leading in the bride

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Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what the phrase "leading in the bride" means in the following sentences:

"They had been to an audience at the Vatican that morning; a blessing for their marriage—I did not follow attentively—something of the kind had happened before, I gathered, some previous husband, some previous Pope. She described, rather vivaciously, how on this earlier occasion she had gone with a whole body of newly married couples, mostly Italians of all ranks, some of the simpler girls in their wedding dresses, and how each had appraised the other, the bridegrooms looking the brides over, comparing their own with one another's, and so forth. Then she said, 'This time, of course, we were in private, but do you know, Lord Marchmain, I felt as though it was I who was leading in the bride.'"

This is an excerpt from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead Flyte and Beryl Muspratt (who was recently widowed) got married and went to the Vatican for their papal marriage blessing. Since Brideshead was the Earl, they got to see the Pope in a private audience (Am I right to interpret the "we were in private" this way?). But Lord Marchmain, Brideshead's father, was unhappy about their marriage because Beryl was past childbearing, from a humble family background, had been married already, and above all, was indecent in her manner towards him during their meeting in Rome. As to the last phrase, Lord Marchmain was greatly shocked by its indelicacy, and wondered whether Beryl intended to play a joke on his son's name (Bride's head) or was referring to his virginity.

But I could not grasp how "leading in the bride" could ever refer to Brideshead's virginity; I must be missing something.
I would very much appreciate your help.
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    No, I think the joke went out of fashion soon after Shakespeare died. Compare Romeo and Juliet, act 1 scene 1.

    SAMPSON ... I will show myself a tyrant: when I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the
    maids, and cut off their heads.
    GREGORY The heads of the maids?
    SAMPSON Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads; take it in what sense thou wilt.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Keith Bradford,

    Thank you for the explanation!
    Without your help, I would have never known that the phrase was referring to the word maidenhead.
    It sure is such an old-fashioned joke. I wonder if anyone would laugh at such a joke these days...
    I truly appreciate your help. :)
     
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