Sully-le-Chateau, 27 April 2019: a Franco-Britannique wedding
I got married a year ago (yesterday)at the mairie of Sully-le-Chateau, Saône-et-Loire. No one could have guessed then that things would be as they are now. If anyone had said to us: in a years’ time 21st century governments, with all their massive science, would together be stalled – massively stalled – by a tiny, as yet invincible, bug, we’d have thought it science fiction, and laughed. A result – as any reader of this diary will know – is that I was here alone in Burgundy and Lucie, my wife of one year, was in Ivry-sur-Seine (a Paris suburb). I want now to write a few paragraphs about what I remember of that day. Lucie is now here.
My first memory of that day was Lucie’s loveliness, truly. I’d not been allowed to see her for a few hours that morning. She appeared as we all waited for her outside the mairie at Sully-le-Chateau just before the wedding appointment. She was not changed at all, just special. Her hair, which she’d being growing for the previous weeks, was in regency ringlets, entwined with pearls. Her dress – she’d been secretly to an undisclosed address in Paris, with certain chosen confidantes, to prepare this dress – was of a soft satiny material, crème chataigne (sweet chestnut) in colour, decked off with a soft white woollen stole. And yes, dear reader, I married her.
Next, the French ceremony, which is quite unlike any in England. It is like neither the Church of England, nor our register office, weddings. The French combine the formal – mayor with his tricolour sash and stern text – with the secular civil; but for ever civil. A friend of ours provided simultaneous translation. The text is more extensive than our register office form, but less than our CofE version. And for that ceremony, your religion is irrelevant. The state is marrying you. If you want any other variation on the infinity of religions to bless your union that’s fine; but the state has the final say. (Given that English law is based on a Marriage Act of 1753 I personally think the French have got the hang of that question; but that is for another day.)
After the wedding we had a party at the Chateau-de-Sully – in the stables alongside. The third factor in my memory is Lilian, Lucie’s son, playing the flute part of Cecile Chaminade’s Flute Concertino. It was such a beautiful thing for him to play. It was entirely his choice to do so. And then we had the professionals, our niece Noémie Prouille Guézénec (viola – alto) and her boyfriend Pierre (on cello). There can’t be many pieces for viola and cello; but they found some Beethoven.
I had not originally been thinking of speeches. I think Lucie’s father wanted to say a few words; and a friend of mine – who was there – said I should tell the story of how Lucie proposed to me. Lucie’s parents had a delightful script which they read as a dialogue: he (Jean-Yves Guézénec) in his special English alternating with Mireille, Lucie’s mother, in French. Blanche a longstanding friend of Lucie’s translated for me, which worked (I hope), save that a couple of times I went on too quickly and said too much: not easy for a translator, obviously….
Finally Luke’s disco which he had put together from a wide variety of sources; only I think we all talked too loudly; the food – excellent as it was – went on too long to compete; and by the time decks were clear for the disco the Chateau expected us to leave.
It was a great day, with a fine variety of family and friends from both sides of the Channel and much more (such as Canada, Crete, New Zealand and Morocco – oh and Eire (but he’s lived in Bristol for most of his adult life). And for me the ‘happy few’ (ie my friends and family: forget Henry V) turned up for lunch in Autun before it all started….
28 April 2020