This Weekend’s Royal Wedding Had Some Surprising Historical Significance

Countess Olympia von und zu ArcoZinneberg

Ever since Prince William and Kate Middleton walked down the aisle back in 2011, we’ve been in something of a renaissance for royal weddings. Just from the Brits, we’ve gotten Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, and before too long, we’re going to see Princess Beatrice and her boyfriend, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, wed in a ceremony that will reportedly be somewhat smaller than her sister’s. While the House of Windsor’s wedding years might be drawing to a close for a while, there are still plenty of European royals to celebrate.

On Saturday, Prince Jean-Christophe Napoleon Bonaparte married Countess Olympia von und zu Arco-Zinneberg in a lavish Paris ceremony at Les Invalides, a landmark where Jean-Christophe’s great-great-great uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte I, is buried. Afterwards, the wedding party headed to Fontainebleau Palace, where Napoleon lived during his lifetime, for a dinner reception. Beatrice and Eduardo attended the wedding, along with a who’s who of European royalty, including Prince Pavlos and Princess Olympia of Greece, Princess Maria-Laura of Belgium, and Prince Felix and Princess Claire of Luxembourg.

The bride, who wore a lace gown designed by Oscar de la Renta, drop earrings, and a tiara from her family, is the great-granddaughter of Austria’s last emperor, Karl I, who renounced his duties in 1918. The groom works in private equity in London, where the couple is planning to reside. The couple met when Olympia was studying abroad in Paris nearly a decade ago. (She later graduated from Yale with a degree in Political Science.) When he proposed in April 2019, he gave her a 40-carat diamond that came from the crown of Eugenie de Montijo, the last empress of France. The ring, worth about £1 million, was stolen from inside an unlocked Mercedes earlier this year but it was later recovered.

Hello! magazine helpfully pointed out that this represents the reunion between the French Imperial line and the House of the Habsburgs. Unlike many of the house-uniting royal marriages that happened back in the day, though, Jean-Christophe has said that the two have a genuine connection. “It’s a story of love rather than a nod to history. When I met Olympia, I plunged into her eyes and not into her family tree,” he said in May to the French newspaper Le Figaro. “Afterwards we were able to smile at this historical coincidence.” He did add that the wedding would be “the fruit of European reconciliation and construction, which I believe in enormously.”

A look at the family history reveals that the last time a Habsburg married a Bonaparte was back in 1910, when Princess Clémentine of Belgium, the daughter of King Leopold II, married Prince Victor, Jean-Christophe’s great-grandfather. According to The New York Times, the wedding took place at Moncalieri Castle in Turin, where the Bonaparte family lived after they were banished from France. The couple met while Victor and his family lived in Belgium. “He is a millionaire, and lives in a great house amid considerable state, but until the news of his love for the Princess became known it was generally supposed that he was a confirmed misanthrope,” the newspaper wrote on their wedding day. Clémentine’s father did not approve of the relationship, and when they wed, she was forced to give up her $15,000 annual income from the state. The next decade or so was not a great one for her family, or for any of Europe, really.

Back in the present, and at a much happier affair: Beatrice wore a floral silk dress from the Vampire’s Wife and a sky blue coat from Topshop, while Edoardo wore a matching blue waistcoat. The couple have been frequent guests at royal and royal-adjacent weddings, recently joining Meghan and Harry at the nuptials of Meghan’s friend Misha Nonoo to British heir Mikey Hess. It’s a sign that Beatrice and Edoardo will have a pretty lengthy guest list, even if the ceremony is comparatively low-key.

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