Jim Ross, Associated Press
LONDON — A hint of autumnal Beatlemania was in the air Sunday as Paul McCartney — for the second time in his improbable life — climbed the steps of Old Marylebone Town Hall to get married.
True, thousands of heartbroken female fans crowded the venerable registry office in 1969 when he married Linda Eastman and only a few hundred showed up Sunday as he wed American Nancy Shevell. But the feeling this time was not regret at the loss of a bachelor heartthrob. Instead there was joy that McCartney, regarded as a national treasure, seemed happy again.
McCartney shared his joy with the crowd, raising his bride's hand in triumph as he walked down the steps after they became husband and wife at a simple civil ceremony attended by close family and friends, including drummer Ringo Starr and TV journalist Barbara Walters, a second cousin of the bride.
"I feel absolutely wonderful," McCartney told fans as he arrived back at his house after the ceremony.
Gone was the memory of McCartney's terribly unhappy marriage to model Heather Mills, which ended in 2008 in an ugly public divorce. Instead, the venue brought back memories of his marriage to Eastman, a serene union that lasted nearly three decades until Eastman's life was cut short by breast cancer.
The wedding ceremony Sunday afternoon was everything his wedding to Mills was not: simple, understated, almost matter-of-fact. By contrast, McCartney and Mills married in an over-the-top lavish ceremony at a remote Irish castle that was disrupted several times by news helicopters flying overhead hoping for a glimpse of the A-list guests.
Shevell, 51, appeared radiant and composed in an elegant, ivory gown cut just above the knee. She wore a white flower in her long dark hair, and only light makeup and lipstick.
The dress was designed by McCartney's daughter, Stella, a star in the fashion world who also helped concoct the three-course vegetarian feast served to guests at the reception at McCartney's house in St. John's Wood, a property he bought in 1965, when the Beatles were regularly topping the charts.
McCartney, who has casually admitted to tinting his hair to keep out the gray, looked youthful in a well-cut blue suit and pale blue, skinny tie.
The affection — and confetti — showered on McCartney and his bride after the ceremony captured his particular place in British life.
Long gone are the days when the Beatles divided Britain between young and old, or between hippies and squares — the band is revered as part of a glorious musical and cultural era when Britain seemed a more confident place. There was no controversy when McCartney received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
Today Sir Paul — or Macca, as he's usually known — is revered as a musical legend who is still composing and releasing CDs, even if they no longer routinely shoot to number one on the charts. His forays into opera, ballet, painting and poetry have not been critical successes, but none of these have tarnished his reputation.
He is credited for having survived a number of tragedies — the 1980 murder of one-time songwriting partner John Lennon, the loss of his beloved first wife to illness, the 2001 death of guitarist George Harrison, and then the public breakdown of his marriage to Mills — with his upbeat nature intact.
Mills, a much younger model who had lost part of her leg when she was hit by a motorcycle, tried to battle McCartney in the court of public opinion during their divorce. She accused him of cruelty and sought a gargantuan $250 million settlement.
But her charges against McCartney didn't stick and the divorce court judge ruled against her, calling her demands exorbitant and unfair.
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