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Tony Grist

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Monarchy [Oct. 24th, 2004|10:33 am]
Tony Grist
Prince Harry comes out of a night club. The paparazzi mob him. He lunges at one and cuts the man's lip. Pictures are published showing a red-faced prince being restrained by his bodyguards. Oh dear!

He is driven away with his head buried in his hands.

The British monarchy has had its good times and its bad times. This is one of the worst. Ever since the death of Princess Di the family has been under close and hostile scrutiny.

This very bad patch follows a very good patch. From about 1890 to 1970 the royals were a national asset. Though practically powerless they embodied the national myth. Their strength as symbols depended upon the rest of us knowing very little about them as people. And this depended upon the media keeping us ill-informed or- in other words- failing to do its job.

When I was a kid the Queen was a woman in fancy dress with a porcelain complexion who appeared on biscuit tins. She was only marginally more real than the tooth fairy. The adults around me talked of her as if she and Jesus were closely related.

And now the media intrudes and the Royals are hunted like foxes. The Queen is a sour faced old lady with an inexplicable taste in hats. She has managed to preserve a little of her aloofness, but the rest of her family have been pitilessly exposed as dim, sulky, arrogant and out of touch. Charles is widely despised and hated for the way he treated his wife. Even those who don’t hate him think he’s a bit of a clown.

They’ve been told they must change- preferably by going down the Scandinavian route and exchanging the coaches and limousines for bicycles and bus passes. But they don’t and they won’t. There’s no very strong public appetite for getting rid of them, so the show seems set to limp on and on.

More yobbishness outside night-clubs, more tabloid exposes, more butlers’ tales.

More low-grade entertainment.

Who does it serve and what’s the point?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sorenr
2004-10-24 10:22 am (UTC)
I think the Scandinavian royalty has an advantage, not only through its down-to-earth appearence, but also through their very limited budgets. At least in Denmark the royal family is a bit like a glammed-up version of the rest of us; when the crown prince got married they had to have the wedding dinner in a tent in the back-yard, since they didn't have room enough in the house / palace... -That's just what we did for my 25th birthday party!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 10:36 am (UTC)
Yes- I could cope with that sort of monarchy. Our problem is that we can't let go of our idea of ourselves as an Imperial Nation.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2004-10-24 10:41 am (UTC)
Yes... It is not so long ago that the last British empress died, after all... Was it 2002 she kicked the bucket?

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 11:19 am (UTC)
Of course. The last Empress of India.

And she was a star. I didn't like her style much, but she had the ability to razzle-dazzle a crowd- an ability that wasn't passed down to her daughter.

For one thing she knew how to smile.

Gosh, it's not that difficult- but the present Queen has been in the job for over fifty years and she still hasn't mastered it.
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[User Picture]From: pickwick
2004-10-24 10:44 am (UTC)
I quite like Charles, purely on the grounds he's managed to develop a personality of his own despite being totally detached from everyday life for all of his life. It might be a slightly odd personality, but the rest of them are all a bit identikit.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 11:21 am (UTC)
I know what you mean. But I'd find the upper-class twitishness more appealing if I didn't know how cruel, callous, selfish and self-regarding he was underneath.
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From: archyena
2004-10-24 11:11 am (UTC)
I think I could deal with a royalty if it didn't have any wealth, etc. I've seen the Scandinavians, they seem to have the celebrity pull of a moderately wealthy do-gooder as opposed to the British monarchs and their massive palaces and a cruise ship they like to call a "yacht." Frankly, anyone who is the essence of what gets published in Conde Nast magazines makes me red-faced with anger.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 11:24 am (UTC)
And they just won't let go of that life style.

Charles insisted on initiating his sons into blood sports in spite of the opposition of their mother and the revulsion of the majority of British people.

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From: archyena
2004-10-24 11:36 am (UTC)
Charles simply infuriates me. He just does, I hate every inch of the man right down to that ugly face of his, I just want to see him murdered, brutally and painfully. You know he's got a line of furniture, McIntosh-meets-some-dumb-crap-I-made-up-but-you'll-buy-it-anyway-because-I'm-the-Prince-of-bloody-fucking-Wales, that I absolutely despise. It's objectively dumb furniture, and it makes me angry because I put a hand in furniture design once and drew back a bloody stump. But no... yeah... I hate the man, I fear that I may run into him someday and then be arrested for murder most heinous. I mean it, in some ways he's worse than Hitler. That German chap at least had the good sense to commit suicide.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 11:55 am (UTC)
I didn't know about the furniture.

But I understand he does a classy line in full-butter cookies.

I've lived with Charles all my life. He's a year or two older than me- so his life has paralleled mine, always lollopping a step or two ahead. There are times when I've felt sorry for him and times when I've admired him and times when I've hated him almost as much as you do.

Now I wish he'd just go away.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-10-24 01:38 pm (UTC)
Ah, but see, the Scandinavian royalty is just the same--at least what I saw when I was in Sweden. It's just that the Aftonbladet doesn't get out of the country too much.

I remember when I was in Stockholm I was out clubbing with my ex-fiance when suddenly a girl about our age burst forth from a bar, fell flat on her face in the street before us and then vomited all over the sidewalk.

I was somewhat intoxicated and could not refrain from a very American exclamation of, "Ew! Oh my god! That is so disgusting! You almost got my shoe--yuck!" Magnus stood in place stunned as the girl looked up from the puddle. Slowly, he made some kind of an awkward bow and just then a mob of people rushed out of the establishment and took the girl away into a car.

"Do you know her?" I asked him.
"That was Princess Madeline." He replied.
And I was like, "whoops."

Of the two princess, Madeline is far the wilder. Victoria is considered a total bore and Prince Carl Philip is really without much merit other than a somewhat comely, if a little lost countenance.

I recall at one point there was a huge scandal about the inappropriate manner in which Queen Silvia always dressed. At one point, the fact that she bore her midrift made national headlines--outrageous! Not to mention the time king Gustaf mispelled his own name!

Royals always have something of a reputation no matter where you go!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 02:01 pm (UTC)
A king who can't spell his own name- how wonderful!

The latest gossip about Harry (apart from the nighclub fracas) is that he was "helped" to pass his exams. A teacher is suing Eton for unfair dismissal and it came out in the wash that she had written most of Harry's course-work for him.

Monarchy only works when it keeps at a distance. There has to be magic- even though it's only conjuring tricks. Once we find out about the cheating at exams and the falling over drunk in the street the game's up.

Monarchy is incompatible with the modern media.
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[User Picture]From: cybersofa
2004-10-24 03:43 pm (UTC)
I think a bit of cherchez la femme is in order here. After all, in order to sue for unfair dismissal it is first necessary to have been dismissed - not something that an employer undertakes lightly in this day and age.

It's been asserted by this book's author that all teachers "revise" pupils' coursework. Blame league tables, coursework assessment instead of exams, and the fact that apparently you need an A-level even to get into Army school these days (though history of art will do). I think Harry is not so much a cheat, as the victim of a blackmailing bitch who's in cahoots with Max Clifford.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 04:20 pm (UTC)
I've no idea what it takes to be a good army officer, but I doubt whether the ability to pass Art "A" level is much indication of whether you have it or not.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-10-24 09:43 pm (UTC)
Monarchy only works when it keeps at a distance. There has to be magic- even though it's only conjuring tricks. Once we find out about the cheating at exams and the falling over drunk in the street the game's up.


Beautifully said.

When a child, I went with my mother to see the movie of Elizabeth's recent coronation, and I thought she was so beautiful, and that the coronation was like being at church. It certainly made our noisy conventions and boring inauguration ceremonies seem shabby by comparison.

I wonder if the monarchy will last much longer? As you say, no one seems to be pushing hard to end it. But I understand that J.K. Rowling now has more money than the Queen.

My [uniformed and ignorant] guess is that the monarchy probably won't last another 100 years. But, then, neither may the Presidency.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 10:03 pm (UTC)
They may not be cash rich, but they have huge amounts of land. Prince Charles, I believe, owns most of Cornwall.

I don't think they'll last a hundred years, but you never can tell. All it needs is a charismatic monarch to step into the breach and the institution will be safeguarded for several more generations. The monarchy was at a very low ebb (probably lower than it is today) at the beginning of the 19th century. George IV was hated and despised, William IV was a nonentity- and then along came Queen Victoria!
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-10-24 10:33 pm (UTC)
You are absolutely right. You should copyright that, "Monarchy is incompatible with the modern media." It really, really is. You should write a book advising the royal family immediately.

No, wait. Look what happened to Machiavelli.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 10:42 pm (UTC)
What did happen to Machiavelli?

Was it very horrid?
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-10-24 11:28 pm (UTC)
He wrote The Prince as a letter of suggestions to Lorenzo de Medici and let's just say that this book, which some consider one of the the greatest treatises on politics and life, enraged the monarch so that ... yeah, it was kind of horrible.
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[User Picture]From: cybersofa
2004-10-24 03:43 pm (UTC)
It's the newspaper proprietors, not the Palace, who have decided that Sandhurst isn't education, and therefore the gentlemen's (!) agreement that still protects his elder brother against the paps' frightful intrusion is no longer valid in young H's case.

If Harry is now fair game for the red tops, then sauce for the goose, I reckon. Go Harry go! He'll never avenge his mother's death but I wish him joy in trying.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 04:29 pm (UTC)
I'm just tired of the whole thing. It's a game that demeans everyone involved- the royal family, the media and we the subjects/spectators.

I don't see the paparazzi (frightful as they are) as guilty of Harry's mother's death. I think it was probably just an accident (though I have been known to toy with the idea that Charles dunnit.)
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[User Picture]From: qos
2004-10-24 03:56 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that William is going to be the first truly modern (post-modern?) monarch, and he has been heavily influenced by his mother. Wouldn't it be the ultimate revenge if he ascended the throne and then either radically revised the show -- or abolished it all together? (If indeed any one monarch has the power to abolish it??)

As for Charles, I haven't trusted him since the Barbara Walters(?) interview he did with Diana before their wedding. Walters asked him "Are you in love?" and he replied, "What is love?" I was all of seventeen or so, and had bought into the "fairy tale wedding" gloss with all my romantic soul, but in that moment I knew the marriage was not a good idea. And I always thought he was a cad and a coward for not either being ruthlessly honest (preferrably with Diana before they got in front of the cameras together) or a more gallant gentleman.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-24 04:35 pm (UTC)
Charles's treatment of Diana was utterly disgusting.

William may be the last hope of the monarchy. But he could be middle-aged or even elderly before he comes to the throne. What is needed is a complete overhaul of the system now.

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[User Picture]From: kaysho
2004-10-25 07:01 pm (UTC)
Well, as 1688 established, Parliament has the right to declare the throne vacant and offer the crown to someone else. But to whom? And can you imagine the mess trying to dispose of all the royal lands?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-25 07:45 pm (UTC)
In G.K. Chesterton's Napoleon of Notting Hill the monarch is chosen by national lottery. I've always thought that was a pretty good idea.

I'm not altogether joking- and neither, I think, was GKC.


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[User Picture]From: kaysho
2004-10-26 01:33 am (UTC)
Well, if the National Lottery has been having trouble selling tickets, it would be a unique prize for six out of six ... :)
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