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Yes, it’s weird that Princess Eugenie quoted “The Great Gatsby” at the royal wedding

princess eugenie kiss at wedding
AP/Yui Mok
“He smiled understandingly.”
  • Sarah Todd
By Sarah Todd

Senior reporter, Quartz and Quartz at Work

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Shall I compare thee to a charming literary con man?

That was the sentiment behind an unconventional reading choice today (Oct. 12) at England’s latest royal wedding, in which Princess Eugenie, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth, tied the knot with Jack Brooksbank at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

The second reading at the wedding was an excerpt from The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous Jazz Age novel. In the passage read by Princess Beatrice, the bride’s sister and maid of honor, the book’s narrator, Nick Carraway, describes being enthralled by the smile of Jay Gatsby:

“He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished—and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.”

Sounds like a great smile indeed! Here’s Princess Beatrice reading the passage:

The problem, as Twitter observers were quick to note, is that Jay Gatsby is a fraud—a man who has managed to insinuate himself into the wealthy, patrician circles of Long Island through his knack for dazzling and flattery.

Bustle leapt to the defense of the royals’ reading choice, saying that during the ceremony, reverend Andrew Connor revealed that “Eugenie had specifically selected the passage because it reminded her of her fiancé and his warm smile.” And yet it’s still fair to suspect that Eugenie hasn’t given Gatsby a close reading lately. Gatsby’s grin smacks of charisma, sure. But the warm feeling Carraway gets is simply a testament to Gatsby’s ability to manipulate others. Gatsby is popular because he follows the No. 1 rule of grifters: If you hold up the world’s most flattering mirror to the people you meet, no one is going to look at you too closely.

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