For many a couple it is a long and winding road to the altar.
For Lord Ivar Mountbatten, a divorced father of three, the path to matrimonial happiness has meant navigating all manner of obstacles that would test the strongest of relationships.
But yesterday, almost exactly two years after coming out as gay, the younger son of the 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven, and cousin of the Queen, was marking the first day of his new life — married to a man.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Lord Ivar and his new love James Coyle exchanged rings and vows in front of 60 family and friends including his three proud daughters.
And the wife he divorced? Why, she gave him away.
Lord Ivar Mountbatten (pictured right) with his new husband James Coyle (pictured left) and former wife Lady Penny Mountbatten (centre)
Never before, surely, has there been a wedding quite like it — the first ever same-sex marriage in the extended Royal Family.
A gospel choir serenaded them, and the toasts from their two best men saw guests raising flutes of Pol Roger, Churchill’s favourite champagne.
Twenty-four years ago, Princess Margaret was among those present at the grandest of ceremonies when Ivar married his wife Penny at the family’s ancestral home in Essex.
There were no royal witnesses for this latest union, solemnised in the private chapel at Bridwell Park — a Grade I-listed mansion near the village of Uffculme in Devon, where Lord and Lady Mountbatten settled and raised their family — and celebrated with a lavish reception in the orangery.
But the goodwill from Ivar’s extended family was flowing. He has received the warmest of congratulations from his lifelong friend Prince Edward, to whose eldest child, Lady Louise, he is godfather.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex , who are also godparents to his two eldest daughters, were unable to be there.
Edward and Sophie knew of their plans but sadly couldn’t come. ‘Their diaries are arranged months in advance and they were not free,’ said Ivar, ‘but they adore James.’
Because Bridwell is used for corporate events and weddings, the date for Ivar and James’s nuptials could not be changed.
Lord Ivar and his new love James Coyle exchanged rings and vows in front of 60 family and friends including his three proud daughters
‘It was the only weekend in the diary when the house was free,’ says James, an airline cabin services director who will return to work today with a long-haul flight to Rio de Janeiro.
The honeymoon to Greece or Croatia — the destination has still to be decided — has been postponed until later in the year.
But like everything that has happened to this stylish couple, who chose matching velvet smoking jackets for their black-tie wedding, it has been managed with a reassuringly unflappable cool.
It wasn’t, of course, all plain sailing. Ivar’s marriage to Penny finally ran out of steam in 2011 when they let it be known that they had drifted apart.
Then, two years ago, he caused a stir when he confessed to having struggled with his sexuality throughout most of that 17-year marriage. In fact, he had known from his teens that he was bisexual.
‘Penny was aware before we got married . . . that my attraction went both ways,’ he said. ‘She was understanding and I will always be grateful to her.’
Lord Ivar confessed to having struggled with sexuality throughout most of his 17- year marriage and had known from his teens that he was bisexual
He finally admitted he was gay after finding contentment with Glasgow-born James, whom he met in 2014 in the upmarket Swiss alpine resort of Verbier, where Ivar and his family have always skied.
The outcome was happier than either man dared hope. Remarkably, the revelation did not destroy Ivar’s relationship with ex-wife Penny but strengthened it.
And when their girls Ella, 22, Alix, 20, and 16-year-old Luli suggested she give their father away, the unconventional idea took root.
The weekend-long events began with a welcome dinner for 30 hosted by the couple on Friday night.
The ceremony itself began on Saturday afternoon, by which time another 30 guests had arrived. None brought gifts. Instead, James and Ivar asked friends to make a donation to Regain, the spinal injury charity.
The chapel at Bridwell, with its twin herds of red and fallow deer grazing in the 140-acre park, was bedecked with flowers.
Nine singers from Bristol’s Teachers Rock gospel choir added another distinctly a la mode touch to the service, which began with Penny escorting her ex-husband up the chapel aisle.
Guests then moved on to the orangery for a dinner of monkfish, and speeches followed by dancing.
So far, so normal — but elsewhere there were some subtle differences from the traditional marriage ceremony. There was no cake to cut but instead a tiered collection of their favourite cheeses. Nor are there plans for either man to change his name.
So why, then, have they decided to marry?
‘I suppose if we had met ten years ago a civil partnership would have been nice, but now that marriage between a man and a man is legal it seems the right thing to do,’ says Lord Ivar.
‘I have had the whole marriage thing — and been very happy — but James hasn’t, so I see it as a validation of my love for him.’
To the surprise of many — including himself, one suspects — Ivar has taken coming out in his stride.
‘Being a Mountbatten was never a problem,’ he said.
The great-great-great grandson of Queen Victoria and great-nephew of Earl Mountbatten of Burma has the photographs to remind him of his place in royal society.
The pictures show him at royal weddings and christenings, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and alongside the Queen on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
In many of them he is pictured with Penny.
Now a new set of photographs is going up in the drawing room — not of master and mistress but of master and master.