Byline: Aileen Mehle
Her engagement ring was designed by her husband — a yellow diamond surrounded by white and yellow diamonds in a flower design, among which reposes an antique Greek mask, symbolizing Silvia’s love of theater.
Tomorrow at high noon in one of France’s grandest architectural marvels, the magnificent Cathedral of Bourges, His Serene Highness Prince Pierre d’Arenberg, the bluest of bluebloods, inheritor of one of the most formidable of French titles, will marry the beautiful Silvia de Castellane, whose blood is just as blue. It may not be a royal marriage per se, but it is as close to one as you can get. And in France as well as in high international social circles, it is ranked as one of the weddings of the decade, to say nothing of the century.
Actually, Pierre and Silvia are already married. Earlier this month in Philadelphia, their civil marriage took place with the mayor doing the honors and in the presence of the French consul general and members of Pierre’s American family and friends. He is half-American, his late mother being Peggy Bedford, the Standard Oil heiress, who later became Mrs. Thomas Bancroft, Princess Charles d’Arenberg and the Duchess d’Uzes, in that order. But it is, of course, the splendor of the religious ceremony tomorrow and the festivities leading up to it that have been the talk of Paris and among New York society’s darlings, who, having received their invitations, can speak of nothing else and have been ordering frocks and hats and gloves like mad so as not to be outshone on this glamorous occasion. And the best of Franco-American luck to them all!
Pierre d’Arenberg’s family first showed up in France in 436 A.D. in Burgundy, and in the archives, reference can be found to a Duc d’Arenberg, whose sovereign was King Dagobert, the 5th century Merovingian monarch noted for his influence and brilliant court. D’Arenbergs fought battles under Francois I and Charles V and married very well, indeed. In 1773, Mademoiselle Pauline de Brancas-Lauragais joined the family in holy matrimony bringing along with her the Chateau de Menetou Salon in Bourges, still the d’Arenbergs ancestral home. Pauline’s marriage was celebrated at Versailles with a chap called Louis XV as a witness. Under Charles X, Prince Pierre d’Alcantara d’Arenberg, prince and duke of the Holy Roman Empire and a Spanish Grandee, was made a French prince and duke. His son (Pierre’s grandfather), Prince Auguste d’Arenberg, was instrumental in the building of the Suez Canal; his son, the late Prince Charles d’Arenberg, Pierre’s father, died when Pierre was seven years old. That takes care of the groom’s history.
As for the lovely bride, her Castellane family is one of the oldest and most illustrious in all France. During the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, the house of Castellane held sway, and its members were entitled princes, as their dazzling coat of arms makes more than clear. In feudal times, Castellanes were princes and barons; counts and marquises in the 19th century. The house of Castellane descended from a royal prince of Castille, who arrived in France in 800 A.D. before the Moors and the Saracens invaded Provence. During the First Crusades, organized by the fearless Pope Urban II, Pierre de Castellane fought against the infidels. For 10 centuries, Castellanes have included archbishops, marshalls of France under Napoleon I and Napoleon III, ambassadors and poets.
The Castellanes also married well. Henry, the son of the Marshall de Castellane, took as a bride Pauline de Perigord, daughter of the celebrated diplomat Talleyrand. One of their offspring, Antoine, is the great-great-grandfather of the bride. During World War II, Silvia’s grandmother, Silvia Hennessy, later the Duchess of Talleyrand, preserved, through her intervention, the famous Chateau de Regny Usse, which was bombed while containing the most beautiful treasures of the Bibliotheque Nationale. So much for the bride’s family — and the history lesson is over.
Earlier this week at his Chateau de Menetou Salon in Bourges, Pierre gave a grand reception to introduce Silvia to the surrounding gentry, and that afternoon they visited the tomb of Pierre’s father, who died 30 years ago. Yesterday, a mass was celebrated at the American Cathedral in Paris in memory of Pierre’s mother for her close friends and family who came from the United States for the wedding. It was followed by a lunch at the Ritz and later — last night — Pierre hosted a glittering concert in the Royal Chapel at Versailles given in memory of his parents, complete with fireworks and a scintillating guest list. Silvia wore a dress made by Alexandre Narrakas after a design by Prince Pierre. Her coiffure was by Alexandre Zouari of Paris.
From all reports, Pierre and Silvia will arrive at the Bourges Cathedral tomorrow morning in a Rolls Royce and leave after the wedding in an electric automobile. Why? Well, both are environmentalists for one thing and hope to promote the use of this vehicle to battle pollution. You should know that Pierre’s grandpapa drove one when he was president of the Automobile Club de France.
There will be more of all this in next week’s column, but right now let’s break the news of Silvia’s wedding gown. It was designed by Oscar de la Renta of Pierre Balmain, who also designed the bridesmaids’ dresses, again after an idea by Pierre d’Arenberg. Silvia’s hair will be done by Laurent of Paris, the veil is a family treasure belonging to the bride’s mother, born Countess Isabelle de Rovasenda, and it will be held in place by a diadem, a symbol of the house of d’Arenberg. Her engagement ring was also designed by her husband and made by jeweler Theo Fennel in London, a yellow diamond surrounded by white and more yellow diamonds in a flower design, among which reposes an antique Greek mask, symbolizing Silvia’s love of the theater. It seems the groom has forgotten nothing to make this a dream wedding. And, if I’ve forgotten anything for now, I’ll tell you the rest of it next week, by which time you can all pretend you were there.