Wednesday, April 27, 2011

 

Economist Flirts with 'Republicanism'

Sorry to have neglected blogging for last few days but have been in Cork on a short holiday visiting an old university friend, Noel. I think it would be fair to say that, unlike USA, Ireland is not on tenterhooks of anticipation regarding the royal wedding. Our newspapers and other media seem to have done their usual lose control thing and become totally obsessed with even the smallest item- who has been invited, who snubbed, what Dave will wear and should he, as well as acres of newsprint on the gorgeous commoner and the hugely handsome and all round gorgeous William.

Evidence of dissenting views have been limited to the letters pages for the most psrt, with carping criticism about extravagance during these straightened times. Yet, as I understand it from one point of view, the gilded spectacle is supposed to be functional. It is supposed to uplift our feelings, raise our jaded morale, and make us proud to be British. So very odd then to find The Economist's heavyweight columnist, Bagehot, sounding a critical note, pointing out that:

opinion polls [are] saying that barely a half of the British are interested in the wedding, and only a third are certain to watch it on television. Councils report a north-south divide in applications to hold street parties—and far fewer overall than when Prince William’s parents wed in 1981.

Bagehot suggests we are all wiser about royal weddings, their suspect compatibility and limited longevities. Bagehot suggests the royal couple will thrive if they manage to be the kind of 'unicorn or mythical beast' who is to some extent, like the Queen removed from the real world. If they appear to join their own real world they will be seen to be among:

what remains of the landed upper classes: a life of moors and deer-stalking, of summers under Scottish rain, dogs and horses, the church, the armed forces, the same few boarding schools and the right sort of nightclubs. That is more perilous territory: the British, in the main, dislike such people.

At present Bagehot thinks William is closer to 'royal unicorn' mode and suggests he should avoid any contact with the toxic British class system or any of that 'nonsense':

Give the British a reason to resent each other, and they will seize it with gusto. Prince William’s mother used the royal family’s fustiness as a weapon in her war against them; that marital fight ruined lives. By the time of its tragic ending, the British public were left queasy, cynical and divided. Miss Middleton may well be a fine person, but if her life’s journey pinpoints Prince William’s place in society too closely, she could end up harming him. Class shows up Britain at its worst. For the sake of the country, but also as an act of kindness, pension the royals off. Time for compassionate republicanism: it might be the best wedding present the young couple could have.

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