Alvvays: Antisocialites
Julee Cruise, RIP

God Save the Queen

I can't say I've paid close attention to the Diamond Jubilee celebration. I guess I'm not much for lavish public celebrations of anything. I certainly never would have come up with the idea of parades or processions. If I'd been the mayor of some medieval town and citizens had come to me with a proposal for an elaborate procession honoring the town's patron saint, I would have said something like "But what's the point?" I don't get it. I'm certainly not saying there's anything wrong with it, but I just don't get it.

I'm also not really, truly, an Anglophile. Or maybe I am, but if so it's in a mild way. I do love English literature and English folk music and generally enjoy things British. I watch too many British crime dramas. But I don't claim any great knowledge of the country, or its history, or its ways, or attempt in any way to adopt those ways. 

(Well, except maybe for Marmite. A few years ago, out of sheer curiosity, I went to some trouble to obtain a jar of Marmite, and soon discovered that I rather like it. A piece of bread, buttered, toasted, and then spread with a very thin layer of Marmite, topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, is quite a tasty breakfast. My local grocery store now carries it, in the section labelled "International," since "Foreign" would no doubt be in bad taste now, so I can't be the only one, even in Alabama. 

And as far as I know my ancestry for at least the past few centuries is English and Scottish--a bit of Ulster, but that's effectively also Scottish and English, probably in that order. And I feel that there is something in my blood, to use the old-fashioned term, that responds to many things in that culture. Or perhaps I should say those cultures. I don't usually use the phrase "I feel"--it suggests a sloppy and subjective quality to whatever follows, and if whatever follows is meant to have objective validity then it's not the appropriate term. But in this case it is. I can't provide any justification for this feeling, apart from the facts of my ancestry, beyond the fact that I feel it. I also suspect, for similar reasons, that if I were to delve further into my ancestry there would be a Scandinavian connection. The Vikings had a considerable impact, genetic as well as cultural, on the British Isles.)

And yet. The witness of Queen Elizabeth somehow speaks deeply to me, and the fact of the Jubilee touches me. Maybe it's nothing to do with ancestry or Anglophilia. Maybe it's the fact that my life is roughly contemporaneous with her reign. She was crowned in June 1953, when I was a few months away from being five years old. I have a scrap of memory of the event, though I can't figure out how I came by it. I want to say I may have seen it on television, but I don't think my family had one then, so it's more likely that I saw something in a magazine. But then I did not yet know how to read. The memory remains a little mysterious. 

Perhaps it was not at the time of the coronation but a couple of years later, when I could read, that I became aware of it. Somehow I also knew of Prince Charles. There the timelines run very close together: he and I were born approximately six weeks apart (I'm the elder). I was aware of his existence and felt a certain kinship with him. This seems rather odd to me now, considering that I couldn't have been more than six or seven years old, maybe younger, when I learned of him. What could I have known or cared? But I do remember that knowledge and that feeling.

Now we, Charles and I, are seventy-three years old, and the Queen is in her last years. And I don't know about him--maybe he's been fuming for the past forty years or so that he isn't king--but it feels to me that she is the last remnant, soon to vanish, of something which is not much found in our oh-so-proud-of-itself contemporary world. 

Many things have changed for the better in my lifetime. For an American, the end of legally enforced racial oppression is high on that list--on the top of it for me, in fact. But much has deteriorated. Qualities which we used to include in the word "character" have become less valued and accordingly more rare: a strong sense of duty; loyalty; self-restraint; dignity; integrity; simple love of country. We, or at least I, associate these with the British at their best. Perhaps Elizabeth does not in fact embody them as much as I, and apparently many others, want to believe, but at any rate she is a powerful symbol of them.

I don't much associate them with the British at present. Well, in fact, my impression is that the British now rival us in developing a culture which favors and encourages their opposites. The culture of narcissism has gone far beyond anything that Christopher Lasch witnessed. And that makes this Jubilee, and the passing of the Queen which can't be very far in the future, poignant, especially to those of us old enough to recall that not so very long ago her virtues were more valued than they are now.


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Hear, hear!

Not sure exactly where I picked up my Anglophile tendencies -- most likely from reading a lot of English literature when I was young. But as I've gotten older what has struck me about the Brits is that they seem to have a built-in sense of place, which is reflected in their care for that place. Granted this has at times manifested itself in negative ways, but I do not think that this "rootedness" is in itself anything other than a good thing. And I think that where "Englishness" is at its best is at those points where this rootedness is prominent, yet not too idealistic or overly proud.

There is in many of the English people a sentiment like that which Wendell Berry has voiced: "What I stand for is what I stand on." And I think that the love for the monarchy is a reflection of that: the Brits know what the Queen "stands for."

I would have said, or rather speculated, that the present-day British have mostly lost that sense of what they stand for. But maybe that's not true, or if it is more or less true then at least some large number of them recognize it as a loss.

John Derbyshire, back when he wrote for National Review, once quoted his mother as saying "At least I knew England when she was England." He's about my age I think so I'll guess that his mother was born in the '20s.

I've often thought of how much of the charm of some of the '60s British Invasion music was due to the way it interacted with the mainstream British culture of the time. Or look at Monty Python. That playing off the old English themes can't be done today.

Re the Queen and what she stands for -- imagine my surprise when she made a New Zealand sex work activist a dame back in 2018. It even surprised the new dame:

"I was startled when this was offered," she told the BBC. "I'm in shock."

"I think even a few weeks ago I wouldn't have thought this was possible. It's indicative of a shift in people's attitudes and it's lovely to feel supported."


I will tell myself the Queen just signs these things without paying much attention to them. [groan]

Ms Healy worked as a primary school teacher before becoming a sex worker in the 1980s.
She says she was shocked at the lack of protections in place, especially after coming from the unionised profession of teaching.
"We were spoken about as young sex workers in a disrespectful way," she said.

The part I can't fathom is her shock. I mean, one doesn't become a prostitute by answering an ad and having an interview with the HR department.

Still, as a Canadian who grew up on Puffin books and lived in England during my father's sabbaticals, I love Her Majesty. In fact, at the age of fifteen I cherished hopes of marrying Prince Edward. That was the year Charles and Diana got engaged, and I was inspired by Diana's story. I figured the Royal Family wouldn't mind if the third son married a Catholic.

I only wish that Charles showed more evidence of the virtues I most admire in the Queen: her Christian faith and her devotion to duty.

P.S. Proof that your opening line is true, Maclin: the Diamond Jubilee was her 60th, in 2012. They are calling this one the Platinum Jubilee.


Yes, that comment from Ms. Healy is very funny. Especially as the article seems to say that prostitution oh sorry sex work was still illegal when she went into the trade. The next sentence is funny too--complaining that she and her co-workers were spoken of disrespectfully.

I remember when the Charles and Diana wedding happened thinking that it was sweet and I hoped they would be very happy. Even when the bad news started I hoped it was just tabloid gossip. Oh well. Seems kind of symbolic of a lot of developments of recent times.

My father is American, and his ancestors fought in the Revolution. His comment on Lady Di at the time of the engagement: "If you're brought up to marry an upper-class twit, you might as well marry the uppest one of all."

I really don't want to think Charles is a twit, but....

You know the Monty Python reference, right? Just in case you or anyone else doesn't:

I've always been somewhat appalled by that skit. It's *really* venomous, more mean than funny, and you get the feeling that they really seriously loathed the people they were making fun of.

Charles may look like a twit, but he actually seems to be pretty intelligent, at least in some regards. I'd say that a lot of the negativity about him arose out of the whole Diana mess, and rightly so, but there does seem to be more to him than that.

Re: that skit, there's also one I remember about "Britain's Most Revolting Family" or something along those lines, which features both an upper-class twit family and a lower class family with disgusting behaviors. It's very funny, but over the top in the manner you mention, as it has a meanness to it. That's one of the hazards of smart "college-boy" humor. I think you see it in the Coen Bros. at times as well.

You definitely see it in the Coen Bros. I've never seen the "most revolting family" skit. There's a lot of Python I've never seen. All of the tv show is or was available on Netflix and I started watching it in chronological order and was confirmed in what I've always suspected, that it was *very* uneven. I didn't get all that far and I think it's probably not available there anymore. It's not showing up in my "continue watching" list anyway.

Actually I never thought of "twit" as having much to do with intelligence, so that puzzled me a bit about the Python skit. I think of it more as a personality thing, and it's very vague. Foolish and kind of obnoxious, but not necessarily stupid. Anyway, I do have the impression that Charles is intelligent, and I think he has some solid ideas about cultural preservation and such. I don't actually know much about him, though. I was always suspicious of the Saint Di vs Villain Charles narrative.

There's a good tribute to the Queen at National Review, by Madeleine Kearns, who's Scottish. This link may be subscriber only though.

I must say that the whole British constitutional system and the role of the monarchy have always somewhat baffled me.

Just found this: "10 British Insults Americans Won’t Understand" (

One of them is "pillock," and the author says, "Alas, it’s merely one of many hundred words we’ve evolved to refer to a somewhat idiotic, oafish individual."

That does seem to be their specialty from all I've read and seen. I mean, they really work at it. Which, maybe because I'm an American, I've always found somewhat off-putting.

That list, by the way, has this for "twit": "It’s one of those semi-affectionate insults we might throw at a family member or friend who’s behaving in a less than cerebral manner. Synonyms include: wally, berk, prat, numpty, knob-head, nincompoop and tit."

I know 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10, and that's almost entirely due to watching British crime dramas. Well, maybe only half-know 2--I've heard it but was vague as to what it means and where it's applicable. I've even been known to look them up. I know I did that with "pillock" and "tosser."

Sounds like my notion of "twit" is a little idiosyncratic, at least compared to the British use. But when I search for a definition the first one I get is "a foolishly annoying person." That comes pretty close to my sense of it. I might use it to describe, for instance, an intelligent but socially clueless and humorless adherent of some rigid ideology, like objectivism.

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