Of Royal Weddings and Social Mobility

The excitement of the Royal wedding did not last even as long as the long Bank Holiday, displaced as it has been by Mr. Bin Laden’s death. There was little in the way of politics to the wedding: omitting Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from the guest list hardly counted as a constitutional crisis. As social commentary some suggested that the fact that Catherine Middleton is from a non aristocratic background somehow marked a welcome departure for the Royal Family.

In reality of course it is a matter for Prince William and Catherine whom they both chose to marry but the idea that this was some sort of radical departure was not entirely accurate: a number of previous royal brides have been from non aristocratic backgrounds. The idea that it represented some sort of almost planned strategy for helping the monarchy might be true but is much more likely to be a conspiracy theory. Incidentally there are already a number of conspiracy theories regarding Prince and Princess William: as ever David Icke was one of the first out of the traps (presumably Kate has been spotted by Mr. Icke shifting shape into a twelve foot tall blood drinking lizard alien).

The idea of a middle class Queen in waiting has been suggested by some but this argument was dismissed by that most erudite of royalists David Starkey. On Channel 4 News he pointed out that this was a wedding of the wealthy. Miss Middleton (as was) may not have been a member of the aristocracy but whilst her mother may have been originally working class, by the time Catherine was a child the family were significantly wealthy from a very successful mail order business; and she was sent to school at Marlborough College prior to going to St. Andrews. As such Starkey’s comment that this was a typical toff’s wedding, although maybe a touch sniffy, was correct.

The most interesting social comment from the wedding was in actual fact David Cameron’s agonising over whether to wear a standard suit or a morning suit. Here the Prime Minsiter’s lack of self awareness was interesting. Everyone knows David Cameron is a member of the upper classes; much, much more so incidentally, than Kate Middleton. That he might think that he should have worn a normal suit in order not to appear upper class shows an attempted inverse snobbery and also a failure to appreciate that very few would think less of him for wearing a morning suit. Indeed this inverse pretentiousness in considering attempting to pretend he is somehow “one of us” was a presentational mistake (albeit it a minor one). That sort of mistake, however, speaks to the ongoing failure of Cameron’s “We are all in it together” narrative of the austerity policy of his government. That Nick Clegg insisted in pretending he is not part of the same social class as Cameron by wearing an ordinary suit is again a minor issue but so far removed is Clegg from an understanding of what the country or his party expected of him that any style failings have long since become irrelevant considering the substance and U turn issues Clegg is almost universally accused of.

The other aspect by which the new Princess William is, through absolutely no fault of her own, an exemplar of Cameron and Clegg’s Britain is the form of social mobility her family have displayed. The Middletons have moved from moderate middle class prosperity, in her father’s family’s case and from the working class in her mother’s to significant wealth through business. The Middleton’s have no doubt been good business people and will have worked extremely hard for their prosperity. However, they have also been lucky as few businesses take off the way theirs has: most small business people never achieve great wealth. The coalition may talk about giving everyone an equal chance but the reality is that only extreme good luck along with hard work will ever allow ordinary people to become rich. Creating a situation in which a tiny minority of the ordinary population manage to become wealthy does not disguise the fact that social mobility has been decreasing for years in the UK and is likely to decrease further under the current government’s plans. In that way, as with so much else, the current coalition government’s plans are remarkably similar to the laissez faire attitude of classic Victorian Liberalism. In the early nineteenth century a tiny minority of people managed within one or two generations to move from working class poverty to buying estates and becoming extraordinarily wealthy. Such people will undoubtedly have displayed hard work but also will have been extremely fortunate. Sadly in Cameron and Clegg’s Britain such luck again seems more likely to be the recipe for success than any form of true meritocracy.

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.

  • joeCanuck

    Yep, not a constitutional crisis that Blair sand Brown were not invited. Just petty boorishness of behalf of the “Royals”.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    … and very poor judgement. If true that it has the hand of Charles in there, it is ominous for his prospects as king. Ipsos MORI poll says 46 per cent want him to pass it straight on to William – massive figure, I think. Not sure he can take the throne unless that shifts significantly.

  • Alias

    “Not sure he can take the throne unless that shifts significantly.”

    That is a matter that will be decided by discussions between Prince Charles and his tomato plants, with opinion polls having no relevance. As he is unelected, an opinion poll won’t be allowed to assume the role of a democratic mandate.

  • The Word


    “The excitement of the Royal wedding did not last even as long as the long Bank Holiday, displaced as it has been by Mr. Bin Laden’s death.”

    Ah, but tomorrow it will be replaced by something else, if the CIA can’t help it!

    Heathens, murderers, and the second coming of Christ all in a weekend for the workers. It must be judgement time, I’m quite sure!

  • Munsterview

    Well written and reasoned piece Turgon, glad to have you back, the ‘B’ team on your side just were not up to it and as for the ‘C’s, they were about as effective as their counterparts!

  • AGlassOfHine

    Not sure as to the relevance of dissecting THE Wedding,AGAIN ? Two young people very much in love,and The Nation adored the spectacle.

    Everything that can be written about it,has been written about it.

  • Zachariah Tiffins Foot

    It is a mistake to confuse wealth with class. Being ‘middle class’ is more to do with an approach to life rather than an individual’s bank balance. Of course in most cases the two things do go together but I know a few wealthy people who’s attitude is focused primarily on the ‘bling’ lifestyle with little thought of wealth management for future generations.

    The middle class attitude is most evident in the approach to education. Most people want the best for their children but for the middle class it is much more of a driver and something that parents are prepared to make real sacrifices for. My siblings and I were privately educated, my parents insisted on it. At times I’m sure it was a struggle for them but they would not have considered making economies in our education.

    As to social mobility education again plays the central role. At school future opportunities are opened up with the contacts being made that will provide access to jobs and experiences in the future. It may not be ‘fair’ but that is the way the world turns. Did my school background help me getting into my university of choice? No doubt. Were there other people more clever and deserving? No doubt; but I’d be lying if I said it bothered me then, or now.

  • Cynic2

    “the reality is that only extreme good luck along with hard work will ever allow ordinary people to become rich”

    Nonsense. Its 50% intelligence, 25% application and 25% luck. You can still go a long way on the first two.

  • Cynic2

    Turgon. I apologise. I should not have started last post with “Nonsense”. It wasn’t justified and was rude of me – I got a bit ahead of myself.

    I still disagree though

  • Great post Turgon, ignoring the spectacle and getting to the real issues raised by Clegg and Cameron.

  • Well, that’s all right then.

    It hasn’t just been a bit of panem et circenses to keep the lower orders quiescent. Not a Jo Moore “very good” few days to “bury bad news”. Oh, no, no! Perish the thought!

    ✔ The ConDem coalition haven’t been at each others throats.
    ✔ NHS reorganisation hasn’t hit the wall. So those waiting lists, ward closures, nurses redundant, financial crises … that’s all persiflage.
    ✔ The economy … no, better miss that one.
    ✔ Employment … ditto.
    ✔ Fuel prices … err, ummm.
    ✔ We have a clear transport strategy, now we’ve revived, to widespread rejoicing and publicity, the last government’s electrification of the Western Main Line. Just don’t ask about London Transport, HS2, airports …
    ✔ We’re not at war … after all, Britain doesn’t do wars any more. We haven’t been at war, officially, since 1945. So the Afghan and Libyan businesses are … something else.
    ✔ It’s not as if taxes are going up and living standards cut.
    ✔ And Mrs Cameron does make such excellent cup-cakes.

    So let’s nominate Turgon-the-Wise as the reincarnation of Dr Pangloss in this best of all possible worlds!

    But as for “social mobility”, well, I leave that to my betters.

  • Greenflag

    A very good post Turgon in which you manage to to describe the ‘royal wedding’ and it’s surrounds and then place it in the context of a UK in which social mobility has been decreasing for decades . More importantly you state that social mobility is likely to decrease even further under the current government coalition. As for comparing the current government’s stance with classic Victorian liberalism ? Certainly there is the background music of the school of self righteous get up on yer bike etc not as stridently preached as in the Thatcher years but nevertheless there .

    In Ireland the early ‘Victorian Age ‘ conjures up the worst images of laissez faire not as an academic discussion point but as the harsh reality of a million deaths and millions more uprooted . The Indian famine in which 27 million perished while grain was exported being just another example of ‘economics’ or ‘mammon’ or ‘greed ‘ or ‘self preservation of privilige’ winning out over common human values .

    Fast forwarding to today’s world the UK is not alone in the trend towards lesser social mobility . The USA probably exceeds the UK in this regard by several measures particularly in relation to health and education . The only western democracies which seem so far to have avoided or ameliorated the trend are the Scandinavians And to a lesser extent the Germans and French (all of the above having a more ‘statist ‘ history than either the USA or UK or Ireland. But even in those countries ‘pressure’ is being exerted on what neo cons term the ‘nanny ‘state . In Ireland (ROI ) although the rising tide of the years of the tiger lifted most boats it lifted the boats of the wealthiest much more so than those in the bottom half of the economic pyramid .This trend has been replicated in the USA , China , India , and even in Brazil (although there moderated to some extent ).

    There is nothing abnormal either from an historical or economic perspective in all of this .Similar has happened in late Tsarist Russia -in Industrial Revolution England where despite the burgeoning of wealth from the new ‘industrial’ tycoon class -life expectancy of the poorest Britons probably reduced -much as in modern Russia where ‘gangster ‘ capitalism was allowed to run wild and even as yet still shows a disregard for ordinary Russians that would have been on a par with Tsarist days.

    The eventual ‘flattening ‘ out of the world in terms of living standards for the majority of people is a constant theme underlying much of neo conservative economic theory . And while there has been the growth of a huge new ‘middle class’ in countries such as China and India there is the reverse ‘decline’ in the advanced West where by many comparative measures it is seen that the income gap within these societies is increasing – and the competitive pressures being placed on the older formerly imperial countries by the new emerging economies -that competitive pressure is exerted on the bottom half of their (western ) societies -in effect that half of their societies which in many cases don’t bother to vote -cannot unionise- or are dissuaded from doing so or are too self engrossed in daily economic survival to care . At the same time the top half of these western societies and in particular the top 10% carry on amassing more wealth and more political power to enhance their relative position even further . There is in this trend a very real threat to what we like to call ‘democracy ‘ i.e government of the people by the people .

    In our recent election in the Republic and even in the current Assembly election in NI and in last years election in the UK there is a very strong and underlying ‘pessimism ‘ about what this or that ‘politician’ or political party can actually achieve -no matter it’s intentions . Essentially this is because economic power has been globalised whereas our ‘local ‘ politicians (99%) of them will never have more than a local presence or support base. Even the USA president or British or French or German leaders all bend the knee to the Mammon Gods of Wall St , the City and the IMF/ECB and in the near future the Chinese Central Bank.

  • Greenflag

    All of the above trends in post at 10.53 are ‘contexted’ amidst the rapid growth and ever faster development of technology and knowledge transfers and the instant communications of the global internet . There is the impact of these technologies on the enabling of ever greater wealth accumulation by the few and then there is the fact of these enabling technologies in their capacity to ‘resist ‘ and even even overthrow autocratic and oligarchic societies around the world .

    Where these trends will or can lead in terms of political impact on the older advanced western societies and the new emerging economic powers such as China , Brazil, Russia and India is still unseen but we can be sure that those defending their own economic interest in the western societies ( the economic elites) will not bat an eyelid as they consign the mass of their populations to the ‘wolves’ of global competition . This we have seen already in Thatcherite Britain and in post industrial USA . And heres the rub the ONLY defense the people in democracies have is the power of the vote in the first instance -and if their elected politicians fail them then recourse will be to the streets and the barricades and in that scenario theres lies the risk of a return to totalitarianism after of course the ritual cleaning out of the augean stables of the former ‘failed’ economic and political order .

  • Greenflag

    Zachariah tiffin’s foot ,

    ‘It may not be ‘fair’ but that is the way the world turns. Did my school background help me getting into my university of choice? No doubt. Were there other people more clever and deserving? No doubt; but I’d be lying if I said it bothered me then, or now.’

    An honest comment and probably true of the vast majority in your position . While I broadly agree with your comment as regards the ‘class ‘ system and it’s relationship with education etc – Turgon made the point above that it’s really only a tiny minority of those who ‘try’ who manage to rise from the ‘bottom ‘ to the top of the economic hierarchy . In the current economy they are more than likely to be sports stars or pop idols than ‘entrepreuneurs’ of the get up and go variety .
    There have always been ‘classes ‘at least since homo sapiens ‘ took on a settled existence and excused himself from hunting gathering as a sustainable life style . Once population exceeds the size of a nomadic clan or groups of nomadic clans then some form of social order or hierarchy becomes essential if peace is to be maintained -given our human natures . This order was for long based on brute force and or the biggest sword or scariest priest principle and in time it expanded to evolve into hereditary priest kings -feudal god appointed monarchy and eventually into what we now call democracy having taken detours along the road to experiment with totalitarian experiments in ‘people’ control .

    They say capitalism is the exploitation of man and communism is vice versa and there is a rough truth to that comment -but it’s also true that without the creative energies of the few that the lives of many would not have changed or might even be worse .

    However the assumption that only by the low or non existent taxation of the extremely wealthy that ‘jobs ‘ will be somehow created to grow the economy is in my view an assumption based on a false premise . That premise being that such folk are motivated by job creation when in fact they are mostly motivated by the return on their investment which is why ‘capital’ will invest in slavery if it provides a greater return than say manufacturing widgets in Sunderland or Ballymoney . As long as the economic and social order is based on money or fiat money then it’s safe to assume that capital (financial ) will continually seek to grow and expand and protect it’s ‘assets’ whatever they be . This may all sound bleeding obvious and it is but at various times in history and in several countries when ‘financial ‘ capital for one reason or another has submerged or collapsed the ‘real ‘ economy then there is usually a political consequence which can be everything from the overthrow of the existing establishment to -to red revolution or fascist dictatorship to peasant uprisings etc etc .

    Fortunately Zachariah not everyone in your position has been so blithe about being ‘unbothered ‘ about the state of the world around them and/or how the other half or three quarters lived or existed . The great social and political reformers of 19th and 20 th century Britain and elswhere did ‘bother ‘ and did enact reformist legislation which imo helped to keep the UK from becoming victim to either of the totalitarian extremisms that convulsed Europe 1917 through 1990 .

    If my memory serves me right much of the then British aristocracy preferred Hitler to Joe Stalin’s version of paradise on Earth .

    As we look around at the destruction wrought on the world economy by the reckless and irresponsible forces of anarchic capitalism backed by negligent and abetting governments and spurred on by the ideological lunatics of the far right -then don’t be surprised if one fine day you wake up to hear the sound of the tumbrills with Madame Guillotine to the forefront of the risen people .

  • Zachariah Tiffins Foot

    Of course the ‘risen people’ will be lead by middle class opportunists staking their claim on power. The masses do not fair particularly well at either end of the right-left spectrum; as you point out at clan level and above there is always leaders and followers and the leaders tend to live the more comfortable lives.

    As to the working of capital I spent a short spell in the City (and yes I got my ‘in’ through a schoolfriend’s father) and I can say the most ruthless asset-strippers were not the products of Oxbridge. They were East-End boys (and a very few girls) who wouldn’t have had a second thought about putting members of their ‘class’ out of work to turn a buck. Indeed if the wind-of-change had blown they would also have been happy to pull the tumbrills along to wherever if they thought there was a profit in it.

  • Busy day, but it gave me time to reflect on the notion of monarchical “upward mobility”, and even do so in parallel with the frothings that have been going on with Pete Baker’s parallel thread, trying to find any significance in those ponderous feudal titles.

    Then a pfennig dropped.

    It’s in Simon Winder’s romp, Germania, and available at any chain bookseller on one of those three-for-two deals.

    Winder makes the point about the Wettin descent. One branch went prod (Ernst of Saxony), the other went east (Margraves of Meissen, all the way to Leipzig and Dresden). Then comes this:

    … the Ernestine line, now restricted to the jumbled hills and valleys of Thuringia, tended to split lands between sons, resulting in a chaotic jummble of tiny states, all prefaced (in English and French) with Saxe-. These little places were economically insignificant but sometimes culturally and dynastically amazingly important — most obviously Saxe-Weimar but also (for many royal families) Saxe-Coburg and even somewhere hardly traceable on a map like Saxe-Hildburghausen could make its mark (it was the marriage of a princess of Saxe-Hildburghausen to the Crown Prince of Bavaria in 1810 that instituted the Oktoberfest, now attended by some six million people a year).

    So, could we proposed the Slugger Corollary here: the less important the titular base (and the more complex the nomenclature), the more significant to the alcoholic tendency?

    On which note, were it not for the British royals’ habit of sloughing off surnames as and when it suited, would it be, as of last Friday, Herr und Frau/Mr and Mrs Slesvig-Holsten-Sønderborg-Lyksborg?

  • Zig70

    My experience of entrepreneurs is that they are lucky, but a plebeian like me in the same situation wouldn’t make it as I don’t have the greed or the single mindedness. The wedding fascinates me on several points, the political expedience of having the masses honour the state, the cult of the self and the fact that so many working class english vote conservative and Pippa’s arse. So many people think they could win the lottery, marry a prince, become high class and vote/support their aspirations. Imo the irish aren’t anywhere near as loyal as the english to their own country. I don’t think that’s a bad thing but it must make politicians life harder. Even worse for motivating the soldiers.

  • Greenflag

    zachariah tiffins foot,

    Your point being exactly what ? Ruthless asset strippers come in all shapes and sizes . East End or Ballydehob or Wall St -matters not . They tend to gather (herd if you like ) when financialisation of economies becomes so concentrated and the ‘prey’ is for the taking . They are usually aided and abetted in their ‘preying’ by weak or non existent regulatory systems which have in recent decades favoured liquid capital and paper over the ‘real ‘ economy.

    Of course a close examination of all major revolutions in world history shows that they are mostly led by those classes who have something -probably everything to lose -if the system continues as is . Being closer to the ‘bottom of their societies they may be much more aware of the ‘economic ‘ realities than those living in penthouse suites or in the Bermudas .

    And yes there are always those who grasp ‘revolution ‘ by the tail and somehow end up leading it into the new paradigm or into a new totalitarian abyss . This in itself does not stop the broad masses from supporting ‘revolutionary ‘change when ‘conditions ‘ reach a point that to continue under the present is no longer tolerable . If those at the top of the economic and political pyramid can see beyond their troughs and initiate much needed reform in time then much blood can be saved .

    In today’s anarchic capitalism even the leaders seem very unsure of where this global economy is taking them and us along with them . I suspect for some it may indeed be the tumbrills speaking metaphorically that is at least in the west-In the Maghreb, Middle East and Africa the end for many will be blood and gore.

  • Alias

    Most of the rich lost their money by either recklessly lending it to banks or recklessly depositing it with reckless banks (the same thing). Fortunately, the state transferred their losses to the poor via nationalisation of those losses and so the poor will repay the rich man’s burden via increased taxation on his labour. The outworkings of that, in Ireland at least, are bound to mess up the social mobility figures…

  • Mark

    Zig70 ,

    ” IMO , the Irish aren’t anywhere near as loyal as the English to their own country . I don’t think its a bad thing but it must make politicians life harder . Even worse for motivating the soldiers ”

    There’s a slight difference in whats expected of an Irish and an English soldier in todays world of ” peacekeeping / invading etc …..

    ” The wedding fascinates me ………… and Pippa’s arse .

    I found Pippa’s arse fascinating as well . Talk about your sister’s bottom stealing your thunder on your big day . I wonder if Harry followed through with that very old tradition of the best man ……..

  • Greenflag

    Alias ,

    ‘Most of the rich lost their money ‘

    You mean some lost their money and those who did lose were not exactly left having to line up for welfare or unemployment .

    ‘and so the poor will repay the rich man’s burden via increased taxation on his labour.’

    Not just the poor -every taxpayer even those who did not borrow to excess and who remained prudent during the cheap money period when loans of 120% were signed over by crooked mortgage brokers to people whom they knew would never be able to afford them and these loans were then further passed up the food chain so that the Magnetars and the Goldman Sachs and Citibanks and Anglo Irish and Bank of America etc could finally point their collective guns at Governments everywhere and demand ‘bailout’ or they would ‘destroy’ the world’s economy .

    The politicians everywhere kow towed and are still kow towing because they know that there are still banks out there who are in deep shit but hoping to avoid another round of failures which would be the end of capitalism as we know it . Which in itself might be no bad thing !

    ‘The outworkings of that, in Ireland at least, are bound to mess up the social mobility figures…’

    The social mobility figures were already moving in the wrong direction before the 2008 collapse. Perhaps less so in the case of Ireland which up to 2003 or there abouts enjoyed rates of economic growth which were not skewed by the property bubble .

    In the UK and the USA social mobility started to decline just about the time when MIlton Friedman’s economic doctrines came in vogue and were implemented by Reagan and to a lesser extent by Thatcher .

    As testimony to the superb achievements of Friedman’s neo conservative economic doctrine -if you are going to be born into this world and you wish to enter it in the best health possible and with the best chances -and you can choose then you should take care to be born in Norway or any of the Scandinavian countries or Australia . The worst place to be born right now is Afghanistan . The USA ranks 31st a long way behind the EU and Japan and even behind some of the former eastern european states 🙁 And if you happen to be female and have ‘pregnancy ‘ complications your chances of dying from the complications are 7 times greater in the USA than in Italy or Ireland .

    When any health system is based primarily on the need for insurance Companies to make 20% profit then it stands to reason that you are going to end up with a system that will be both very expensive and inefficient and will be dictated mainly by the need to provide ‘profit ‘ for all those who prey and the patient will be virtually the last consideration . As for ‘health ‘ ? Whats that got to do with anything ?

    These Health Insurance gangsters need to be sent to Guantanomo and the banksters along with them !

  • Greenflag

    zig 70,

    ‘My experience of entrepreneurs is that they are lucky, ‘

    Then your experience may be limited . Having dealt with some 300 of the species over a ten year period in several countries I can recall only in a couple of cases where luck played more than a minor role and even then without the hard work and attention to detail those businesses would not have survived . I’m talking primarily about small and medium size businesses who employ 10 to 200 employees and which were started by their owners . In all of these cases only 2 had attended university and even they completed degrees in subjects which were of little or no relevance to their business . In terms of personal ethics and behaviour towards employees -probably because of their size I found 99% of them to be strong of character and fair . I can only recall two who I would call ‘character’ deficient in the sense of being prepared to do what was unethical or even illegal .

    Of course all of the above were true ‘entrepreuners ‘ building businesses which either produced actual goods or services which were of benefit to consumers and other businesses alike .

    Unfortunately as an economy becomes dominated by financialisation and 40% of corporate profits are earned from moving around pieces of paper (in themselves worthless ) such as CDO’s etc then you enter a new ‘economy’ paradigm which has given the world what it’s now reaping .

    As we can see from the interviews of leading world financiers such as Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Moynihan of Bank of America and our own Fitzpatrick, and Drumm and Fingleton etc etc the ‘financialisation ‘ of the economy opened a pandora’s box which is still having reverberations around the world and which has left the negligent elected politicians of almost all western countries looking as capable of solving this world monetary crisis as a bunch of kindergartners would be designing an atom bomb 🙁

  • Greenflag

    Malcolm Redfellow,

    Thanks for mentioning Simon Winder’s ‘Germania ‘ I noticed it the other day but was too rushed to do other than take a quick glance but I noted it for a future read. Is it worth it

    I ask because I’m presently reading Frederick Engel’s ‘the Peasant War in Germany’ which events took place in the early 16th century . They make Wat Tyler’s effort in the 1200’s seem almost tame in comparison 😉

    Ironically reading through some of the passages struck some ‘deja vu ‘moments . Replacing ‘nobility ‘ and ‘princes ‘ and ‘priests’ and bishops’ in some instances with bankers , governments and financiers and replacing ‘peasants ‘ with modern ‘taxpayers ‘ and the great ‘unwashed’ -it could almost be a commentary on today’s events in our early 21st century .

    Plus ca change perhaps but not always plus le meme chose . Some things have changed for the better since early 16th century Germany. Universal suffrage for a start and probably dentistry and I believe the treatment of alcoholism has also progressed even for those with names as long as Schutzengrabenvernichtungspanzerkraftwagen . Just as well they did’nt marry into Brittania’s first family eh ?)

  • Mark

    Greenflag ,

    Having watched my customer base whittle away in the last two years , I totally agree with you . If I’m not on Slugger or watching Kim Possible , I’m chasing bad debts .

  • Greenflag @ 8:34 pm:

    Have you done Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France and (to my mind even better) Parisians? If so, you’ll assume that Germania is in the same vein— as the cover design is preumably intended to imply —, though only about three-quarters as good (which is no mean feat in itself). That said, Germania is a fine, professional effort and most pages provide a wry or unusual insight into other lives. There are, though, many occasions when I feel Winder is better with places than with people.

    It’s definitely a “personal” history, with the emphasis on the subjective rather than the history.

  • Greenflag @ 8:34 pm:

    I nearly missed coming back on your punchline about Germans in Britannia’s first family.

    The arrival of Georg Ludwig (George I) at Greenwich is surely one of the classic moments of English humour. How could Blackadder improve on such actualité?

    For the benefit of anyone with illusions of regal dignity and grand occasions, it was at Greenwich, in a full London smog. The new king was broke, but accompanied by a dozen and a half cooks, and two mistresses en titre. The latter were Ermengarde Melusina von Schullenberg (the tall one, on her way to becoming Duchess of Munster) and Sophia Keilmansegg (the err … big one, on her way to becoming Countess of Leinster), promptly and jointly identified as the “Elephant and Castle”.

    Now how about that for a bit of social mobility?

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow ,

    Thanks for that –

    And then there was this famous /infamous lady who for some reason I though was linked with one of the Hanoverian Georges in matters of the boudoir -but it’s not mentioned on Wiki -perhaps it was somebody else whose name escapes me now ?


    That the first George would have two mistresses named Ermengarde and Sophia seems sound enough given his inadequacy in and refusal to speak any of the eh ‘King’s English ?

    You can’t trick me with that Elephant & Castle yarn . . I know that the world renowned underground station receives it’s name from the native Cockney play of rhyming slang on the Infanta Del Castilia and not on two large German court followers of the night 😉

    ‘how about that for a bit of social mobility?’

    I’d probably call it horizontal meritocracy although I’m guessing that the eh ladies in question would not have restricted themselves purely to horizontal gyrations . In retro a kind of 18th century version of the later Hollywood casting couch route to or for the stars ?

    Which prompts a remake/upgrade of the old adage

    American version :

    Question : How does one get to Carnegie Hall ?
    Answer : Practice

    British version :

    Question :

    How does one get to join the aristocracy and or royal family

    Answer : (long version ) Have an ancestor or ancestors who were minor German nobility -could’nt speak english and were very attracted to food and women or women and food -lots of both .

    Answer : (short version )

    Lie down and take off your clothes for George and you too can become a Dutchess 🙂

  • Greenflag

    Mark ,

    ‘Having watched my customer base whittle away in the last two years ,’

    My condolences -if you can hang in another year there may be better times – hard to tell right now –

    First law in business -If you can’t sell it -don’t make it .

    During the frenetic days of selling CDO’s to unsuspecting investors and rapacious financial institutions the fit finally hit the shan when the eh ‘buyers’ stopped buying and the credibility gap between -real money and gambling casino money became too great to be ignored 🙁

  • PaddyReilly

    George I was reputed to have two mistresses, the Duchess of Munster and Countess of Leinster, who rode together in then same coach, but the latter lady was in fact the daughter of his father’s mistress, and thus his sister, and the former may in later life have been his wife.

    The story that he could not speak English was true only in the early part of his reign. English is only a kind of Plattdeutsch.

    Then as now, Irish titles of nobility were a kind of third division currency.

  • Greenflag @ 7:04 pm:

    Ah, yes! “Blessed Peg” Woffington!

    My instant recollection is that some wit said that any man bold enough to be her husband (David Garrick was rumoured as a strong candidate) would need the armour defined by Horace in Odes, I. iii: illi robur et aes triplex circa pectus erat. [don’t worry it: it amounts to a breastplate triple-plated with brass]. To which the other wit replied that Peg would always have enough brass for both of them.

    From time to time I have felt moved to blog mini-biogs of the walk-ons of Anglo-Irish history as “The not-so-great and the not-so-good”. Perhaps Peg should qualify for number 23, with due acknowledgement to Greenflag, of course. She qualifies as a major feature at the (non-rugby) Twickenham Museum.

    PaddyReilly @ 7:33 pm:

    I think you will find there is considerable doubt about the relationship between Georg Ludwig and Sophia Charlotte (née von Platen und Hallermund). Her reputed father was Duke Ernst August of Brunswick and Lüneburg (1629–1698), the ruling bishop of Osnabrück, which does make her Georg Ludwig’s half-sister.

    When, around 1701 the lady was being — conveniently ? — married off to Johann Adolf, Baron von Kielmansegg (forgive my previous I-before-E disaster), Georg Ludwig’s mother, Sophia, went on record that “to her certain knowledge” the lady was not Georg Ludwig’s mistress. “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

    Ragnhild Hatton’s 1978 biography of George I went to great lengths to clean up her reputation. In places like Sluggerdom, I’d go with “Maxwell Scott” [Carleton Young] in The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    When her rival, the “Maypole”, Melusine von der Schulenburg, was elevated as Duchess of Munster, she descended on London determined to extract a similar title (and got “Countess of Leinster”) — the trip killed her already-ailing husband. These were not just titles: they came with substantial pensions on Irish revenues: the lady’s daughter, Charlotte Howe, was on £1250 a year from the Irish exchequer.

    The general impression at the time was something was going on between her and George I (who was also believed to have “strange tastes”). The king’s cake-maker was dismissed for indecent expressions concerning the King and Madam Kielmanseck. The Princess of Wales thought her a wicked Woman. Walpole recorded that he was terrified at her enormous figure … Two fierce black eyes, large & rolling, beneath two lofty arched eyebrows, two acres of cheeks spread with crimson, an ocean of neck that overflowed & was not distinguished from the lower part of her body, and no part restrained by stays.

    Whatever her hold on Georg Ludwig, she made hay while the sun shone, not least in boosting shares in the South Seas Bubble (she was on a £120 bonus for each point the share price rose above £154). She died worth £60,000 at 1780s values.

  • Greenflag


    ”the latter lady was in fact the daughter of his father’s mistress, and thus his sister, and the former may in later life have been his wife.’

    It’s getting too late in the evening to decipher that complicated menage a quatre or is it cinq 😉

    ‘English is only a kind of Plattdeutsch.’

    Not quite but close – the French and Latin influences are much stronger than in German and then there is the whole lingua franca thing and language frontier between Wessex and the Danelaw areas where early English dropped it’s Germanic inflections and contortionist grammar so that they and the Danes could communicate . Probably the closest language to English would be Friesian specifically West Friesian ( only a few thousand speakers now ) spoken on the offshore islands and that part of the Netherlands . Plattdeutsch is probably next in line and refers to that German dialect spoken across northern Germany . In High German (the STANDARD ) bottle is translated as Flasche . In plattdeutsch it’s Buddel .

    Had England never been conquered by the Normans modern day English would probably sound more like the Dutch ‘Friesian ‘ dialect -i.e not exactly a disease of the throat but hard on the ears and the vocal chords and an excellent starting off point for clearing one’s throat before spitting 😉

    William Shakespeare would not have approved I’m sure!

  • PaddyReilly

    Wikipedia holds that her father was the same as George I’s:- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophia_von_Kielmansegg,_Countess_of_Darlington , not that it is the last word.

    Two facts suggest to me that she was George I’s sister, not mistress. One is that she was hideous; the second is that she travelled quite amicably in the same coach as the Duchess of Munster, who was George’s paramour, possibly morganatic wife. If they were both in the same business, it seems inevitable that they would have quarrelled.

    The wikipedia article points out that her coat of arms, Brunswick with bar sinister, makes very plain who she was and who she wasn’t.

  • Greenflag

    ‘and an excellent starting off point for clearing one’s throat before spitting ‘

    Which thought ironically reminds me of Connemara Irish / gaelic the first time I heard it being spoken . On first hearing German ‘live’ as between consenting adults I got the distinct impression people were shouting at each other for reasons which I could never then or since fathom 😉

  • Mark

    Greenflag ,

    Cheers for your condolonces …. always look on the bright side etc …

    You should hear two thais having a heated agrument , they only ever use about six words , they just mix them around . It’s all in the tone or so I’ve been told by my thai relatives .

    So its probably not all in the tone then …..

  • Alias

    “Not just the poor -every taxpayer even those…” – Greenflag

    No, just the poor. The poor do not have sums larger than 100k on deposit so the state making the guarantee unlimited was not designed to assist the overwheming majority of banking customers. Since the poor do not have the money to repay the debt to the rich that the state has made them liable for, it is secured against the future earning potential of each worker and extracted via taxation on his labour, reducing him to the status of an indentured servant.

    The increase in income taxes is not targetted at those who are rich. Likewise, those who gained most from the bank guarantee have not seen any increase in their taxation rate. They are the corporate citizens – limited companies – who enjoy a protected tax rate that excludes them from contributing towards the costs to the poor of bailing them out.

    What you are looking at is a mass transfer of future wealth from the poor to the rich, since the poor alone are to replenish the wealth that the rich lost through their reckless investments.

  • Greenflag

    Alias ,

    Not quite but close . We might disagree on the definition of poor & rich and the decreasing number of ‘in betweens’ in all western democracies’ I would agree that the bottom 25th percentile will have been the worst affected even with the restoration of the minimum wage to what it was before the last budget .

    I’d adjust your final paragraph to

    What you are looking at is a mass transfer of future wealth from the working and middle classes everywhere to the very rich and the corporate managerial elites , since they are to replenish the wealth that the avaracious and irresponsible financial services sector including banks , insurance companies , mortgage brokers , etc etc aided and abetted by clueless politicians everywhere over the past couple of decades !

    The people of Scotland have now given the Labour Party it’s worst result in 80 years . I suspect a good part of that drubbing may not be ‘increased nationalist sympathies ‘ but more a growing belief that Labour’s now defunct Third Way is now being seen as a smokescreen behind which the ‘City of London and the financial sector broadly steered British economic and monetary policy to the edge of a financial abyss with the British Labour party’s acquiescence 🙁

    The Lib Dem’s look like becoming Britain’s PD’s .