In my confused youth I considered myself a rock-solid, zealous republican (in the sense of the word as it represents a political state, not a party affiliation). One who could effortlessly separate my love of monarchical history with righteous repugnance for it as an institution. On
furtheractual reflection, I really do think there is a place for monarchy, particularly a constitutional one. If it came down to it, and they were going to rise up for someone/thing, I’d rather people rose up in support of a generally irrelevant institution that, by virtue of its long-standing existence, traditions and technical political impartiality, could hardly do other than gently nudge the disgruntled populace back together. The reference point for societies is a common identity, and contrary to what was espoused so shrilly in Australia in 1999, I contend that this is exactly what monarchy is, at its core. Say what you will about expense and irrelevance but a constitutional monarchy is a pretty spot-on figurehead antidote to transient, power-grabbing and grubby politicians.
Dude I didn’t even finish my arts degree and I just wrote that sentence. And meant it.
Well anyway, even if that particular line of thought doesn’t pique your interest, might I suggest that knowing the study of monarchical history is my most passionate interest will? No? Well, fuckit, it’s my blog and if I don’t declare it here after all this time then I’m just not being honest. In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know I have a treasured collection of biographies, 1950s reference books, souvenir coronation programs and other husband-perplexing reading material, and op-shop knick-knackery from royal visits.
I, my friends, am a dyed-in-the-wool royalist.
I like chronology, so when I first became interested in the English monarchy I spent time memorising the order of monarchs and then acquiring a very basic understanding of the early kingdoms and their rulers. I delved into the Normans or at least into William the Rufus. Please note it is a complete coincidence that our son is called Rufus William King, not an inappropriate and cruel manifestation of my widely ridiculed obsession with kings and queens (in fact he was named after Rufus T. Firefly from the Marx Brothers’ movie ‘Duck Soup’, if anyone. “Hail Freedonia! No-one’s allowed to smoke! Or tell a dirty joke! And whistling is forbidden! We’re not allowed to tell a dirty joke!”) but we have since, to my surprise, met people who do comment on his overtly and inverted historical name.
In my quest for knowledge I then glossed conveniently onwards until the House of York, pausing at Edward IV because I’m pretty sure I’ve got a mad crush on him. If you can have a crush on a dude who’s been dead for 529 years. The feeling would not have been mutual, anyway. I’ve seen portraits of his wife, Elizabeth Woodville, and she has her hairline plucked halfway back her skull. He liked the forehead. Sadly I have a distinctly low hairline. As you can see, at one point it nearly joins up with my sunglasses.
You win this round, Woodville. Egghead.
The Tudors transfixed me for a long time (the House, not the TV series though all the episodes featuring Henry Cavill as the Duke of Suffolk naturally were quite bewitching). Many a shelf is devoted to books of their letters, events, and notable personages. My pet snake in Australia was called Dr David Starkey after the noted and currently faddish Tudor historian.
For some reason I am almost completely uninterested in the House of Stuart. The Commonwealth during the interregnum likewise fills me with complete apathy. And if I’m perfectly honest, so do the Hanoverians, up to Victoria. So it seems I actually couldn’t give a penn’orth about any British monarch and I really spend my days reading cookbooks.
No, it’s not true. My prime focus these past few years is with the post-Victorian era, the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas and Windsors – those fish-eyed, porphyritic Jutes! Is that treason?
Though by her Diamond Jubilee, she was a hideous crone. Everyone goes on about how fat she was. She did have 9 kids and live in an era where 12-course banquets were considered an informal meal. And she was about 5 foot tall. When you think of it in those terms, forget the Hanoverian – she’s positively Bundchen-ian.
Her letters to her eldest daughter, the Kaiserin Friedrich, contain some of the most hilarious writing I’ve read. Shit about childbirth that had me crying with laughter. And babies looking like frogs. Her admonitions of her daughter until said daughter was in her 60s are astounding. Her references to her husband, maniacal and obsessive and so touching and…I understand. Her full-on judgmentalism yet mad foreign knowledge, impressive.
The next queen (though a consort) is also a favourite of mine – Queen Alexandra. Of course there’s nothing overly redeeming about her, except that she gracefully bore the most caddish husband of recent centuries. By all accounts (and actually there’s hardly an account of her to be had – in fact I’ve only got one biography) she was quite a dunderhead, but made up for it with her charm, common touch and stupendous beauty. She still looked 30 in her 60s. i don’t think any woman in photographic history has ever aged as well, and that’s the truth.
Here she is on her 128th birthday.
Then there’s her daughter-in-law, the much disliked – by me – Queen Mary. I scoff at her imperiousness. She was after all the product of a morganatic marriage. She was the one who told the Queen Mother she couldn’t call her second daughter Anne because there was no precedent. So she called her Margaret. The only other recent royal Margaret I can think of is Margaret “Daisy” Connaught, which hardly makes it a strong historical royal name. Mary appears even in her sympathetic biographies as a boring unfeeling dolt. And no-one can deny her hats were all fucked. This is seriously the only decent one she ever wore.
The pompous dullard.
Here is a much more appealing Mary, almost completely unrelated to the British royal family and thus revealing this to be the post of a limp royal watcher rather than a serious monarchical scholar. (On that note, here is my absolute daily must-read blog: The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor.) How I love his Mary and her wondrous restitution of this already magnificent parure. Jewellery collection notwithstanding, we share an uncanny number of similarities which I’ve detailed before in one of my favourite posts ever.
I posted this today because it’s the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession, which is – frankly – a notable milestone in my sad life. I wish I could be Thames-side on 3 June watching the flotilla.
In the event, I’ll probably just loiter around Sai Kung looking sadly at the old EIIR mailbox and lamenting the retreat of empire.
The Queen in her official Diamond Jubilee portrait, looking majestic. Vivat regina, etc.
So that’s that. No need to unfriend me, you colonial upstarts! I’m still the same person I was before these startling revelations!