What loving father would begrudge a paltry £700 million (it’s a more round number in US dollars) for his beloved son’s wedding?
One possible answer to this question is the kind of father who doesn’t have that much loose cash jangling in his pocket. Another answer is the kind of father who, though one of the world’s richest men, has the good taste to eschew vulgar displays.
Mikhail Gutseriev, the Russian-Kazakh oil billionaire (for those of you whose Russian is rusty, ‘oil billionaire’ means ‘gangster’) doesn’t fall into either of those categories. That’s why he did spend that rather extravagant amount on the Moscow nuptials of his son Said and the love of his young life.
Said, who now works for Daddy, was educated at Harrow and Oxford, so one would have thought that, along with whatever academic disciplines they teach there, he would have picked up the rudiments of good taste. (A note to Said: they lied to you, son. ‘If you got it, flaunt it’ isn’t what taste is all about.)
Such an expectation would reveal a rather romantic, and certainly dated, notion of our elite educational institutions. For they don’t teach good taste any longer. I’m not even sure what kind of academic disciplines they teach, or how well, an uncertainty bolstered every time I come in contact with recent alumni.
So our Kazakh Harrovian went along with the style and scale of the festivities. Every guest, and there were many, was picked up in a Rolls Royce limousine, the wedding cake was taller and wider than any guest, which last dimension was no mean feat at a Russian wedding.
The entertainment was provided by such A-listers as Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias and our own Sting, who weren’t above picking up a few quick million for a 20-minute gig. I’m not familiar with the numbers they performed, but I’m sure that, to match the event, they were in impeccable taste.
The blushing bride needed help walking down the aisle, or whatever Russo-Kazakh newlyweds walk down, because her wedding dress weighed two stone (28 pounds or 12.7 kilos for the outlanders among you). Then again, the jewels with which the dress was embellished are known to be heavy.
In case any of the neighbours were unaware of the event or its cosmic significance, the celebrations were crowned by mighty fireworks, reminiscent of those commemorating such other events of cosmic significance as the anniversary of the Bolshevik coup on 7 November.
Far be it from me to tell the Gutsurievs how to spend their plundered wealth. I’m no expert in that sort of thing myself, not possessing any wealth, plundered or otherwise. I do know something about history and on that basis could perhaps offer a bit of avuncular advice to the young Harrovian.
Son, did they teach you history at all? If so, you must have heard of the French Revolution, when the wealthy classes were culled en masse. However, the English wealthy classes not only survived their own earlier revolution, but actually prospered even more soon thereafter?
Do you know why that was? One reason was that the English didn’t flaunt what they had, and the French did.
How do you think your own countrymen feel, son, when they watch, nose to the window, that kind of display? This in a place where pensioners starve, 28 million people live under the poverty level of £175 a month and qualified medical care is available only for the rich?
In the land of Jennifer Lopez and, at a pinch, of Sting, most people are still comfortable enough not to let other people’s wealth rankle too much. In Russia, just take my word for it, resentment builds up, like pressure in a boiler.
One day it’ll splash out and then… Said, my old son, you and your ilk will be dreaming of the guillotine as a great mercy. I’m not going to mar your honeymoon with graphic details, but (when you have a break from your conjugal duties) Google ‘impaling’ or ‘flailing alive’ and you’ll get the general idea.
And now to the really important news. Apparently the income gap between the rich and the poor in England is still alarmingly high. What we need to sort things out is a real leader, like a certain KGB lieutenant-colonel.