Magazine article The Spectator

Rise of the Glamocracy

Magazine article The Spectator

Rise of the Glamocracy

Article excerpt

Prince Harry's bride reflects a shift in British society

The world may be dazzled by Prince Harry marrying a divorced, mixed-race American TV star. But his grand friends and royal cousins will hardly bat an eyelid. Because they've been marrying celebs (and Americans) for the past decade or so. In a subtle, gradual change in the British upper classes, the aristocracy has given way to the glamocracy.

Gone is the blue-blood obsession; gone the marrying off of smart cousin to smart cousin which has continued since Agincourt; gone the Mrs Bennets frantically flicking through Burke's Peerage, desperate to marry off their boot-faced daughter to the local squire. These days, young royalty and aristocracy are increasingly mixing with, and marry-ing, international money, beauty and fame.

Harry's wingman Guy Pelly married Lizzy Wilson, an American Holiday Inn heiress; Ben Elliot; Camilla Parker Bowles's entrepreneur nephew, married Mary-Clare Winwood, daughter of rock star Stevie. Zara Phillips married England rugby player Mike Tindall. Harry's second cousin, Lord Freddie Windsor, married Sophie Winkleman, a TV star and sister of Claudia, the queen of Saturday night TV. Peter Phillips married Autumn Kelly, a Canadian; his father, Mark Phillips, married an American equestrian, Sandy Pflueger.

The pattern trickles down through the aristocracy. Viscountess Weymouth, the future Marchioness of Bath, is a mixed-race model. The Countess of Devon is an American ex-Baywatch actress; Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, the future Countess of Sandwich, is the American star of Ladies of London, an American reality show. Kate Moss is going out with a German aristocrat, Count Nikolai von Bismarck. Lady Mary Charteris, daughter of the Earl of Wemyss, is married to rock star Robbie Furze, and joined his band The Big Pink as a singer.

Young royalty and aristocracy are now just another arm of the international, rich, celeb glamocracy. They are rich celebs. In an age of soaring land and art values, any peer who's managed to cling on to a few thousand acres and the family Rembrandt is as rich as Croesus; as is Prince Harry, thought to be worth around £30 million. Throw in the column inches that he and his circle attract, and they have become de facto celebs. Gone are the 19th-century days when the Duke of Marlborough had to contract a miserable, desperately ill-matched marriage to American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt to keep the roof on Blenheim Palace. Today's aristo-crats are just as rich as their inter-national spouses and share the same worldview, the same clean-eating habits, the same Netflix binges and the same taste in Grey Goose vodka martinis.

Snobbery will never disappear entirely. But it has certainly declined as the royal-aristocratic life increasingly melds with the life of the glamocracy. The young Lord Emsworth invented by P.G. Wodehouse studied classics at Eton and Oxford (with a spell in the Bullingdon), then devoted himself to White's Club in town and pig-rearing in the country, before marrying a fellow aristocrat. Today's young Emsworth studies economics at an American university, works for a hedge fund and is a member of 5 Hertford Street, the glamocratic Mayfair club. If he did go to Eton, Oxford or similar, he found them packed with fellow glamocrats. …

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