As we approached the doors it was clear that a degree of stage management was going on along with a check that we were on the guest list – how weird is that? The crowd would give the occasional cheer as someone they recognised passed by along with paparazzi camera flashes.
The senior von Strechau's took their turn through the canyon of society watchers followed by Max and myself. I tried to tune the crowds out whilst keeping a smile and not falling off my ridiculous heels. Once through the portal the noise outside was mostly cut off and we joined a short queue waiting to be directed to our seats. With great efficiency a team of ushers directed guests to their allotted places; we were seated surprisingly near the front of the congregation.
I did wonder where Gran was, I hadn't seen her yet today but here she was already in the pew.
“I thought you were all lost.”
“It took longer to get into the city than hoped.” Von Strechau senior noted.
“You look spectacular Gabrielle, doesn't she Max?”
“Er yes Gran.”
“Um thank you.” I offered, “thank you for sending Heidi to help.”
“I know what you young girls are like; slap the makeup on, not a good look for a wedding.”
“Mother!” Gloria admonished.
There was still quite a time before the wedding was due to kick off, there was a buzz of conversation which almost drowned out the organ playing what I guess was traditional wedding tunes to ‘entertain' us. I still felt a right prawn in the suit and silly hat but looking about the general theme was repeated around the nave. That said there were a number of traditional dirndl outfits worn by older guests and a few summery dresses.
More senior members of the wedding parties started to arrive, Gloria's sister Countess Schillingsfürst, the bride's mother and some very important looking blokes made their way past. I spotted Kate with her chap go past, taking seats a couple of rows in front.
“Who is that with Kate?” I whispered to Max.
“Dark hair, pale yellow outfit just came in.”
“Oh the English, William something, comes from some foreign royalty I think.”
The name sort of rang a distant bell but I'm not into all that stuff, maybe I'll ask Kate if I see her later.
A chap in a morning suit who I gathered was Crown Prince Wilhelm went to stand with another chap in front of the altar and then the organ stopped playing. This seemed to be some sort of signal as the assembled guests stood and then what I guess is a wedding march started up played by some sort of orchestra.
It took a few minutes for the Princess Marguerite Frederick Saxe Coburg to reach us accompanied by her father. I'm no judge of these things and for my tastes her dress was a bit extravagant but I suppose that's what weddings are about. She glided up to where her spouse to be was waiting at which point the music ended and the congregation returned to their seats.
I stood nervously, cursing the shoes on my feet that Gerta had almost forced onto me; the longer I was stood the more they hurt. The priest was droning on in front of us, I tuned the words out and tried my damndest not to fidget. I felt a trickle of sweat run from between my shoulders all the way down to my knickers and cursed the tight garments I was wearing.
“Do you, Gabrielle Andrea Bond promise to love, honour and obey this man from this day forward, until death do you part?”
“and do you,” the priest continued, “Maximillian Maria von Strechau promise to love, honour and obey this woman from this day forward, until death do you part?”
“Gabs!” Max whispered urgently.
I snapped to attention and realised that I'd been day dreaming, bum!
I turned a colour approaching my suit as I realised I'd been mumbling, I received a few smiles from people nearby who's eye I inadvertently caught. It was only then that I noticed the TV cameras inside the cathedral, shitza, now half of Germany will have seen me mumbling to myself. What am I thinking, that means people will know I've been here – and with whom, the gang'll know and the rumour mill will be going big time by the time I get home.
“…promise to love, honour and obey this man from this day forward, until death do you part?”
I caught the vow giving part way through then joined in as the congregation sang some sort of hymn while the wedding party went off, I presume to sign the wedding register and so on. A few minutes later and the happy couple returned to the nave before taking a slow walk through the gathered masses back to the doors.
“That it?” I enquired.
“Not hardly.” Max sighed, “now its photo time, all the non family get to go but we're gonna have at least another hour before we can get changed and stuff.”
“I'm starving.” I mentioned.
“There'll be a buffet at the Palais.” Gloria advised.
By now the congregation was starting to leave and our little party shuffled along in the vanguard.
“So how do we get to this palace place?”
“Oh we're not going there yet, I told you, its photo time in the Englisher Garten.” Max moaned.
It didn't answer my question but the fleet of minibuses outside did.
‘So,' I mused, ‘not only will I be on national telly making a bit of a tit of myself but I'm going to be enshrined in the poor couples wedding album too.'
The operation once we reached the park was run with military precision, much like in the cathedral we all had a place to be, i was once again surprised to find myself and who I thought to be relatively minor nobility thrust quite near the middle of things not far from Kate and that William chap, who looked more familiar each time I saw him.
It wasn't just one big group photo though, oh no, we were assembled in groups for the bride and grooms wider family, smaller family groups, bridesmaids – you know the sort of thing. However when I found myself included in the shots of the close family I started to smell a rat.
“Like how come we're here with Marguerites close family?”
“I told you she's my cousin.”
“Um like how close?”
“First of course.”
“Aunt Mathilde is Dads sister, I thought I said.”
“You most definitely didn't.”
“So like how come your Dad's a Baron not a prince then.”
“Aunt Matty married up by marrying Uncle Johannes.”
I was struggling to put it all into place but it did explain a lot, so Gran was actually the new Crown Princess of Habsburg's Gran too.
The photography session ended with more intimate but still formal shots of the various couples so of course I had to pose with Max for that. If some of this stuff gets out I'm gonna be dead meat!
My stomach gave a rather unladylike rumble.
“I could murder a hotdog.” The waft of a distant vendor really set my taste buds going.
“Your wish is my command!” Max announced, “Mustard? Ketchup?”
“Hmm both.” I mused.
Rather than use the minibuses again the wedding party started to make their way through the park from where it was but a short walk to the scene of tonight's reception.
“Gaby, I thought it was you.” A voice speaking some foreign lingo stated. Oh right its English!
“Oh hi Kate, I've never been to a do like this before, it's all a bit posh for me.”
“I guess you get used to it.” She noted.
“You tying the knot?”
“Not yet, Wills is training to be a pilot and I guess his Gran will be involved if we decide we want to.”
“There's always a Gran in there.” I chuckled.
“What about you? You look pretty tight with that lad.”
“No way! I'm here as a favour because his Gran wants him to get together with Lady Sophia Taxis which is all a bit of a lark really as I'm rooming with her!”
“Ooh tangled webs.” She giggled.
“So like how come you ended up here in deepest Bavaria?”
“Wills is distant family, all this lot are connected somewhere.”
“Ta da!” Max skidded to a halt in front of us bearing what looked suspiciously like a hot dog.
“Looks like I need to go, see you later Gab.” Kate grinned.
“Er bye Kate.”
“So,” Max gave a short bow, “one hotdog with mustard and ketchup for the lady.”
“Max! I didn't mean for you to fetch me one.”
“I can eat it if you like?”
“Well if you put it like that, give it here!”
It was humongous! About thirty centimetres long with lashings of red and yellow sauces and served with the sausage inserted into the middle of the uncut baton. I made short work of it and even avoided getting any of the gloop on my clothes.
“Geez, anyone would think you hadn't eaten all day.”
“I haven't since about eight,” I mentioned checking my watch, “and its gone four now. How comes you aren't hungry?”
“I had a sandwich back at Augsburg before we got on the bus, you coulda had one.”
“I was getting painted.” I pointed out.
By now we were walking through the grounds of the Residenz, the Hofgarten, I recognised it from when I was here with Jules, then it was out into the street for the short walk to the palace itself.
“We came here last year, me an' Jules.”
“To the Residenz?”
“Well we had a look, didn't have much time really.”
I hadn't really been paying too much attention earlier and I only then realised that this evening's reception was in the Residenz! We became the target of the Japanese tourists in the plaza, we must have made a right sight in all our posh gear and I gave a little wave for the cameras. Well I couldn't help hamming it up a bit could I. Once inside we were directed to a function room where for the first time in hours people could relax away from the cameras and pomp of a semi state wedding.
“My feet are killing me!”
“Sit down; I'll get you something to drink.” Max offered,
“Um thanks, er where are your parents?”
“Talking to Thun und Taxis, watch out Sophia has seen us.”
Max departed one way, Sophia arrived from the other.
“My feet are sore.” She announced taking a vacant seat next to mine.
“Yeah mine too.” I agreed.
“So what did you think?”
“I could've been doing Biology lab this afternoon.” I joked.
“But then you would've missed tonight.”
“I might end up wishing I had.” I pointed out.
“Tonight is when we can snog all the totty.” She grinned.
I don't want to snog anyone – well maybe Maddy but she's not here.
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 22.05.11 © 2011