The Royalist

05.03.14

Lizzy Wilson, The American Heiress Who Brought Harry to Memphis

William and Harry, and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice—plus Elvis! The young Royals have descended on Memphis, with visits to Graceland and boozy partying keeping the paparazzi happy. But they’re really here for their pal Guy Pelly’s marriage to American heiress Lizzy Wilson.

They’ve been to Graceland, and spotted out on the town eating at barbecue joints.

Yes, this weekend, Memphis is playing host to the young British royals—Princes Harry and William, plus Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice—for the wedding of Guy Pelly, the man they used to call their ‘court jester’ for his high-spirited pranks (such as streaking at Prince Charles’s charity polo match), to his bride-to-be Lizzy Wilson.

Pelly, although he has calmed down quite a bit, remains the young Royals’ most favored impresario, and with his regal, and internationally famous friends in town, the family of his bride-to-be have never been so comprehensively outranked in their hometown.

If Memphis had a royal family, steeped in vast wealth, privilege and power, then Lizzy’s people would be it. Locals often talk about Southern hospitality, but the Wilsons are the ones who figured out how to chop up and sell the stuff by the homogenized pound.

For Elizabeth Alleen Wilson is the youngest daughter of Kemmons Wilson, Jr. and the grandson of Kemmons Sr., founder of the Holiday Inn chain of hotels which the family still controls. 

Lizzy attended the University of Virginia, where she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and in 2003, she followed in the footsteps of her two elder sisters and was named Queen of the Memphis Carnival.

She issued a suitably syrupy ‘proclamation’ (sample quote: “I have learned one of life’s most valuable lessons: teamwork. I have gained a true sense of camaraderie with my fellow teammates, I have learned how to compromise; I know now that perseverance and collaboration [continue ad ininitum]…”) to mark the happy occasion of her coronation.

But she is no dizzy blonde: Lizzy subsequently studied at Georgetown, from which august institution she has a master’s degree in art and museum studies. She is sometimes described as ‘sensible’.

In 2002 Lizzy studied overseas, landing in Avignon, France. It was the beginning of a love-affair with Europe which saw the willowy American travel frequently to Europe—twice as a performer in productions at the Edinburgh festival in Scotland.

She eventually moved to London full time.

Lizzy and Pelly only met at a friend’s party last year. Given her reputation as level-headed, its probably just as well she didn’t know him when he was the nightclub promoter in chief, with a string of Chelsea clubs which became the young royals’ playgrounds in the late noughties.

In August, Guy and Lizzy went on a romantic holiday to Greece and Ibiza, which was seen at the time as a sign that things were getting more serious, and in December, on a ‘meet the parents’ visit to her home in Tennessee, Guy asked for her parent’s permission to take their daughter’s hand in marriage—and then popped the question.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said at the time, and told one newspaper, “I have calmed down quite a bit socially and I love babies.”

Since then, Lizzy has been quickly welcomed into the fold by London’s young society set, and counts Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie as pals. In December she was invited to the wedding of Jake Warren (one of Princess Diana’s godchildren) and his wife Zoe (nee Stewart). And Lizzy must have supreme patience, and a dry sense of humor, because on one of the most special days of her life, the world’s media are watching—just not her.