Thus it happened that St. George's had practically a monopoly of fashionable marriages.
Now that there are at least one hundred very wealthy families for every ten of those times and that the papulation of the West End has increased so enormously, other churches have become identified with marriages almost as much as the very hymeneal St. George's.
The latter lends itself very happily to floral decoration. The wide chancel has large spaces for tall palms, feathery bamboos, maples, and other plants of graceful foliage. At one wedding the whole of the centre aisle was adorned with tall lilies, placed like fairy sentinels at the door of every pew. On that occasion even the pulpit was embowered in blossoms, and from the galleries hung festoons of smilax and white flowers.
Some very celebrated people have been married at St. George's. Americans visit the vestry in scores to look at the signatures of ex-president Roosevelt and his wife. Their marriage was celebrated on September 2, 1888. Another entry also interests Americans very deeply, that of George Eliot. She married Mr. Walter Cross on May 8, 1880. Only three or four persons were present. In her journal she wrote: ' Married this day, at 10.15, to John Walter Cross at St. George's, Hanover Square. We went back to The Priory, where we signed our wills. Then we started for Dover. We had a millennial cabin on the deck of the Calais-douvres, and floated over the Strait as easily as the saints float upwards to heaven (in the pictures)."
Signor Marconi and Lady Beatrice O'brien were married here in 1904. In 1906 Lady Mary Hamilton, only child and heiress of the late Duke of Hamilton, was married in St. George's to the Marquis of Graham. King Edward VII. signed the register. The reception was held at Devonshire House, the Duchess being grandmother of the bride, and the intervening streets were almost impassable for some hours, so great was the crowd of gazers.
St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, ranks second to St. George's as a favourite church for weddings. Surrounded by the property of the Grosvenor family, the head of which is the Duke of Westminster, the church is full of memorials of soldiers, statesmen, and other distinguished members of the race. The very first witness who signed a marriage register in this church was the great Duke of Wellington. This was in 1843, in which year St. Paul's was licensed for weddings. The late Duke of Cambridge's signature - a very clearly written "George" - is to be seen in the record of the wedding of Dr. Manley Sims.
All classes are married at St. Paul's, from costermongers to dukes. The present Duke of Westminster married Miss Cornwallis West here, and his brother-in-law married the widow of Lord Randolph Churchill. The late Duchess of Leinster, an exquisitely beautiful bride, is another on the register.
A pathetic interest attaches to the signature and special licence of the late Lieut.-colonel Keith-falconer, for he married Miss Blagrave just before starting for the South African War, where he was almost the first man killed.
This church docs not lend itself very specially to floral decoration, but the screen is of great beauty, and the chancel is very finely illuminated by electric lights, and the six acolytes in scarlet cassocks lend bright colour to the scene.
The Guards' Chapel, Wellington Barracks, is a favourite for military weddings. Built in 1840, it is modelled upon a Greek temple, and was for many years of severely simple interior. The Brigade of Guards, however, have beautified it in a manner that renders it the admiration of all who visit it. The hidden electric lights are so arranged as to bring out all the beauty of the cream and gold decorations, and a suffused effect of soft pink charms the eye. It is a beautiful church for a wedding. The screen is in Sicilian marble, the panels inlaid with Pyrenean green. The reredos is also marble, the base black with green and red above it. There is no choir, the regimental band supplying the music. The aisle is usually lined with soldiers in vivid uniforms, and this always makes a wedding very gay.
St. Margaret's, Westminster, has been kept up by Parliament for nearly two hundred years, and is regarded as a national foundation for the use of the House of Commons and for the marriages of members. The chancel is enclosed by some fine ironwork. Above the altar is a brass relievo, and over it is a painted window representing the Crucifixion. It has had a curious history. The bridegroom, if a member, enters the church by the south door, which faces the House, the bride entering by the north door and through a long passage laid with scarlet cloth. Among famous persons married here were the poet Milton, Pepys the diarist, and the poets Waller and Thomas Campbell.
Spanish Chapel, in Spanish Place, belonging to the Spanish Legation, is one of the most beautiful churches in London, as regards the interior. Hanging above tbe Royal pew is the personal standard of the ]monarchs of Spain. It was presented by King Alfonso. Marriages take place here amid most picturesque surroundings, and diplomatic weddings are brilliant occasions.
This and the Church of the Assumption in Warwick Street, Regent Street - once connected with the Portuguese Royal House - are popular churches for Roman Catholic marriages. The latter has an interesting history. It was the first Roman church ever entered by Cardinal Newman, and it was in this building that Cardinal Manning received Dr. Talbot as a member of his adopted faith.