Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Required Royal Reading

Anyone with even the slightest interest in Buckingham Palace, the comings and goings of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge or Henry VIII's long and tragic line of wife after wife after wife should take the time to read Hilary Mantel's piece in the London Review of Books.

I found it to be a fascinating examination of the monarchy, fame and female beauty. How we as voyeurs feel entitled if not required to critique these humans, who in so many ways are no longer human (to us) as we, like Mantel in her essay, wouldn't know what to say if we found ourselves face to face with one of them.

I think similar comparisons could be made with our first family or with any number of Hollywood celebrities, however the monarchy occupies a space distinctly separate from those two realms and, as such, there's no direct parallel.

Mantel's piece caused quite a stir; "Kate Speech Hate Speech" read the Guardian and The Independent was equally offended. I think both papers are slightly missing the point, that Mantel's thesis is not anti-Middleton (god forbid) nor anti-monarchy but a more complex look at the machine that will write the Duchess' story for her as it has for so many young women before.

My favorite passage?
"I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage"
God save the Queen.