Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Not Interested in a Celebrity Monarchy

I'm going to part ways with the Young Fogey who took in a live performance of the Diana Concert and afterwards had this to say:

It is clear to me that the new generation of royals are in the process of forging a completely new and special relationship with the people, much as Victoria and Albert refashioned the Monarchy in the 19th century. To remain relevant institutions must evolve. The change we are now witnessing is necessary. It is also fascinating to watch.

It is also worrisome to contemplate. I'm not sure what to exactly make of that other than a lot of young and not much fogey. There is of course merit and truth to what he says, but let us be frank about the dangers of attempting to remain relevant with the luminaries of popular culture. A monarchy that is indistinguishable from the cult of celebrity is not the future face I want to see imprinted on the Crown of tomorrow. If the British Monarchy sheds its serious side, if it confuses pomp and pageantry with party party party, if it becomes something akin to the playboy prince of Monaco, then that is something I don't want to be associated with. More important than being above politics I think, is being above celebrity. Monarchy must be especially careful at keeping its distance.


Theodore Harvey said...

And what is the alternative? Watching the Concert for Diana, I couldn't help but think that it is probably good for the monarchy that Princes William and Harry are so much more modern than I am. The only part I really liked was the English National Ballet doing Act IV of Swan Lake. Would a young prince with my unfashionable tastes be as popular with the next generation? I would rather have a monarchy that blurs that line between royalty and celebrity than no monarchy at all.

I don't think Princes William and Harry have any intention of eliminating the monarchy's "serious side" completely. Remember that the upcoming memorial service on August 31 will be a more traditional sort of event.

Griffith said...

I think you have a point but I don't think the problem is as bad as you might think. This was a one off event, if they become regular thing then yes we have a problem.

Bernie Quigley said...

Will there be an American Idol contest for the next Queen? Monarchy should find that which is noble and true and ineffible in the essense of us and hold it guarded and true. It lives in a Deeper Time and perhaps an Immortal Time and protects the essense from the waves of common time and the vississitudes of the passing storms and fancies - in the East that essense is called Dharma. Anarchy is the opposite of Monarchy, anarchy in political or cultural forms attempts to territorialized that noble essense and destroy it.

Young Fogey said...

I fear Beaverbrook has read far too much into the quoted paragraph and risks associating me with views which I certainly do not hold.

Theodore Harvey has succinctly reflected my own view but let me comment further.

I do not approve of the cult of celebrity (last year I was invited to participate as a panelist in a televised debate on the subject of celebrity culture and I railed against society's fixation with vacuous non-entities) and do not want my Monarchy to fall into the "Cool Britannia" trap -- pray let us never see celebrities feted at Buckingham Palace as they were once feted at 10 Downing Street.

However, whilst I am a staunch traditionalist I am also a realist. Some traditionalists are opposed to all change and will not countenance the slightest compromise. I certainly understand this position and, indeed, I have demonstrated my own intransigence on a great many issues (House of Lords, arcane rules of heraldry, noble genealogical proofs for admission to orders of chivalry, fox hunting, the Canadian Crown etc. etc.). Nevertheless, I am reminded that history shows us that steadfast refusal to compromise has often led to the destruction of the very institutions which traditionalists have sought to maintain.

It is my belief that a sensible traditionalist is one who, having stood firm and fought the good fight, is able to recognise when the time for compromise has arrived. It is far better to deal with limited concessions early on than to ignore the realities of the day only to find oneself faced with demands for wholly unacceptable concessions later on.

None of this means that I desire a trend-setting, cutting-edge Monarchy. Far from it. I think it unwise for Monarchy to involve itself too closely with trends and fashions. I was aghast, for example, when footage was released of Prince William cleaning a bathroom in Chile. Ditto the first time I saw footage of the Prince of Wales with the Spice Girls. [In truth, I wish that the clock could be turned back to an age when all reverenced the Monarchy unquestioningly.]

I simply realise that much as Victoria and Albert tried to "re-brand" the Monarchy in the 19th century, attaching it to middle class values of Family and morality, and much as Edward VII created or revived much of the pomp and pageantry which we today enjoy (to reflect Britain's self-assured status as an Imperial superpower), so too must our modern monarchy adapt to reflect the continued and natural evolution of society. To resist change is to be wilfully ignorant of the Monarchy's own history of change.

None of this means that I want to see the slightest reduction in our historic traditions. I do not want to see an end to the traditional Christian Coronation, the State Opening of Parliament, Swan Upping, the Garter Ceremony, presentation of letters of credence, investitures, the Maundy Service, the Ceremony of the Keys or any of the many other great ceremonies which I research, relish and try to attend (far more than anyone I know!).

If any of these royal ceremonies, or any of the Sovereign's royal powers, are challenged I shall take up the gauntlet as the Queen's Champion.

However I believe that these traditions can continue to run in parallel with any new relationship that the Monarchy forges with the next generation. Certainly, whatever the view of the chattering classes, I do not see any great opposition to these traditions by the general public (on the contrary, the public enjoy and respect these traditions as important parts of our national heritage). What I do see, is a public that has embraced TRH Princes William and Harry; and the dynamic between the princes and the public contains an energy the likes of which I have never seen before. These two princes have connected with segments of society which traditionally had little interest in the Monarchy. This offers the Monarchy remarkable potential and I believe that the Royal Household is attempting to capitalise on this.

By pure coincidence I was re-reading Bagheot last night, in particular the essay on Monarchy which contains his famous quotation: "We must not let daylight in upon magic". I still believe that secrecy and mystery are the keys to Monarchy. However over the last 15 years daylight has penetrated our Monarchy and some magic has evaporated. We must acknowledge this and do our best with the situation we have.

And, lest you still retain any doubt as to my credentials as a "young fogey" let me simply cite two examples from the concert:

1. I began my commentary for Canadian television by wishing all Canadians a "Happy Dominion Day".

2. I had heard of Elton John, Tom Jones and Rod Stewart but I still have no idea who most of the other "superstars" were!

Matt Bondy said...


Matt Bondy said...

Looks like I'll have to break up the link.

Let's try that.

Beaverbrook said...

This is what I was waiting to hear. The credentials of the Young Fogey remain beyond dispute. For the record, I was not against the Diana Concert - but it did forshadow that we need to be concerned about the consequences that celebrity entertainment and mass media will have on the institution of monarchy in the years to come. The mystery and mystic of monarchy may be hopelessly lost forever in the age of mass media, but it should strive to maintain and carve out dignified rules of engagement, such as not regularly cavorting around in public with the famous and being seen at their parties in the tabloid press. It's not going to be easy.