Ever since Disraeli made Queen Victoria Empress of India in 1876, the Conservative Party has been one of the lion-supporters of the British Crown, and to this day, the monstrous regiment of Tory women, and the blimpish cohorts of retired colonels, are among the most loyal and devoted of Her Majesty's subjects. But for all that, the true-blue-rinse Thatcher years have not been a happy or an easy time for the House of Windsor. In public, the Prime Minister professes respect and admiration for her sovereign lady and the whole royal family. But it is difficult to believe that in private she offers the same unstinted 'devotion' that Disraeli lavished so fulsomely (and so calculatingly) on his 'faery queen'. As the visible embodiment of stultifying tradition, obscurantist snobbery, unearned riches, hereditary privilege, vested interests, paternalistic decency and patrician wetness, the crown and its court exemplify many of the attitudes which Mrs Thatcher most vehemently detests. And as the successful leader of the nation in arms (remember the Falklands?), and the most long-serving occupant of 10 Downing Street this century, the Prime Minister has in many quarters displaced the monarchy as the most potent symbol of national identity. 'No wonder,' she has reputedly remarked of the Windsors, 'they stand on ceremony: what else have they got?'
LRB 16 August 1990 | PDF Download