Hello, dear reader. I love you!
I'm back from the brink. Yes. Back! Back!! Back!!! Etc. On returning from Bournemouth, I seem to have shaken off my melancholia and left my inner gypsy on the apron at Prestwick airport.
I do plan on writing some more on my Summer soon, my extended trips to Dorset (Bournemouth, Bourne Free and Polly's baptism), my week in Ireland and the odd day spent here in the Athens of the North. But for now, I want to talk about the ramifications of the events from ten years ago; the death of Diana.
Curious, how only yesterday I was sorting through some books and old tat and putting them up for sale on ebay when I came across The Royal Baby Album and images of the late Princess of Wales. All through the night and with resonating clarity on each waking moment (and there were many) Diana was on my mind. More curious, then, in a slow week for news when most bulletins have gone ignored, I wake up to a world awash with news about the people's princess.
Without getting bogged down in how or why, it can be said, quite simply, that Britain is a strange place, indeed, a very strange place. And what of the British? A strange society. If opinion polls are to be believed, the majority of us like living under a constitutional monarchy. We like the Royal Family to be something they cannot be; the same as us but different. We like to see The Queen wearing ermine, we like her to deliver a speech to Parliament with jewels worth millions of pounds perched upon her head, we like to see the changing of the guard, we like to see a Royal wedding, we like to see an elderly couple living in a palace that could house thousands. We liked to see The Queen Mother wandering around the East End of London after a WWII bombing raid, we don't like to see Harry smoking dope and dressing as a Nazi, we don't like Windsorial infidelity, we don't like to see a family of toffs running out into the countryside to kill hundreds of wild animals for a bit of fun and we don't like to see Her Majesty getting away without paying tax.
We seem to like the Royal Family, on some level, being above us, but we want them to act as if they weren't.
The current bunch do not fulfil that rôle. But Diana did. And that's where, for all of us, it went horribly wrong. The bridge between the corporeal and aethereal was always a weak one. When it collapsed and was swept away, no-one seemed to know what to do.
Cubans admire Castro, Americans adore Washington and some Russians still have a thing for Lenin but you'll be hard pressed, dear reader, to find any Briton who has a good word to say about Oliver Cromwell.
Cromwell is hated, actually. Revolution? Cutting off the King's head? Not very British, is it.
As much as Cromwell is hated, Darwin is admired, even loved. You see, my lamb, Britain doesn't really like revolution. We're more keen on evolution. And in the days after Diana's death, The Queen instinctively knew this. She chose to play along with the masses who seemed to be damanding her presence in London and in some way acted as though she were being dragged back to the capital kicking and screaming.
She was not. She knew that the mood of the country was for change, but she knew it was a blip and not a powder keg under the House of Lords. She understood our desire for slow and methodical adjustment. She knew, to survive, she had to appear to bow to pressure, although to keep her authority, she had to be the author of that change. One has a glimpse of this in her metaphorical stamping of the royal foot when she addressed the nation shortly before Diana's funeral, "As your queen..." and, for good measure, reitterating the same but different mantra, "...and a grandmother..."
There have been blips before, of course, wobbles, if you like. In 1917 when most if not all British people thought the only good German were a dead one, the Royal Family dropped all their German titles and in the PR stunt of the century, changed their name to Windsor. How very, very, very British.
In 1936, the government preempted the country at large not being in favour of the King's choice of wife. With some mutual decision making, it must be said, Edward VIII and his gay divorcée were quickly dispatched and replaced with the epitome of perfect British family life.
The Queen is a clever woman and she's used her family history to teach her some very important lessons, the most important of which is to watch for a right Royal mess and how to clear it up.
Very often, we Britons can't tell the difference between what's important and what's impressive. Perhaps uniquely among Royals, Diana was both and loved by everyone. We realised a lot through Diana's life. We were a sentimental nation, we were imaginative and loved a wee bit of rebellion.
"Hey! Queen! Get down here to London! Hey! Queen! Get that Union Jack up at half mast! Hey! Queen! Do what you're bloody well told."
The Queen liked us to think she was doing what she was told. In fact, I'd bet everything I own that coming back to London was her dcision and her decision alone, therefore her victory and not our victory; the Monarchy being stronger and more stable now than at any time during Elizabeth's reign.
What's my point? Not sure that there is one. This has been less a rant more a pseudo-drunken ramble, but there must be a point...
...Perhaps this: That the Royal Family and Diana (inside and out of it) can never and could never be what we want them to be. That people scheme. That a national sadness could be born out of the guilt of a people who perhaps expected a wee bit too much from such a young and fragile life.
Our head of state claimed lessons would be and had been learned over Diana's death. So how come the monarchy's in no different place now ten years after said claims were made? Because the Royal Family don't want change? Or because Britons are disinclined to accept it?
Revolution, dear reader, or evolution?