Entry from April 26, 2011

According to Laura Donovan of The Daily Caller “Kate Middleton and Prince William’s upcoming nuptials have gotten more press in the United States than in England” — which, in case you didn’t know, is “the country where they will actually tie the knot this Friday.” Under the possibly mistaken impression that there’s not much more to say on the subject of the wedding than “I like it” or “I don’t like it,” I myself haven’t paid much attention to it, but my impression is that, if there is less coverage “by traditional media sources” in Britain, what there is is much more negative than it is here. The British sociologist Frank Furedi appears to be right in thinking that the wedding “will likely reveal how far civic pride has been undermined by the Culture Wars.” Indeed, the relative paucity of street parties being organized to celebrate the occasion and the anti-royalist and republican sentiment in the media suggests to him that this is already happening. “What the confused public response to William and Kate’s wedding really shows is that people are not sure of their voice. The most significant thing that has caused this confusion is the dramatic diminishing of the moral status of British identity within Britain itself.”

The most frequent complaint, which is also occasionally heard here in America, is that it’s all a sort of second-rate version of the celebrity-glitz of the Oscars, but Charles Moore of the London Daily Telegraph thinks that this is mistaken.

It would be better to put it the other way round: glamour and celebrity are the gaudy imitations of the effect of monarchy. The idea of kingship, with its aura of duty and power, of ceremony and beauty, is uniquely strong. It is near the heart of the Old Testament and of The Iliad and of many of the plays of Shakespeare. Miss Middleton, like Lady Diana, is a lovely woman, but what raises her to a higher plane of glamour (inadequate word) is when the loveliness joins with the royalness — the moment she becomes a princess.

This seems to me exactly right. The cult of celebrity is so tacky precisely because it is an imposture of the real glamour — there’s an oxymoron for you! — of monarchy. And what is glamorous about monarchy is also what is glorious about heroism: both are part of our natural human effort to dignify things that, without them, would often be ugly and horrible, namely the exercise of power and making war — but that we cannot do without. Marriage itself is a similar attempt to dignify and impart a transcendent dimension to the animal urge to reproduce ourselves.

Those who dislike such ceremony tend to be utopians. They compare the pomp and circumstance of royalty and the solemn commemorations of heroism not to the ugliness and brutality that these things are meant to mask but to an imaginary world where there is no ugliness or brutality and, therefore, no need for it to be masked. It is only a matter of time before such people will be telling you that Professor Furedi’s “British identity” and patriotism itself are evil impostures.

Just look at the blogger Oliver Duggan of the London Independent, who takes the royal wedding as the occasion to make the bizarre contention that “patriotism has been amongst the most corruptive forces in the 21st century, surpassed only by organised religion and media misconceptions; we know this and we must remember it now.” Of course, what he is thinking of is “the ‘rush to the flag’, as it is known historically” which, he rather hilariously claims, “has been the starting point for nationalism, neo-conservatism and ultimately fascism for hundreds of years the world over.” Gosh, and there I was thinking Irving Kristol started “neo-conservatism” only thirty or forty years ago. Of course, the fantasy which Mr Duggan appears to harbor, that neo-conservatism is a stage on the road to fascism, is itself born of the same utopian universalism that trashes patriotism. Never mind neo-conservatism, “the rush to the flag” was characteristic of Naziism — but that by itself cannot be to its discredit, because it was also characteristic of the forces that ultimately defeated Naziism. Unfortunately, Mr Duggan can rely on the default utopianism of the popular culture to make us forget that.

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