Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Article excerpt

For a country in which 'gay marriage' is supposedly still illegal it seems to be happening rather a lot. Gay weddings are already big business, and hard-pressed country house owners are desperate to host them. One grandee who has cashed in spectacularly is Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Five years ago he let out Althorp, Diana's childhood home and burial place, for three days of lavish celebration by a couple of American gays and their many guests for what was admiringly described in Tatler as 'Britain's first high-society gay wedding'.

One of the 'grooms' (you get two grooms at gay weddings) was a well-known New York writer and heir to a great pharmaceutical fortune, Andrew Solomon, who, sparing no expense, even hired a British army tank sprayed pink for the occasion as a 'going-away' vehicle that fired bubbles instead of bullets from its gun turret. I live in Northamptonshire, about half-an-hour's drive away from Althorp, and I had staying two of Solomon's friends from New York who gave me a wide-eyed description of it all.

From the Tatler account (which was partly illustrated, I am embarrassed to say, by photographs of the gay couple lying naked together on a four-poster bed flanked by portraits of Princess Diana's ancestors), you could have been forgiven for believing that gay marriage was already an established British institution. 'The American couple came to Northamptonshire to tie the knot, ' it said, 'because same-sex marriage is illegal in every US state except Massachusetts [that was then]. They felt it was an important political statement to unite legally and also to have the ability and rights as two men to proclaim their desire to live and love together under the protection of the law.' Presumably, in fact, they weren't so much 'married' as united in a 'civil partnership', though they had a priest and a rabbi in attendance to bless their union. The fact that the civil partnerships introduced in England in 2005 for same-sex couples are now often referred to as 'weddings' or 'marriages' tends to muddle things a bit.

Last year I actually attended a posh gay wedding, on this occasion at Blenheim Palace. The 'grooms' were again Americans, this time from New Orleans, whence came most of the guests, and a friend from that wonderful city asked me to come along with her.

Legal or not, this ceremony could not have been called anything but a 'marriage', and a Christian marriage at that. …

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