Princess KateHilary Mantel, the prize-winning English novelist who certainly can write up a storm in her books (and whose tongue is as sharp as her pen, that is to say, razor sharp), ignited another kind of storm yesterday over in England when she was revealed to have said of beautiful pregnant British Princess Kate (that’s the princess at left, no one would ever accuse Ms. Mantel of being beautiful):

“Kate seems to have been selected for her role of princess because she was irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character. She appears precision-made, machine-made, so different from Diana whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture.”

She characterized the former Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, as “plastic”, as a “breeding machine.” Oh, the uproar!  I took the time to click on the link to the very long lecture by Mantel from which the inflammatory sentences were abstracted, and found instead of pop scandal, a treatise on royalty far more nuanced and complex than the sensational headlines. Why should I have been surprised? (Here’s the link to the lecture. Those interested in the question of monarchy and history and roles of women will find it long but interesting. As I said, the woman can write up a storm.)

The reason I’m telling you all this is twofold. First, Downton Abbey finished off Season 3 this week by finishing off Matthew, eldest daughter Lady Mary’s divinely understanding husband, in a car crash. Fortunately Matthew was in a state of bliss at the time because his first child, son and heir to Downton Abbey (talk about relevant headlines) had just been born. Now that Matthew/Dan Stevens has departed for a better world (in Hollywood? on Broadway? at Ealing Studios?) next season’s plot certainly will have to deal with the changing role of Lady Mary in a changing world for the aristocracy. Talk about relevance!

And second, I think that aggression and ill-nature (if it was in fact ill-nature that prompted Ms. Mantel’s remarks), is contagious. So I hope that explains the ill-natured comment I’m about to make about Lord Grantham, the lord and heir of Downton Abbey. Hugh Bonneville, the actor who portrays Lord Grantham, is very much an imposing lordly presence. Sometimes he is an exceedingly imposing presence. His presence, as it were, runneth over. So much so that I find myself thinking of him (in the privacy of my own mind, of course) as the Larded Gentry.

Like Master, Like Man

I don’t mean to be unkind, but Lord Grantham appears to be about three feet wide in his sausage-tight old Army uniform. Carson, the butler, also appears to be stuffed. A perfect example, it seems to me, of an old adage: Like master, like man.

Well, we in the USA don’t have royals. We have to roll up pomp and power and riches all in a single package, where England gets to divide them up. Sometimes I think that more is merrier, or perhaps even useful; that having royalty can be an advantage. What about you, my friends? Some of you are American, many are from other countries. What do you think about the institution of royals?

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22 Responses to UNTITLED

  1. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I’m British but I don’t feel strongly either way. I do think Ms Mantel has made a big mistake though, she should keep her thoughts to herself and use them to create characters instead.


  2. coastalcrone says:

    I enjoy Downton Abbey. We treat our President and family rather like royalty at times.


  3. mybrightlife says:

    Was about to comment on your movie stars and the royal like treatment that they receive but then you beat me to it! At this rate I am going to have to go out and purchase a TV just so that I can familiarise myself with Downton Abbey. It is hard to imagine England without The Royals!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Very true! The pageantry of it all is so closely associated with England! And I do think Americans love it vicariously as well.
      (No rush on the TV set, season 4 isn’t due till next fall or later.)


  4. mybrightlife says:

    Cool title for your post!


  5. I agree with you about how we treat our movie stars and I would throw athletes into the pot, as well. I would love to have royals. I think the institution of royals allows the government to be truly that…….government and the royal “branch” then has the other responsibilities of hosting dignitaries, public and charitable service and strengthening national unity.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      That’s certainly an argument for the advantage of “royals”: to take off social and public pressure, and let government spend its time governing.
      (I forgot about the adulation of athletes, Emil.)


  6. rebekah says:

    I think perhaps she missed a good opportunity to shut up.

    I’m even more for the monarchy, now that I no longer live in Sweden. Many people are against it there, and they complain that their hard-earned tax money goes to support them … the equivalent of perhaps $10 per year or so.

    I think Tin Man here above makes a good point.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      In St. Johns you still have a monarch, non? Queen Elizabeth is still Queen in Canada (or else I’m asleep at the switch)?
      I’ve seen many pictures of Danish royalty, even seen the castle when I was there, but I’ve never been in Sweden and know nothing about your royals. (They’re still yours, Rebekah, as long as you want them to be.)


      • rebekah says:

        Queen Elizabeth is still Queen, and here is Saint John, New Brunswick. St. John’s is in Newfoundland 🙂
        Oh yes, they’re still mine … They visited in Quebec while we lived there and it was cool to see the Swedish flag flying on the parliament building that day. We were a small group of Swedes outside Château Frontenac when they arrived.



        • Touch2Touch says:

          Oh, Rebekah, I always get mixed up and say to myself, Now is it Saint John or St. John’s? And then I always choose the wrong one!!!!!
          Mea culpa.
          And even though I know perfectly well you have dark hair, not blonde, I am still surprised when I look at the photos in the link and see Swedes with dark hair. Obviously it’s easy to get me mixed up on things!


  7. I’m glad you made the point about Hilary Mantel’s comments meaning something quite different when read in the context of her speech. I thought she was being quite sympathetic to the duchess, her ‘unflattering’ description referring to the media portrayal of her and the public persona that she is required to assume (and perhaps even willingly assumes?). But as you say, the sensational headlines give rise to a simplistic interpretation of her words, and now Mantel herself has been attacked from all sides with humiliating and plain nasty references to her own personal appearance. If only more people would bother, like you, to try to understand the full story!
    (Personally, I must say I do often wish that Kate would break free just a tiny bit from the expectations that weigh heavily on her, and do or say something with a bit of that whomp factor you were talking about earlier!)
    PS: I did laugh at your description of Lord whatsit in Downton – couldn’t agree more!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Karen.
      You got me wondering how the “whomp” factor might relate to the role of royals. Are they just the upper levels of Downton Abbey, there to entertain the rest of us?
      Tentative thoughts: the monarchy began as a working monarchy, with kings and the occasional queen actually ruling. Once more “populist” (representative?) forms of government began making headway, the monarchy — certainly after Victoria — was increasingly forced to reinvent itself and its role. Maybe that’s the problem today. Either still more reinvention is needed — or, as many feel, the whole institution is now outmoded.
      I rather like it — but that’s from a distance, as an American, and a lover of occasional pomp and pageantry.
      (And an observer of the excesses and vulgarities of “pseudo royalty,” as we have here.)


  8. pauline says:

    We humans do love our dress-up games and flaunting our wealth and power. Queen Elizabeth was crowned when I was a small girl and I thought she looked a lot like my own mother, who deserved a crown if anyone did (of course, that comment is made in retrospect). I would have to study monarchies vs representative forms of government before I could weigh in on the which-is-better side though at this writing no form of government seems to be doing well.

    And speaking of writing, I wrote something for you at Writing Down the Words 🙂


  9. Patti Kuche says:

    I keep forgetting about Kate Middleton’s recently acquired Royal status. To me, she and her husband are simply Mr and Mrs Wales from Raynes Park!


  10. 2e0mca says:

    Our Monarchy long since ceased to directly govern the country – though the Queen still signals her approval (and disapproval) to the Prime Minister when presented with the governments intended policies at the start of each parliament. It would be a very unwise PM that totally ignored the Queen’s view on a piece of intended legislation – though I doubt they’d end up in the Tower 😉

    The burden on the public purse has been alleviated over the last 30 years with the Monarchy being expected to fund much from its estates. One of the most obvious examples of the ‘corporate’ Monarchy is the Duchy range of products sold in shops and supermarkets – produce from Prince Charles’ farms in Cornwall. Even so, Republicans within the UK would like to see the dissolution of the Monarchy as an unecessary anachronism in our modern world.

    Personally, I view the Monarchy as an asset to the country – bringing in many tourists that perhaps might not bother coming to a tiny island off the coast of Europe otherwise. That’s a lot of cash flowing in to keep the country going!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Have to confess that sentimentally I’m with you! I grew up loving fairytales, and there’s something fairytale about kings and queens, princesses and princes!
      And the lessened power and expense do make a difference.


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