Some of the more colourful members of the Bright Young set in the 1920s consented (in time-honoured fashion) to enter into arranged marriages. The best, in terms of the glorious comedy it offered up, was that of Gavin Henderson to Honor Phillips. Henderson, who later in life became the second Baron Faringdon (rather improbably allying himself to the Labour Party in the House of Lords), was described by one of his contemporaries as a “roaring pansy” and is perhaps best known for beginning one speech to the House with “my dears” rather than “my Lords.”
Here’s how DJ Taylor describes his wedding in Bright Young People.
The engagement was announced in November 1926. On the following day, Henderson left for Australia where he remained for four months. On his return, the atmosphere of premarital tension dominated his relationships with his friends. Robert Byron was present on an evening at the Night Light [a notoriously decadent London nightclub] when Henderson went on the rampage with the young conservative MP Bob Boothby and smashed up the club. Meanwhile, serial misfortune attended the wedding preparations. Forged invitations were discovered to have been sent out to well-known people. The stag night, convened at a hotel in Henley, ended in disaster when the guests, having ordered up twenty gallons of petrol in advance from a local garage, marched down to the river after dinner and literally set the Thames on fire, scorching the establishment’s lawn and burning down an adjoining row of chestnut trees. At the wedding itself, held at St Margaret’s, Westminster, Society notables were put out to find themselves mingling with a group of young black women, the groom having invited Florence Mills and her troupe as a way of annoying his mother. The marriage lasted only a few weeks. Henderson was rumoured to have spent his wedding night with a sailor picked up earlier in the evening.