In Regency times weddings were mostly private affairs. Even fashionable weddings at the
church of choice for that day were but sparingly attended. Today's lavish weddings seem
to be a product of the Victorian rather than the Regency era. Certain weddings of that
century did engender more interests than others. Princess Charlotte's wedding to
Prince Leopold in 1816 was such an occasion. Royals were of as much interest
to gossip writers back then as they are today. ...............
|Exterior 1 and interior 2 views of the fashionable wedding church St. George's in Hanover Square|
Who has not picked up a Regency set novel and read about the fashionable wedding at Saint George's, Hanover Square? But where in London is it? What did it look like? Who built it? And was it really as fashionable as the romances claim?
A map of Mayfair. The red square is St. George's church 3
St. George's Church is centered right in the middle of Mayfair, in Regency times The place to live when in Town. The church is situated on the quiet George's Street, off Conduit Street and just a step from Bond Street and not in Hanover Square proper. The Parish of St George was created in 1725 and covered an area that stretched from Regent Street (then called Swallow Street) to the Serpentine, and from Oxford Street to Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico. So St. George's was the Parish church of most of the Ton.
St George's was built as a result of an Act of Parliament that stipulated that fifty new churces were to be built in London. The whole was financed by a tax on coal, which must have been wildly impopular at the time. John James was the architect, a pupil of the much better known Christopher Wren, who built the church on a shoestring budget, as churches go, of £10,000. In February 1721 they began dig the foundation, the building was finished by March 20, 1725.
Just three days later, on March 23th 1725, the church was dedicated by the Bishop of London.
St George's has been considered a fashionable church almost from its beginning and it's popularity kept rising until it hit about 1,000 weddings a year in Regency times. The record was set in 1816 with 1,063 weddings, about three a day, making St George's a Regency equivelent to a Las Vegas Wedding Chapel! It was still a fashionable wedding church 76 years later when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (in 1892) published his hillarious "The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor" b about the noble lord who's marriage at St George's, Hanover Square didn't end as anyone had expected.
Since St George's had such an enduring appeal to the upper classes it should not be surprising that some historical people of note used it for their wedding ceremony. The Prince Regent's brother Agustus, the Duke of Sussex, married Lady Augusta Murray there on December 5th, 1793, without the King's consent it turned out, which resulted in an annulment. The poet [Percy Bysshe] Shelley wedded Harriet Westbrook at St George's on March 24th, 1814, but that marrage was as ill fated as the Prince's as on July 28 that same year, Shelley ran off with Mary Godwin. Not all famous couples marrying at St George's had unhappy marriages, thank goodness. The future British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli married the ten year older wealthy widow Mary Anne Lewis there on August 28th 1839. He was a bit of a fortune hunter but in the end the marriage became a love match. He is rumored to have admitted to have married for money, to which his wife repied: "Ah! but if you had to do it again, you would do it for love." c
Interior of St. George's showing the galleries
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