Amid all the wretched declension of the British royal family, many people seem willing to suspend their general disapproval, disappointment, boredom, nausea - you name it - in the case of Our Sovereign Lady The Queen. Unselfish, dutiful, serious, modest, faithful unto death, she rises above the showbiz values, disco ambitions and petty neuroses of her clan and brood. But does she truly deserve such a dispensation? Monarchs may be able to elude responsibility for many things, but surely the state of the monarchy is not among them. And the Queen made at least two decisions of her own which contributed to the present zoo-like condition of her relatives. The first was her choice of consort: the hawkish and chilly authoritarian who made such a hell of his offspring's childhood. The second was her resolution, so pious and so carefully meditated, to sacrifice her only sister's happiness for the greater cause of family values and the high duty of setting an example. This is the House of Windsor, not the House of Atreus (let's keep our sense of proportion), but still, here if anywhere was its original sin. Does Brenda, even now, look wistfully back on a time when marriage to a divorced war hero was considered the height of scandal and required the officiousness of the aptly-named Cantuar?
LRB 5 June 1997 | PDF Download