Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

My finest hour as an American with an English parent occurred some 50 years ago when I argued down a bevy of unliberated girlfriends who insisted that the newly married Princess Margaret should be called Mrs Jones. 'After all, ' said one, in the smirkishly solemn tones of the feminine mystique, 'it's her husband's name.' 'No!' I burst out. 'She is Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowden.' As my own tones hung in the air I realised that I sounded just like my father. Warming to the subject, I went on. 'And don't forget the the. That keeps it from sounding too familiar.' My Anglophilia got its start early on, honed and polished by the cultural tilts between my English father and my American mother.

One concerned the dying philanderer Edward VII. 'Queen Alexandra sent a car for his mistress, Mrs Keppel, so they could say goodbye, ' said my father.

'She should have sent a car to run over her,' said my mother. I wasn't even sure what a mistress was, but it was my first inkling of the difference between the two countries: Americans are generous but not magnanimous, because the grand gesture is too aristocratic for comfort.

They had another set-to over the abdication. My father patiently explained the constitutional issues that prevented Edward VIII from marrying Mrs Simpson but they went in one American ear and out the other.

'Baloney! He was the king, he could do anything he wanted. If anybody didn't like it he could throw them in a dungeon and chop off their head!' said the great democrat.

My mother would doubtless be cheered by the news that Prince William is to marry Miss Kate Middleton of the 'aspiring' middle class. I can hear her now: 'She's just what that family needs to bring 'em down to earth. She won't go around thinking she's better than everybody else.' Oh, really? It was the late Princess Diana who did her best to bring the royal family and the entire panoply of monarchy to its knees. Given a choice between the starched collar of respect and the rump-sprung britches of love, Diana's fashion was never in doubt, but Kate may opt for the style of the greatest middle-class aspirer of all time, and we all know who that is: 'The Windsor residence! The lady of the house speaking! …

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