel. When one town council asked if she had any other notions, the no-nonsense princess replied: “Give us the money, and let us buy something we really want.” (They got a check for $170.) Other gifts poured in from governments and citizens all over the world.

A Chinese wine maker she met in Hong Kong even sent two magnums of Dragon, Tiger & Phoenix, vintage ’58, whose rare bouquet is obtained by steeping 200 snakes, five civets and ten storks in a vat of rice wine. Administered daily, explained its maker, D.T. & P. will keep Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvy in good health, make their marriage happy and, for good measure, preserve them from rheumatism. Poet Laureate John Masefield put it more elegantly, without wine:

To this royal marriage pair Let all folk wish a fortune fair.

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