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It hasn’t been all weird and weirder news for Britain’s royal family in recent months.
Scandal tends to get the bolder type, but joyous occasions make headlines too, and Princess Beatrice is still getting ready to marry real estate developer Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in the near future, despite circumstances beyond the couple’s control making it harder each day to plan a wedding.
Or easier, if they’d rather just say their I-dos and go home.
They announced their engagement in September after about a year of dating—and, as it turned out, just weeks before Prince Harry and Meghan Marklerevealed how unhappy they’d been with the British press, and the situation spiraled from there.
Considering all that had been going on, both close to home and with the U.K. in general, it was nice that the queen had an unequivocally happy occasion coming up on the calendar.
But now, coming after Megxit, Brexit, Prince Andrew‘s questionable behavior and two divorces in the family, the novel coronavirus pandemic has blown up plans for the next royal wedding entirely.
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Beatrice’s wedding day was never going to be the global event that Harry and Meghan’s nuptials were, but the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York was already planning a considerably more private event than her sister Princess Eugenie‘s royal wedding was less than two years ago.
In October, a source told People that, while Beatrice and Eugenie are very close, “Beatrice is more reserved and discreet. She holds back more, she is very polite, very well-educated but more formal and quiet in her personalty, so I think it will be a very different wedding to Eugenie.”
Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank wed at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, after which the queen hosted a cocktail reception at Windsor Castle ahead of the evening party thrown by the bride’s parents at the Duke of York’s official home, Royal Lodge.
But as the weeks went by, no further details about Beatrice’s big day were forthcoming—not even the date. A source told E! News in January, after so much time had passed between the engagement announcement and any further details, that “some of the plans” were “under review.”
At last, the outline of the plan was announced last month: Beatrice and Edoardo were going to tie the knot on May 29 in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace in London, the ceremony to be followed by a garden reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by the queen for 150 guests. (Eugenie and Jack had 850 people at their wedding.)
Edoardo’s 3-year-old son Christopher (whom he calls Wolfie) was going to be his best man and, according to the Daily Mail‘s Richard Eden, Dara Huang—the groom’s ex and Wolfie’s mum—was on the guest list.
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But now, with the number of COVID-19 cases in England rising and world leaders ordering non-essential businesses to close and advising that not more than 10 (or fewer) people congregate at once and to practice social distancing if they do, the palace announced Wednesday that they’ve canceled the planned reception. Moreover, the queen and Prince Philip have since left London to stay at Windsor Castle.
“Princess Beatrice and Mr. Mapelli Mozzi are very much looking forward to getting married but are equally aware of the need to avoid undertaking any unnecessary risks in the current circumstances,” read a statement from Buckingham Palace. “In line with government advice for the UK and beyond, the couple are reviewing their arrangements for 29th May.
“They are particularly conscious of government advice in relation to both the well-being of older family members and large gatherings of people. Therefore, the planned reception in the Buckingham Palace Gardens will not take place. The couple will carefully consider government advice before deciding whether a private marriage might take place amongst a small group of family and friends.”
And make that an especially small group.
On Thursday the Church of England recommended that only five people attend church weddings at a time—including the bride and the officiant.
That may be more motivation to postpone the whole thing, but if Beatrice and Edoardo can’t wait to be husband and wife, there can always be a bigger party down the road. But this has indeed been one of the bumpier roads to the altar for a royal in some time.
As a granddaughter of the queen Beatrice was going to have a lovely wedding no matter what, but the celebration had already been reassessed in light of what’s been going on with the bride’s, Prince Andrew.
“The date was changed two times to adjust [to the unfolding scandal],” a source told People in February. “It will be smaller than the original plan.”
The Duke of York was forced to step down from his royal duties in November, more fallout from his disastrous interview with BBC Newsnight about disgraced businessman Jeffrey Epstein, whom he considered a friend and continued to associate with, even after Epstein spent 13 months in prison starting in 2008 for soliciting prostitution from minors.
Andrew’s friendship with Epstein dogged him to varying degrees for the past decade, but he came under renewed fire after Epstein died in an apparent suicide last August in jail while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges.
During the tone-deaf sit-down, Andrew again denied the claims of Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts), who alleges that Epstein forced her to have sex with the Duke of York when she was still a minor. The duke said he didn’t remember ever meeting her, despite the existence of a photo purportedly taken in 2001 that shows Andrew with his arm around her waist. Roberts appeared on the BBC’s Panorama weeks later and held fast to her story.
Talking to Britain’s Times, a palace source described Andrew’s interview as “one of the single worst PR moves in recent history.”
And it came just in time to plan his firstborn daughter’s wedding—which, whether Beatrice envisioned anything splashier or not, was by then going to have to be more low-key than Eugenie’s wedding.
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“Everyone right now is concerned about Bea,” a source told Entertainment Tonight in December. “Poor Bea. She deserves to have the wedding she wants and the public is going to go nuts.”
Later that month, Andrew was not at Beatrice and Edoardo’s engagement party at London’s Chiltern Firehouse, while Eugenie and their mother, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, were. (The party also went on as scheduled, despite rumors that it might be postponed or canceled altogether.)
Sarah’s been divorced from Andrew since 1996 but they have lived together for more than a decade (as friends and co-parents, keeping separate bedrooms), and—with nothing left to lose in the tabloid department, having received more attention than most in her day—the duchess popularly known as Fergie remains her ex-husband’s most stalwart public supporter.
“It is so rare to meet people that are able to speak from their hearts with honesty and pure real truth, that remain steadfast and strong to their beliefs,” she wrote on Instagram the day before his Newsnight interview aired. “Andrew is a true and real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness and goodness of always seeing the best in people. I am deeply supportive and proud of this giant of a principled man, that dares to put his shoulder to the wind and stands firm with his sense of honour and truth.
“For so many years he has gone about his duties for Great Britain and The Monarch. It is time for Andrew to stand firm now, and that he has, and I am with him every step of the way and that is my honour. We have always walked tall and strong, he for me and me for him. We are the best examples of joint parenting, with both our girls and I go back to my three C’s .. Communicate Compromise Compassion.”
Still, there are limits.
Sarah refrained from posting again until New Year’s Day, when she wrote, “As the sun goes down on 2019, I look to the mountains for strength and wisdom to guide us all into a magical and enlightened road ahead…Happy New Year for 2020. So much love in abundance.”
But while she didn’t elaborate as much as in recent years when she wished Andrew a simple happy birthday on Instagram on Feb. 19, she still went for it, and Eugenie—who didn’t post between Nov. 15 and Jan. 22, when she broke her silence to mark two years since her engagement announcement—wished her father a happy birthday on Instagram as well.
Not all of the comments were of the “you’re protecting a bad person” variety, and many were actually quite supportive, but even The Royal Family’s post, featuring a photo of Andrew as a baby, was treated to its share of backlash.
Beatrice is not on social media.
Back in August, after Epstein died and Andrew’s name was again front-and-center as one of the deceased’s most high-profile pals, a source told The Sun that Beatrice and Eugenie “are very close to their father and are being very supportive.”
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With everything that’s come to pass since, that support could have gone by the wayside—especially since Eugenie had to indefinitely postpone plans to launch a podcast about the scourge of global sex-trafficking and Beatrice, an executive at a software and data firm, is in charge of a program that supports women in leadership positions—but it appears that the family-first approach endures.
Beatrice and Edoardo and Eugenie and Jack joined the Christmas festivities with the queen at Sandringham, as did their father, who walked alongside his older brother, Prince Charles, on the annual stroll from the house to St. Mary Magdalene Church.
The woman behind the Instagram account Royal Replies by Kris, which posts every bit of correspondence received from members of the royal family, proudly shared a photo last month of Sarah, Andrew, Beatrice and Eugenie that the Duchess of York’s office mailed to her on Jan. 4, part of a thank-you package for the Christmas card she sent.
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Beatrice and Edoardo were also among the small group who attended a 60th birthday party for Andrew at Royal Lodge on Feb. 19. More fanfare was originally planned to mark the milestone nationwide, Andrew having been the first child born to a reigning monarch in 103 years, but was ultimately toned all the way down.
Just a couple of weeks ago Eugenie joined her sister and future brother-in-law for dinner at Isabel in Mayfair, back when dining at a restaurant was still an option.
All systems were a go then, with Beatrice’s close friend Gabriela Peacock, who’s also a nutritionist to the stars, telling Hello!, “I love to help my friends prepare for big occasions. Beatrice is one of my closest friends and we’re all very excited for her. She’s very happy.
“She’s a wonderful girl with an amazing heart, and she and Edo are the perfect match and so in love.”
So at least Beatrice has had a strong support system during this roller coaster of a wedding-planning experience.
And thanks to a recent change in British law, the mother of the bride will now be able to sign her daughter’s wedding certificate if they so choose. Previously, as recently as when Eugenie got married, only fathers’ signatures were allowed.
So even if no one else is there to see it, history can be made.
(Originally published Feb. 28, 2020, at 3 a.m. PT)