You are currently browsing the daily archive for June 3, 2021.

Yesterday’s post discussed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s third marriage and Catholic Canon Law.

Today’s post looks at the way Boris and Carrie Symonds — now Carrie Johnson — were able to keep their plans secret, which is not easy in No. 10, well known for its leaks.

Although his former special adviser Dominic Cummings gave scathing testimony about Boris and Carrie to a parliamentary Select Committee on Wednesday, May 26, by the end of the week, the Prime Minister’s fortunes had improved.

Although we are not that happy with aspects of Boris’s handling of the pandemic, more of us trust him than we do Cummings:

On Friday, the Independent Advisor on Ministerial Interests Lord Geidt concluded that Boris’s renovations on his Downing Street flat did not break the ministerial code:

That day, he was also photographed running for a train. When was the last time any Prime Minister in living memory ran for a train? Scenes like these endear Boris to the British public:

He even waved to a woman who called out, ‘Hi, Boris’:

Guido Fawkes posted the video. One of Guido’s readers responded with a lyric from My Fair Lady:

“Girls come and kiss me, say that you’ll miss me

But get me to the church on time

Little did anyone know how true that was.

Saturday, May 29, began with a good poll, in spite of Cummings’s testimony:

Downing Street confirmed wedding day after it happened

There were no announcements from Downing Street of the wedding on Saturday, May 29.

On Sunday, the BBC’s political correspondent Nick Eardley wrote (emphases mine):

It can’t have been easy to keep yesterday’s wedding – between a former journalist and someone who works in public relations – under wraps.

But it seems to have taken almost everyone in Westminster by surprise.

Such was the desire to keep it quiet, Downing Street only officially confirmed it had happened on Sunday morning – the day after the wedding.

The accompanying article stated:

The marriage took place in a “small ceremony” on Saturday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the couple would celebrate again with family and friends next summer, with their honeymoon also delayed until then …

Downing Street did not reveal any details of who was invited and whether any of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet colleagues were among the guests …

Musicians were pictured leaving No 10 on Saturday night.

At Westminster Cathedral that day, visitors were asked to leave in the early afternoon:

Members of the public were asked to leave Westminster Cathedral just after 13:30 BST, the Sun reported.

The Telegraph reported:

shortly after 1.30pm, confused tourists were ushered out of the building on the basis that it was going into lockdown.

This is a photo of the Johnsons at Downing Street afterwards (another made the front page of The Telegraph). Look at Boris’s tie:

Guido Fawkes wrote ‘Amoris Laetitia‘ in his post. This is Latin for ‘The Joy of Love’ and the title of Pope Francis’s exhortation on love in family life.

How events unfolded at Westminster Cathedral

The Telegraph reported that, around 2 p.m. on Saturday:

Miss Symonds, who has since taken her husband’s name, swept into the piazza in front of the cathedral in a limousine, wearing a £2,870 embroidered tulle gown but no veil.

Close friends and family and the couple’s one-year-old son, Wilfred, were in attendance as they were married by Father Daniel Humphreys, the head of the cathedral.

He was the priest who had baptised their son six months earlier in the same Lady Chapel, an ornately decorated room which hosts morning and evening prayer.

The couple had been instructed by him to ensure that they were both prepared for the marriage “over many months”, sources told the Telegraph.

After the ceremony, the guests – understood to include Mr Johnson’s siblings Rachel, Jo and Leo Johnson, his father, Stanley, and half-sister Julia – were whisked back to Downing Street.

The first official photograph was released on Sunday morning and showed the couple embracing in the garden. Mr Johnson even appeared to have brushed his famously unruly hair for the occasion, though his tie remained askew.

They opted to hire an external photographer, Rebecca Fulton, rather than using Andrew Parsons, a special adviser who takes pictures of Mr Johnson on official visits. Her prices begin at around £2,300 for a day’s wedding shoot – although it is possible the Prime Minister received a bargain rate as the ceremony was so short.

Downing Street reception

The same Telegraph article says that a marquee was already in the Downing Street garden for a prior event:

It had been used days earlier to host a meeting between the Prime Minister and small businesses that had made a net zero commitment.

The atmosphere was relaxed:

the garden decked out with lanterns, bunting and hay bales, which it appeared were being used as seats as well as table legs to hold up a tray of drinks.

Also:

After much speculation about their nuptials, and a save-the-date for July 30, 2022 card sent just six days before they married, people were expecting an elaborate affair. But in the end Mr Johnson’s third marriage was a low-key celebration which saw guests dancing to Don McLean’s American Pie played by a wandering acoustic fiddle band.

Top secret

The article says that Saturday’s wedding took six months of secret planning:

The event was planned in secret over the last six months, and even the small number of guests allowed under Covid restrictions were only told at the last moment, it is understood.

The Daily Mail reported:

The premier is understood to have picked his closest brother Leo – co-presenter of Radio 4 series Future Proofing –to stand by his side as his best man and provide moral support on his big day. 

Fellow Johnson siblings Jo, Julia and Rachel were also in attendance at the small wedding, the premier’s third.

Both the bride and groom’s mothers joined the summer festival-themed party in the Downing Street garden, but Carrie’s father Matthew Symonds was not presentIt is not known if he was invited by the couple.

It is also thought that none of Mr Johnson’s four grown-up children from his second marriage to the QC Marina Wheeler were there to see their father remarry.

No Cabinet ministers or Tory MPs were thought to have been invited to the top-secret wedding either, the Sun reports.

The couple were expected to spend the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat in Buckinghamshire.

They have chosen to delay their honeymoon until summer 2022, when they will also hold a bigger wedding celebration, according to the Telegraph.

The article says that Carrie rented her dress:

The bride, who hired her £2,870 wedding dress by designer Christos Costarellos for just £45 from MyWardrobeHQ for the day, said she was ‘very, very happy’.

In order to keep arrangements low-key, she hired three decoy dresses. The Daily Mail describes her plan:

Carrie Symonds hired three decoy dresses to throw snoops off the scent before her secret marriage to Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new blushing bride hired the dresses from eco fashion business My Wardrobe HQ and returned the one she settled on for £45 today from Greek designer Christos Costarellos …  

The new Mrs Johnson, 33, often orders clothes to the couple’s Downing Street home so wanted to throw snoops off the scent by hiring three other bridal frocks.   

The company she ordered the dresses from only found out they had supplied the wedding dress for the UK’s first lady when they saw pictures of the secret wedding

Co-founder Sacha Newall told The Times: ‘We didn’t know what it was for. We were just asked to supply some items. Then we saw what happened this weekend. It was all a bit of a surprise.’

They revealed that Mrs Johnson has asked for four dresses in a variety of shades.  

And it’s not the first time Mrs Johnson has worked with the company – she used their services when she was finding a dress to meet the Queen at Balmoral in 2019

Ms Newall added that while Carrie isn’t particularly into fashion she is making an effort to take an interest. 

She said: ‘There is an awareness that as the prime minister’s wife she needs to be dressed in a certain way… She doesn’t want to feel that she is letting the side down.’  

And the first time Carrie was spotted standing next to Mr Johnson on the steps of Downing Street in her iconic pink Ghost dress, she had rented the frock from My Wardrobe HQ.  

My Wardrobe HQ’s business will be going through the roof now. I wish them every success.

How Boris met Carrie

It wasn’t only the wedding that was kept under wraps. Even the development of their relationship is rather private.

The first the public had heard of Carrie Symonds was in the summer of 2019, when she and Boris had a row at her home in London, more about which below.

The Telegraph reported that the two have known each other since 2012:

For a relationship that began under the shroud of rumour and has been conducted largely in private, it was only fitting that the marriage of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds included the element of secrecy.

The world now knows that the Johnsons’ wedding anniversary will forever be May 29 2021. But precisely when their relationship started is a little harder to pin down.

Miss Symonds, a Warwick University graduate who instantly progressed through the ranks of the Conservative Party, is thought to have got to know Mr Johnson when she worked on the 2012 Back Boris campaign for his re-election to become mayor of London. After that experience, she developed a habit of praising his speeches on social media.

It was six years later, in 2018, when Mr Johnson was serving as foreign secretary and Miss Symonds as the party’s head of communications, when whispers about their escalating friendship emerged. In February of that year, a ruddy-faced Mr Johnson, then 51, was photographed chatting playfully with a glamorous-looking Miss Symonds, then 29, outside the Tories’ Black and White Ball at the Natural History Museum.

A week later, it was reported that the pair enjoyed a Valentine’s Day meal at one of Mr Johnson’s favourite haunts, Rules, in Covent Garden. The next month there were cocked eyebrows all around Westminster when social media chatter revealed that Mr Johnson, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, at that time all Cabinet heavyweights, were spotted gyrating to Abba in a room full of drunk millennials at Miss Symonds’s 30th birthday party in north London.

“The feeling inside Number 10 at the time was very much along the lines of: ‘What on earth were they doing there?’” one former Downing Street aide told The Telegraph later that year …

Another source cattily remarked that, “Carrie is not what you’d describe as a girly girl. She’s more of a man’s woman. And by that I mean an older man’s woman.” Yet of the three older, married Cabinet ministers at the party, the rumour mill was only concerned with one.

By September, both Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds moved on from their respective roles – she took up a role with a conservation organisation, while he resigned from the Cabinet in protest at Theresa May’s handling of Brexit – and Mr Johnson had announced his divorce from his second wife, Marina Wheeler, after 25 years of marriage.

By now, that rumour mill was churning wildly, and given grist in the form of one particularly juicy morsel of Westminster chatter suggesting Mr Johnson sent a car to collect Miss Symonds from a colleague’s wedding when he was still foreign secretary.

The car, it was said, brought her to his grace-and-favour residence, Chevening, and to top it off, the wedding was held at Penshurst Place, Kent, which used to play host to King Henry VIII while he secretly courted his mistress, Anne Boleyn.

Despite an almost 24-year age gap, the burgeoning relationship appeared to make some sense: both were metropolitan and sociable, both had backgrounds in the media (in Miss Symonds’s case it was in the family – her estranged father is Matthew Symonds, the co-founder of The Independent; her mother is Josephine Mcaffee, once one of the paper’s lawyers), both were on the green side of the Tory party with their mutual friend Zac Goldsmith, and both were undeniably ambitious.

Just how they managed – and still manage – to keep their relationship so private puzzled some observers. But Miss Symonds was well-positioned to ensure discretion: she has friends and connections all over Fleet Street, as well as countless powerful Tory allies.

In 2019, Symonds began getting closer to Boris and his father:

The drip-feed of gossip continued to find its way into the public domain, however. That Miss Symonds had been showing friends mischievous texts she’d received from Mr Johnson. That she called him “Bozzie Bear”, and he called her his “otter”. That his photograph was her phone screensaver. That Stanley Johnson, Boris’s father, joining Miss Symonds on an anti-whaling march in January 2019 was proof things were serious. That Mr Johnson was losing weight and keeping his hair trim not for the electorate but for her. That he and Miss Symonds were “very much in love”, and had moved in together in her flat in Camberwell, south London

Locals in Camberwell, who weren’t overcome with joy at the news, remember seeing “the unmistakable, hunched blonde figure of Boris” cycling to and from Miss Symonds’ home each day.

They were rarely seen together at public events, however:

The closest thing to an official confirmation, in fact, was Miss Symonds’ appearance at Mr Johnson’s campaign launch for Conservative leader in June 2019. In a deep red Karen Millen dress, Miss Symonds entered the public eye just months before her partner was favourite to become prime minister.

I read at the time that the dress sold out immediately.

Then came the row:

The pressure clearly told. A few weeks later, police were called to the Camberwell flat after neighbours heard an argument taking place. Helpfully, they had recorded the row and told a newspaper that Miss Symonds could be heard telling Mr Johnson: “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.”

However, that blew over quickly.

Shortly afterwards, she moved into Downing Street with him. I have no objection to people living together except when it involves a high-profile person in a high-profile setting. Call me old-fashioned, but it is just wrong. Unfortunately, Boris has now set a precedent:

When Mr Johnson secured the keys to 10 Downing Street, Miss Symonds joined him. Not literally – she stood watching his victory speech on the other side of the camera, rather than just behind him, as Philip May and most other prime ministers’ spouses had – but she moved in, and quickly gained a reputation as an influential figure in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

As if to mark the start of a new family, Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds adopted Dilyn, a Jack Russell cross, shortly after taking residence in Downing Street.

Carrie became pregnant. Weeks before she was due to deliver, Boris was hospitalised with coronavirus. He was close to death:

It was to prove not only a national crisis for the Prime Minister, but also a terrifying personal battle. After testing positive for Covid-19, Mr Johnson was taken to intensive care at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, in April 2020.

Afterwards, stories circulated about Boris’s affair with an American during the 2010 Olympics held in London. Then came Wallpaper-gate. And, now, the couple have married. Carrie Symonds is now officially Carrie Johnson.

History in the making

The last Prime Minister to get married while in office was also a Conservative: Robert Banks Jenkinson — Lord Liverpool. He remarried in 1822.

The Daily Mail stated:

Mr Johnson is the first premier to marry in office in 199 years. He follows in the footsteps of Lord Liverpool, who married Mary Chester in 1822 and was prime minister for 15 years.

Mary Chester was a close friend of his wife Louisa, who died at the age of 54.

One wonders if Boris’s original date of July 30, 2022 was planned to deliberately coincide with this 200-year anniversary.

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