Monday 2 July 2007

Thoughts following the Concert for Diana

I had a jolly time at the Concert for Diana. Considering the miserable weather of Saturday and today, it was nothing short of a miracle that the Concert took place under clement conditions. The media section was directly across from the area in which TRH Princes William and Harry were seated and we were therefore afforded prime viewing of the show. Having a camera crew at our disposal was also advantageous as we were able to ask the cameramen to zoom in on the royal box and the stage to enable us to identify specific persons (or merely have a closer look at their dancing skills!) on our monitor.

Tom Jones and Kiefer Sutherland were amongst those interviewed and everyone was in agreement that the concert was a splendid tribute. I commented on various subjects, including the Canadian trips made by the then Prince and Princess of Wales. However it was rather hard going on occasion as I had the misfortune to be cut off twice by the deafening roar of the crowd; and for some reason the director thought people would be more interested in listening to Rod Stewart and Jamie Oliver than me! ;)

It is clear to me that the new generation of royals are in the process of forging a completely new and special relationship with the people, much as Victoria and Albert refashioned the Monarchy in the 19th century. To remain relevant institutions must evolve. The change we are now witnessing is necessary. It is also fascinating to watch.


Benedictus said...

Greetings from the U.S., on the eve of its Independence Day celebrations!

This is my first time commenting on your fine blog, but I have in fact been reading your fine weblog for quite some time.

I think your last statement about how institutions need to develop and evolve in order to stay relevant is precisely Edmund Burke's point in Reflections on the Revolution in France, as well as his Vindication of Natural Society. As Cardinal Newman said of the Chruch of Rome, so perhaps also of the royal institution in England: "It changes, in order to remian the same." said...

Dear Benedictus,

Many thanks for your comment and your kind words -- they are appreciated.

I have had occasion to visit your blog in the past and I have found it most interesting.

I find myself in considerable agreement with Cardinal Newman's statement. For your benefit I shall paste below an excerpt from a comment I have posted elsewhere in response to a comment from another of my interlocutors in which he challenged this specific view:

...I do not approve of the cult of celebrity (last year I was invited to participate as a panelist in a televised debate on the subject of celebrity culture and I railed against society's fixation with vacuous non-entities) and do not want my Monarchy to fall into the "Cool Britannia" trap -- pray let us never see celebrities feted at Buckingham Palace as they were once feted at 10 Downing Street.

However, whilst I am a staunch traditionalist I am also a realist. Some traditionalists are opposed to all change and will not countenance the slightest compromise. I certainly understand this position and, indeed, I have demonstrated my own intransigence on a great many issues (House of Lords, arcane rules of heraldry, noble genealogical proofs for admission to orders of chivalry, fox hunting, the Canadian Crown etc. etc.). Nevertheless, I am reminded that history shows us that steadfast refusal to compromise has often led to the destruction of the very institutions which traditionalists have sought to maintain.

It is my belief that a sensible traditionalist is one who, having stood firm and fought the good fight, is able to recognise when the time for compromise has arrived. It is far better to deal with limited concessions early on than to ignore the realities of the day only to find oneself faced with demands for wholly unacceptable concessions later on.

None of this means that I desire a trend-setting, cutting-edge Monarchy. Far from it. I think it unwise for Monarchy to involve itself too closely with trends and fashions. I was aghast, for example, when footage was released of Prince William cleaning a bathroom in Chile. Ditto the first time I saw footage of the Prince of Wales with the Spice Girls. [In truth, I wish that the clock could be turned back to an age when all reverenced the Monarchy unquestioningly.]

I simply realise that much as Victoria and Albert tried to "re-brand" the Monarchy in the 19th century, attaching it to middle class values of Family and morality, and much as Edward VII created or revived much of the pomp and pageantry which we today enjoy (to reflect Britain's self-assured status as an Imperial superpower), so too must our modern monarchy adapt to reflect the continued and natural evolution of society. To resist change is to be wilfully ignorant of the Monarchy's own history of change.

None of this means that I want to see the slightest reduction in our historic traditions. I do not want to see an end to the traditional Christian Coronation, the State Opening of Parliament, Swan Upping, the Garter Ceremony, presentation of letters of credence, investitures, the Maundy Service, the Ceremony of the Keys or any of the many other great ceremonies which I research, relish and try to attend (far more than anyone I know!).

If any of these royal ceremonies, or any of the Sovereign's royal powers, are challenged I shall take up the gauntlet as the Queen's Champion.

However I believe that these traditions can continue to run in parallel with any new relationship that the Monarchy forges with the next generation. Certainly, whatever the view of the chattering classes, I do not see any great opposition to these traditions by the general public (on the contrary, the public enjoy and respect these traditions as important parts of our national heritage). What I do see, is a public that has embraced TRH Princes William and Harry; and the dynamic between the princes and the public contains an energy the likes of which I have never seen before. These two princes have connected with segments of society which traditionally had little interest in the Monarchy. This offers the Monarchy remarkable potential and I believe that the Royal Household is attempting to capitalise on this.

By pure coincidence I was re-reading Bagheot last night, in particular the essay on Monarchy which contains his famous quotation: "We must not let daylight in upon magic". I still believe that secrecy and mystery are the keys to Monarchy. However over the last 15 years daylight has penetrated our Monarchy and some magic has evaporated. We must acknowledge this and do our best with the situation we have....