Proud mum Sarah Ferguson read a romantic poem in front of family and close friends as her daughter Princess Beatrice married property tycoon Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Published almost 70 years ago, “I carry your heart with me” is one of American Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings’ best known love poems, and many couples have used it to express their feelings for each other.
Mr Mapelli Mozzi posted the words on social media, along with photos of the happy couple on their big day.
It is read out at wedding ceremonies around the world and printed on everything from posters to throw pillows, but there is a scandalous truth behind the poem and the author.
Cummings’ first love, a Parisian prostitute he met during World War I, was his early inspiration, and previously unpublished letters show him writing with the kind of passion that gave him worldwide fame later in life.
Then 22, Cummings encountered sex worker Marie Louise Lallemand in the French capital in 1917, although details of their first meeting aren’t exactly clear.
In his poem Little Ladies, the thrice married writer described her as “the putain with the ivory throat”. Putain is a French word for “whore” or “prostitute”.
Letters they wrote to each other while Cummings was on the frontline of the war in France are now held at the Houghton Library at Harvard University in the US.
They suggest the pair were deeply in love.
In one letter, Cummings told Lallemand: “Darling, Marie Louise, you who are more to me than the scarlet poppies which are mown, more than the yellowing evenings which we see die, more than the silence full of stars, the completely white silence of night, only awaiting dawn, – take the kiss which I give you, that kiss, without value, because it comes from a soul which loves you.”
Cummings, who had volunteered as an ambulance driver, wanted to have sex with her, but he was terrified of catching venereal disease because he couldn’t face the shame, the Daily Mail’s Christopher Stevens wrote.
Lallemand wrote in one of her letters “I love you, I love you”, and described her fears that he would forget her like the other men in her life had done, the Observer reported.
She wrote: “I have suffered much all my life … It’s always been men; never mind, it makes no difference.”
Alison Rosenblitt, who has written a Cummings biography, said the relationship between Cummings and Lallemand was handled “very dismissively” by previous research.
She suspects it was due to “prejudices about sex workers”.
She told the Observer the letters show a “very tender and poignant story”, adding: “Throughout his letters to Marie Louise, he says again and again how kind she has been, and how he is cruel.
“He transmits his own fear that he did not know how to be a lover. But more deeply, his persistent fear that he was cruel held him back from opening himself up fully to her.”
When Cummings returned to Paris from the frontline he searched for Lallemand but was unable to find her.
Before he left France and arrived home in the US on New Year’s Day in 1918, Cummings sent a final letter to his muse Lallemand, begging to meet her.
He wrote: “If you think that I have forgotten the days and nights that we spent together, then you are mistaken.”
He never received a response.
Later in life, the avant-garde poet was known for writing erotic poems, bringing him many female fans.
He stirred up controversy with poems that contained racial slurs, and he was accused of being a racist. But he insisted on using the ethnic slurs, saying the poems were commenting on prejudice and not condoning it.
Cummings died aged 67 in 1962.