A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Those Middle Class....Middletons!

Oh, those meddling middle-class Middletons! What is the Palace going to do?

I have watched the weeks after the Royal engagement just roll by and with every passing week there is another "tsk-tsk" to add to the list of Middleton Family social gaffes. (If you think the class system in Great Britain is a thing of the past, think again.) The vitriol is being spit left and right and to be honest, as an American...I just don't get it.

The Controversial Scratch Card
Soon after the Royal engagement, the Middleton family was called to task because they were selling party favors for the Royal wedding. The media had a feeding frenzy insisting that the Middletons were "trading on their royal connections" for family business. The Middletons run a business called "Party Pieces" and it is a million dollar enterprise that Carole Middleton started in her home. That is the sort of story that America would eat right up. When the furor started, I thought, "Let's see...they run a party business...and they are selling items for the largest party of the first half of the century, possibly." They have Union Jack flags, bunting, paper plates and Union Jack hats plus Corgi cake toppers all to celebrate the block parties that the Palace is encouraging everyone to throw. Now, if the Middletons had been selling tires and they had huge postings on their website for "Try our new shipment of Royal Tires...tires fit for a Queen!" That would be another story. But they are a party company selling party items for the world's biggest party to come in April. That's their business. The greatest controversy came over the "Britannia Trivia Scratch Cards." There are three questions on each card. On the back of the card you find your score. For example one card said: "Got three answers correct? Queen of England. Got two answers correct? Close to the throne. Got one correct? The Queen's corgi. Got none correct? To the Tower. Off with your head." Oh, dear.What do you get if you are Prince Philip? And isn't it trading off the Royal name to have items sold at Highgrove House emblazoned with one's crest? Or founding a whole food company with one's landholding (Duchy of Cornwall) on it? But that's okay because it is an aristocrat's business correct? Ignorant American that I am, I really am attempting to understand all this.

Ms Darling
Then there is the problem with the relatives. You always have the odd members of the family tree that you wish could just disappear when you are attempting to impress---they rattle up in their Chevy Nova wearing tank tops two sizes too small playing Led Zeppelin full blast while you are entertaining the Daughters of the American Revolution. (Well, I don't, but lots do.) In the Middleton family there is Gary Goldsmith, Kate's uncle who was caught by undercover police dealing in drugs at his "Casa de Bang-Bang" in Ibiza where she and the Prince had been guests. And last week, there was a photo of Kate's cousin's Katrina Darling who apparently strips to "God Save the Queen" in a burlesque show. To his credit, Mr Goldsmith has moved back to London and cleaned up his act and Ms Darling, well, she didn't know she and Kate were even related. She insists her Brittania burlesque was started before she knew of her connections to the future Queen. Brilliant timing, eh? Never doubt that Britain's got talent!

I talked to you about the wedding buffet already ( in a previous posting here) a decision of Kate's which led to mild disdain in certain circles. Now, it is the fact that Kate has chosen to have two cakes, not just one. Kate will have a wedding cake which will be baked by Fiona Cairns who bakes cakes for Waitrose and Harrod's.

William's Biscuit Cake May Slice Like This One
And William will have his own chocolate biscuit cake (made with Rich Tea biscuits...and if you are American, a biscuit is a cookie.) So, yes, basically his cake will be made of chocolate and cookies. It's his favorite. Rumor has it that it will contain 1700 McVitie's Rich Biscuits and 17 kilos of chocolate. That all sounds great to me (hedonistic American) but apparently the idea that Kate chose a (sniff-sniff) cake baker for a grocery store chain was just too pedestrian for the critics. And about the two cakes? Who ever thought of such a thing? (Americans did.)

I've never been to one wedding in America (with more than 100 guests) that did not have two cakes...a bride's cake and a groom's cake. In a past life (when I was once married and young  enough to be happier than a Junebug) I had a wedding cake that was the size of a full banquet table. It had a fountain in the middle of it with bridges leading to each  level from the center main cake. It looked like the terminal at Chicago O'Hare, but done in elegant ivory icing.  The groom cake was chocolate (as it usually is in the US or was anyway) and it had the seal of his alma mater piped in icing that was so perfect it looked like it had been stamped on it. Declasse?  No, just tres over the top Americaine.

Then there is the question of the William ring. Kate apparently had bought William a ring. There was a bit of a tiff when William allegedly said no men in the Royal Family would wear a ring. Michael Middleton was said to have attempted to speak to Prince Charles about it when he was intercepted by an equerry said that only signet rings were appropriate. That's interesting, considering that Charles wore a ring that Diana gave him next to his signet ring until the day after he was engaged to Camilla. Oh dear, that might mean that the Prince was being a bit vulgar, then?   Talbot Church (of the Independent newspaper) wrote rather acidly: "...the Middletons coming from English stock...have proved to be less easy-going..." and that the "House of Windsor is used to dealing with upper-class families...who once their daughters are engaged, are happy to turn up at the wedding...smile...and keep quiet." Oh, those Middletons! How pesky to be of  "that other class."  Ah, yes, the Royals, however have been incredibly sterling in their behavior at all times...so appropriate, so perfect exactly what we should expect in a family that holds itself out to be an example for the world. Apparently the Royals (according to Church) are "very sensitive about class" and that when the Queen saw Prince Andrew wearing a navy blazer with gold buttons she was appalled. (Was she as appalled that he was caught cavorting with a friend who liked underage girls?)  It's amazing to me to see that the vulgarity that the Royals preach so  against are exactly what many of them have exhibited over the hundreds of years of  their various reigns. While the women rulers have been quite discreet, the males have not exhibited such restraint. But you see, vulgarity in the upper classes is overlooked  simply because when you have power it is never labeled hedonism or vulgarity.

So, the wagging minions in the Court are busy disassembling the in-laws even before the invites have all been mailed. They serve to always remind the rest of us that "we should all know our place" and it is not among the chosen in the Palace. I have a feeling that William will be changing all that.

Mr and Mrs Middleton are (alas!) happily married. Not one mistress, affair, not a lovechild between them.  They run  (gasp!) a successful business. They have raised three nice children (who weren't so stoned out of their minds they needed extended trips to rehab).  Granted, we never knew what Kate did for work, but when you are being groomed by the Firm for a decade, there isn't much else you are allowed to do, is there?

Let's see, what are the seven deadly sins? Lust, Greed, Envy, Sloth, Pride, Gluttony and Wrath. In the last quarter-century...I can't think of one Royal who didn't exhibit less than two of the above. Some of them committed...all seven in one go. Others could have possibly added another sin or two to the list.

However, the last I heard, being middle-class wasn't one of those sins, no matter what the bats in the Palace say.  Let's hear it for the Middleton Family...perhaps someone will offer them a reality show like "The Osbournes". Now that would be....the icing on two cakes.