Princess Beatrice reads a passage from The Great Gatsby

Bea says decadent but tragic Jay Gatsby ‘reminded her of bridegroom Jack’

  • Beatrice read excerpt from F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 Jazz Age novel at wedding 
  • Eugenie was drawn to passage which described enigmatic Jay Gatsby’s smile 
  • Reading was one of only a few unconventional touches in a traditional service 

Given that it explores the themes of decadence, idealism and social mobility, The Great Gatsby was an unusual choice for a royal wedding reading.

But Princess Beatrice read an excerpt from F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 Jazz Age novel at the wedding of her sister Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in Windsor today.

Eugenie was drawn to the passage which described enigmatic Jay Gatsby’s smile and is said to capture both the theatrical quality of his character and his charisma.

Princess Beatrice reads an excerpt from F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby today

Beatrice arrives at St George’s Chapel this morning with her mother Sarah, Duchess of York

The Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Conner, carries out the marriage of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in Windsor this morning

The choir sing during the wedding of Eugenie to Jack at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle

The excerpt read by Maid of Honour Beatrice was chosen as the second reading in one of only a handful of unconventional touches for a largely traditional service.

Describing Gatsy – the wealthy protagonist who dedicated his life to throwing lavish parties – it says: ‘He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly.


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‘It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.

‘It faced – or seemed to face – the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour.

Sarah, Duchess of York and Princess Beatrice wave to the crowds outside the chapel today

Sarah Ferguson and Princess Beatrice, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Thomas Brooksbank, the bridesmaids and page boys leave after the royal wedding at Windsor Castle today

The Great Gatsby has been filmed and dramatised many times – with the most recent movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio (left) and Carey Mulligan (centre) released in 2013

‘It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

Today’s full reading from The Great Gatsby

‘He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.

‘It faced – or seemed to face – the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour.

‘It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

‘Precisely at that point it vanished – and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.

‘Some time before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.’

‘Precisely at that point it vanished – and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.

‘Some time before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.’

The passage occurs early on in the novel as the main protagonist and narrator Nick Carraway first examines Gatsby’s character and appearance.

Beginning his sermon, Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Conner, said: ‘It was soon after she and Jack had first met that Princess Eugenie read The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

‘One particular passage in whcih Jay Gatsby is described reminded her immediately of Jack. She decided that she wanted eventually to let Jack know how much those words had brought him to mind. That is why they have had a special place (as the second reading) in today’s wedding service.

‘The words that particularly reminded her of Jack concern Gatsby’s smile. As we heard from the reading: ‘It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it… It concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour.”

Tenor Andrea Bocelli, a friend of Sarah, Duchess of York, performed at the wedding today

Bocelli and the orchestra performed a stunning rendition of Bach’s Ave Maria this morning

The bridesmaids and page boys, including Prince George, arrive for the wedding this morning

An image of abstract art called Here by Mark Bradford was printed on the Order of Service

‘Well, a few years have passed, and Eugenie and Jack come here today to smile on each other, and to offer each other something like ‘eternal reassurance’ and the promise of an ‘irresistible prejudice’ in each other’s favour.’

How the Great Gatsby follows the progress of a handsome racketeer

The Great Gatsby, written by F Scott Fitzgerald, was published in 1925 and struggled to sell at first – but now shifts around 300,000 copies a year.

It follows the progress of a handsome young racketeer, Jay Gatsby, and his long-time love for a spoiled and flighty rich girl, Daisy Buchanan.

Gatsby, once a poor boy from the Midwest but now hugely wealthy through organised crime, buys an enormous, showy mansion on Long Island, across the water from Daisy, who is now married to someone else.

Too timid to approach her directly, he gives a series of extravagant parties to catch her attention and prove he’s at last worthy to have her.

It has been filmed and dramatised many times – with the most recent movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan released in 2013.

The service was led by the Dean of Windsor, with prayers led by the Most Reverend and Right Honourable John Sentamu, Archbishop of York.

The organists included Peter Roper-Curzon, a member of the bride’s family, with performances by tenor Andrea Bocelli, a friend of Sarah, Duchess of York. 

Music before the service included Bach’s Allegro, from Trio Sonata number five, and Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata number three in A major.

After the vows, Bocelli and the orchestra performed a stunning rendition of Bach’s Ave Maria. They also performed Panis Angelicus together.

But the atmosphere created by one of Bocelli’s performances during the ceremony was interrupted at one point by the ringing of a mobile phone. 

The other reading was taken from St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians chapter 3, and was read by Jack’s paternal cousin, Charles Brooksbank.

Other recitals included A Gaelic Blessing by the choir and the hymn Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.

The service ended with the National Anthem and the procession of the bride and bridegroom out to 1ere Symphonic, Op14 by Louise Vierne.

An image of abstract art called Here by Mark Bradford was printed on the Order of Service. 

The inclusion of the artwork was likely a nod to Eugenie’s love of art and her job as a director at the contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth in London.

Earlier, bridesmaid Princess Charlotte took a tumble as she arrived before the ceremony.

Accompanied by brother Prince George, five, acting as page boy, the three year-old enthusiastically waved to the adoring crowds as they approached the chapel.

Charlotte was not the only member of the young bridal party to struggle with the steps. Page boy Louis de Givenchy also stumbled as he entered the church.

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