Police sharpshooters patrolled the rooftops, but they couldn't stop the ambush by Fleet Street. When Mark Thatcher, 33-year-old son of the British Prime Minister, wed Texan Diane Burgdorf, 26, in London on Valentine's Day, one tabloid couldn't resist calling attention to Mark's habitual public scowl by labeling the couple "Bride and Gloom."
In contrast to the pageantry of the recent Windsor weddings, this Church of England ceremony (with an assist by the Burgdorfs' Lutheran preacher) took place without fanfare in vest-pocket Queen's Chapel, adjacent to the Savoy Hotel. Unable to find seats, some of the bride's 70 guests were reported to have sat out the ceremony drinking coffee in the Savoy's lounge. Afterward three pool photographers were allowed into the hotel reception. When Mark—not known for his tact or patience in dealing with the press—tried to hurry them along, his mother Margaret interceded. "Stop it, Mark!" commanded the Iron Lady. "These pictures will go all over the world."
The grudge between the press and the man they regard as the sap of the Thatcher family tree has deep roots. In 1981, while Margaret Thatcher was urging the Sultan of Oman to award a British company a $420 million contract to build a new university, Mark went to the country representing the company, which eventually was awarded the contract. When the incident was exposed in 1984, Parliament demanded an explanation. Thatcher stood by her son (who profited on the deal), and refused to apologize.
Mark got no better press in 1980 when he signed a contract with a Japanese textile company to sponsor his race-car driving in return for modeling their clothing—this at a time when 15,000 British textile workers were unemployed. He was forced to drop the Japanese contract In his fitful career as a driver of Porsche and Formula II cars, Mark has not fared much better. He got lost in the Sahara desert during the 1982 Paris-to-Dakar auto rally—a debacle the newspapers haven't let him forget. It took the Algerian and French armies, at a cost of $550,000, to rescue him.
Moving to Texas in 1984—"not least to show how sorry I am for the totally unnecessary aggravation all this business has caused my mother," he told the London Daily Mail—Mark for a time dated Karen Fortson, a Fort Worth oil heiress, who broke off with him later that summer. At a party in October, he met Diane Burgdorf, daughter of Lois and Ted Burgdorf, a wealthy Dallas car dealer. Mark reportedly had started his own "investment company" in Texas. But Diane's brother Douglas says, "I don't have a clear definition of what he does. I think it has something to do with finance." Diane, an A student in high school and a member of the drill team, graduated from Southern Methodist University, where she majored in marketing. Now she works as a bank clerk in Dallas. Her desk is in the lobby, where she handles new accounts and is often the object of curiosity.
Though two of the bride's four brothers declined to attend her nuptials—Darrell, 32, a self-styled outdoorsman, was reported to have gone bass fishing—the tears shed at the chapel were apparently joyous. Diane's brother Douglas, 28, explained that both absent brothers had "jobs to tend to" and the wedding was simply "kind of out of their way." Afterward Mark delivered a witty speech in which he thanked Diane's father for paying for the wedding and said he would try to keep his bride in the manner to which she was accustomed. But, he allowed, he didn't see how he could, since her father had taken back all her credit cards.
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