Badminton winner marries long-term fiancé in surprise wedding

Piggy French married her long-time fiancé Thomas March yesterday (26 June) in a “surprise wedding” disguised as a party to celebrate her Badminton win last month.

Guests – who included the likes of William Fox-Pitt, Pippa and William Funnell, Tina Cook, Ros Canter, Harry Meade, Tom McEwen, Gemma Tattersall and Kitty King, as well as owners, family and childhood friends of the pair – were invited to Piggy’s Maidwell yard at “2pm prompt.”

No mention was made of nuptials, although those who suspected something might be up made sure they were suitably attired.

After a drinks reception and canapés in a beautifully decorated marquee overlooking the surrounding Northamptonshire countryside, with the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials trophy of three silver horses proudly displayed, Piggy made an emotional and very funny speech.

She read out some of the letters Mary King had written to her in response to the letters Piggy sent her as a child, as referred to in H&H’s 135th birthday issue (20 June), and lamented the fact that Mary, sadly, had been unable to attend.

She thanked her Badminton winner Vanir Kamira’s owner Trevor Dickens and presented him with a framed set of photos of the CCI5* (previously CCI4*) victory, and paid tribute to all her owners, past and present, and to David and Belinda Keir, her landlords at Maidwell Lodge Farm.

To loud cheers and whistles, Piggy then announced that she and Thomas were getting married – and two double-decker buses arrived to take the delighted guests to the local church, St Mary the Virgin in Maidwell.

The wedding was conducted by the Very Revered Christopher Armstrong, whose sermon focused on the importance of timing and referred in passing to the fortuitous timing of Thomas arriving as a working pupil at Piggy’s yard in 2012.

Piggy’s elder twin sisters, Nini and Anna, gave readings from Winnie the Pooh and Ecclesiastes.

The bridal party also included bridesmaids Holly Campbell, Dizie Woodhouse and Piggy’s nieces Evie and Lottie Hood, Piggy and Thomas’s three-year-old son Max – who munched crisps contentedly throughout the service – and best man Tommy How.

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The double-decker buses then took guests back to Maidwell Lodge Farm for supper, speeches by Piggy’s father Wally French and Thomas, and dancing.

The occasion was largely organised – in just five weeks – by Sara Fowler, Piggy’s friend and former PA, and it is a tribute to the affection and high esteem with Piggy is held by her fellow riders that so many of them made the effort to attend in the middle of such a busy time.

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