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13 March 2021

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Tag(s): History, Languages & Culture, Current Affairs
And to mix my literary references the Lion is the Cowardly Lion, and the Witch is the Wicked Witch of the West. My wife and I were sure that it would not be very elevating, but we decided to watch anyway so that we could make our own minds up and not just receive edited parts through the filter of distorted media. The concept of fake news has become all too universal in the recent past, but this was about as fake as you can get. We have learnt that the Lion and the Witch only met the Wardrobe for the first time a few weeks before their wedding but still invited her to the big occasion. So, something like this was being planned all along. We also learnt that the big occasion we all watched was just a show because the unhappy couple had made their vows in front of the ABC a few days before.

We were told that the Witch had to google the words of the national anthem so that she would not be embarrassed. But we could also see that she had studied much more history than that. First, she was wearing an almost identical dress to that worn by the Duchess of Windsor in the famous interview she and the Duke gave in Paris in 1970. The hairstyles were similar too. But in that interview Wallis was charming, even funny and expressed few regrets except that her mother-in-law had cut them off. This was of course many years after the crisis while the Witch has precipitated a new crisis for her own ends.

She had also studied the more recent story of her mother-in-law and brought her into the interview. The pair aspire to embody the cultural power that was invested in her. They were trying to repeat the impact of another infamous interview that we now know was procured by fraud.

So much of this was derivative. Even the photograph of her lying in his lap showing her bump is identical to the last scene in Notting Hill. But this movie should be called When Harry Met Cruella. The staging was nauseating. We were being asked to empathise with the couple telling how tough their lives had been while being interviewed by a billionaire in the unimaginably luxurious surrounds of a Californian mansion.

In one sentence which has been replayed incessantly the Witch conflated issues of titles, security, and a vague reference to someone inquiring what would be the colour of their son’s skin. Firstly, the issue of titles was settled in 1917. Only the children of the first in line become princes and princesses. If she could google the national anthem, she could google that. Secondly, the issue of security is not a matter for the Royal Family. It is a matter for the Metropolitan Police. And if she chooses to live in California then presumably it becomes a matter for the Los Angeles Police if they accept the responsibility. Otherwise, it becomes a matter for the couple who can afford it if they can afford a $14 million mansion.

From this one vague reference to an unknown person who may or may not be a family member the whole family and its staff are being accused of racism. Before we watched this “chuck bucket” as described by one Australian commentator, we watched a marvellous programme recorded from the day before. The previous day, when the “chuck bucket” was televised in the USA, was Commonwealth Day, a matter I assume that the couple had ignored as I would not accuse them of wanting to spoil such a big day in the royal calendar. The programme was an hour long, full of joyful music and splendid interviews with leading members of the family. There are 54 nations in the British Commonwealth with a total population of 2.5 billion people. Not all the members are former British colonies. Mozambique, which was a Portuguese colony, joined some years ago. The vast majority of the populations of these nations have black or brown skins. The Royal family led by Her Majesty are the biggest supporters of this multi-racial institution. The Queen is probably the most travelled person in the world who has spent a huge part of her life visiting these countries and sharing meals and rituals and entertainment with people of all colours. Most of the people in the programme had black or brown skins.

The family have said they will take the issue of racism seriously and I am sure they will. Racism is a difficult subject, but it does not become any easier when unsubstantiated and vague allegations are made. The issue is different in the USA from here in the UK. In the USA, the vast majority of black people are descended from people who were taken there against their will and enslaved. The vast majority of black or brown people living in the UK are descended from or are themselves people who came here willingly, in many cases fleeing from persecution as, for example, the many thousands of Ugandan Asians who fled from Idi Amin in the 1970s. It is government policy to invite millions of newly oppressed Hong Kong Chinese to migrate to the UK.

Many people think that this ridiculous interview has thrust a dagger into the heart of the monarchy and if that is true then it is unforgiveable. Constitutional monarchy is one of the most stable forms of government there is.  There are sixteen countries in the Commonwealth which have the Queen as their head of state. They include Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados[i], Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, Lesotho, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and the United Kingdom. In Europe there are Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden which all have constitutional monarchies. In Asia and the Middle East there are Bhutan, Cambodia, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia[ii], Thailand, Tonga, and the United Arab Emirates. And in Africa there is Morocco. One or two of these have monarchies with perhaps few limitations on their power which perhaps stretches the definition of “constitutional monarchy”, but the majority are both stable and prosperous.

Sadly, this is no longer taught in schools. We can see from opinion polls this week that older people think that the couple have been dealt with fairly while the majority of the young do not. This may be because the older people still get their news from traditional media while the young get it through the warped filters of social media. But it may also be because the older generation were taught history and understand that since 1215 we have limited the power of the monarch and when one challenged that we cut his head off. But the younger generations have not been taught this history and ask ignorant questions about what the institution is for.
The couple complain about the invasion of their privacy. But this is absolute hypocrisy. They insist they want a private life, but they are constantly telling us what goes on in that so-called private life. They have told us in detail about her miscarriage. She’s told us about her thoughts of suicide. Noone invades her privacy as much as she does.

The Cowardly Lion complains about being cut off from the royal coffers. He says his father stopped taking his calls. But Private Eye, which covers the royals with a mixture of affection and satire and indeed accuracy, has been running in its spoof stories for months now that the heir to the throne would not take his younger son’s calls because all he did was ask for money. The couple seem to be awash with money made from trading on their royal connections.  The Cowardly Lion inherited several millions from both his mother and his great grandmother, now estimated to be worth £23 million.

And as for the Witch. Does no one remember she’s an actress? And who was the winner of all this? The Wardrobe.

[i] Barbados is aiming to become a republic in November 2021
[ii] Malaysia is also a member of the Commonwealth

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