41. Princess Mary’s Pride and Wedding Belle cocktails

8 Nov

The good natured  London crowd is  full of delight that the Princess is marrying one of her own countrymen. A friend of mine was talking to the Princess who said, “Well, one of the good results of the war is that I’ve not been obliged to marry one of my wretched German cousins.”

— Sir John Foster Fraser, “From a London Club”, Arts and Decoration, vol.16:3 (January 1922), pp. 199, 242 (p. 199).

Although forgotten today, the wedding of Princess Mary, only daughter of King-Emperor George V, to the lanky Viscount Henry Lascelles, eldest son of the Earl of Harewood, on 28 February 1922 was an important moment in the evolution of the modern monarchy. As the first major state pageant since the Armistice, and like much of the faux-traditional pomp that now surrounded the newly-minted House of Windsor (né Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), it was explicitly designed to unify and uplift what was, after four years of total war, an otherwise divided, impoverished and exhausted country. For centuries royal weddings had taken place in the smaller chapels of Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle; but, for the first time since Edmund Crouchback in 1269, the child of a reigning king was married in Westminster Abbey, a much larger stage that could accommodate this very public performance. This was not, nor was it ever intended to be, a mere “royal wedding”, but rather, in the words of more than one newspaper, a “National Wedding”, a “People’s Wedding”. It was nothing less than a symbolic renewal of the sacred vows between sovereign and subjects. (That this was precisely a national event was underscored by the fact that Mary’s husband-to-be was a fellow Briton: her betrothal to Lascelles marked the official end of the time-honoured policy of pursuing dynastic alliances in Europe, a suddenly antiquated way of doing politics in the post-Versailles world—and anyway the market value of German princelings had depreciated considerably since the boom of the nineteenth century.)

"Life’s Valentines”, Life, vol. 79 (16 February 1922), p. 16-17 (p. 16). Drawing by Ralph Barton, verses by Dorothy Parker.

The ruse worked. “Everybody knew beforehand that there would great crowds and great enthusiasm,” declared The Times, “but few, perhaps, quite realized how overpoweringly great they would be.” That day the Underground ferried an estimated 5 million passengers, and the tramcars another 2.5 million, around the capital, as the cheering, red-white-and-blue-waving multitudes were disgorged onto the streets. Journalists primly expressed their satisfaction at the gentle good humour of the masses (so much nicer than facing an unruly mob):

Squeezed and squashed and pushed hither and thither, sleepy with early rising, their legs aching with hours of standing, their chance of seeing even “the ‘oofs of the ‘orses” in the highest degree problematical, they remained invincibly cheerful and happy in waiting, with a well of unjaded loyalty ready to burst forth at the sight of the bride.

— Supplement to The Times (1 March 1922), p. i.

After all the fuss had died down, Allan Quatermain’s creator, H. Rider Haggard, breathed a sigh of relief:

The wedding of Princess Mary to Viscount Lascelles is over. Its reclamé and success has been what the Germans call ‘colossal’. I remember that of the present King very well indeed and witnessed the process etc., but I do not think there was half so much public excitement about it as there is over the union of his daughter and Lord Lascelles. But then in those days we did things more quietly; there were not so many competing newspapers to stir up enthusiasm. Cinematographs and the multitude of camera men also were unknown.

Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925 (London: Cassel, 1980), 1 March 1922, p. 237.

Sir Henry was right: the wedding was above all, and unprecedentedly, a media spectacle. In that sense it was also an international phenomenon, consumed even beyond the frontiers of the Empire. Newspapers printed huge runs of souvenir supplements—the Daily Mirror, for instance, issued 3,035,571 copies of its “Royal Wedding Number” (“Incidents in Foreign Graphic Circles”, Inland Printer, vol. 69:2 [May, 1922], p. 212). The Times savoured the minutia of the big day, waxing lyrical over the “charming figure of English girlhood” who was the centre of attention, listing every one of the 2000 guests, describing the bride’s dress (another first) and, like one of today’s gossip rags, devoting an entire page to what every dame, duchess and dowager was wearing. Americans caught the fever, too. “The public wanted to know every single detail of the wedding of Princess Mary,” wrote Daily Telegraph correspondent Charles à Court Repington. “It was given columns and columns, and could not have enough. An analysis of the reasons for the extraordinary enthusiasm would be worth giving, but perhaps one may limit oneself to the statement that a Princess still reigns supreme in the American fairy tale, and that here was a real live English Princess in a golden coach who personified all the beautiful memories of nursery tales” (Charles à Court Repington, Policy and Arms [London: Hutchinson, 1924], p. 103). Newspapers vied to be the first to publish photographs of the wedding—a race won by the Boston Post, which used revenue cutters, motor launches, taxis and a special train, the latter setting a new mile a minute record for the journey from New York to Boston, to beat its rivals by over five hours (“Post ‘Special’ in Record Run to Boston”, The Fourth Estate, No. 1464, 18 March 1922, p. 20).

This was also the first royal wedding to filmed, at least in part, and the reels were shown in theatres later that same day. The Topical Fim Company employed fifteen cameramen along the route and paid a not inconsiderable £3,000 for the best vantagepoints.

And, most earth-shatteringly, this was the first royal wedding of the cocktail age (which had only recently dawned in Britain). Celebratory compounds were prepared by the capital’s mixologists:

Habitues of one of London’s most exclusive West End clubs are exulting over the success of the city’s first “cocktail tea dance”—something new in London—at which three cocktails concocted in honor of Princess Mary, who is soon to marry, were introduced.

They have been christened “the Princess Mary cocktail”, “the wedding bell” and “the royal smile”.

— “Three New Cocktails”, Washington Post (19 February 1922), p. 51.

A few inaccuracies have crept into the Post‘s report. The Royal Smile had an entirely different provenance, as we’ve seen before, unless a new drink was given an old name, and the second-listed cocktail was actually the punningly titled “Wedding Belle”. Both the latter and the Princess Mary cocktail are included in the Savoy Cocktail Book, alongside Harry Craddock’s own celebration of the occasion (apparently invented on the day itself, 28 February): Princess Mary’s Pride. Since the Princess Mary, which was invented by Harry MacElhone when he was the bartender at Ciro’s Club, consists of equal parts gin, cream and creme de cacao, I thought I’d give it a miss, but the other two are well worth a try. Both feature Dubonnet, a favourite tipple of both Mary’s bridesmaid and future sister-in-law (Queen Elizabeth, wife of George VI) and her niece (the present Queen Elizabeth).

Princess Mary’s Pride: 1/4 French Vermouth,  1/4 Dubonnet, 1/2 Calvados.

Wedding Belle: 1/6 Orange Juice, 1/6 Cherry Brandy,  1/3 Dry Gin, 1/3 Dubonnet.

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