Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Speaking of Princes. . . .

The tenth anniversary of Diana's death has been marked by innumerable television, magazine and book releases, not many of which I have seen. I did watch with great pleasure the film "The Queen," starring the admirable Helen Mirren as the Queen, which cast Tony Blair as a Whig anxious to preserve the ceremonial monarchy. (The Queen came off as a Tory, divine-right-of-monarchy sort, which I imagine was fair enough). The most interesting of the items I have seen is Jeremy Paxman's book "On Royalty," an extended, smart and very funny investigation of modern, constitutional monarchies. He is puzzled to know why anyone would want to be a powerless monarch, living in a bell jar, or why so many people in otherwise democratic countries cling to their monarchs. Lots of food for thought, including this passage from the preface, reflecting on the popularity of Elizabeth and Diana in the US: "America has defined itself in part by the way it filled the vacuum created by throwing off the monarchial yoke. The monarch, in absentia, is as crucial to the identity of America as she is, in person, to the idea of Britain. Perhaps that is why she remains such a figure of fascination." Hum.

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