Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Merry Wives of Coburg and Gotha

I am told that the Kaiser commissioned a play of that title when he heard that George V had changed his name to Windsor. The centenary of that change draws near, at which point that play should be performed and televised both here and in Germany.

This year's Royal Wedding will take place against a rising tide of "Englishness", and will produce, in the middle or towards the end of this century, the first monarch in almost, if almost, exactly a thousand years who could be described as "ethnically English". Whatever "English blood" may be, the present monarch has hardly any of it, and the next monarch has almost none.

From 1066, there was a procession of monarchs as French as their consorts, followed by two Welshmen, three of whose children sat on the Throne at different times. Two of them never married, while the third was half-Spanish and married the King of Spain. Then came a dynasty of Scots with numerous foreign marriages, one of them to a Dutchman with whom she reigned jointly.

After that, a series of Germans married to Germans, albeit in one case a German who had to claim to be Danish for political reasons, not in Britain, but in Denmark; her husband's successor was married to an unambiguous, if London-born, German. (Another German ancestress was visibly part-black without any self-consciousness, while the first Welshman's wife had Moorish antecedents such that the Royal Family is descended from Muhammad.) Bringing us into the present Queen's lifetime. Her mother had plenty of English in her Scottishness, but then her father had never been expected to inherit. She herself has a husband one of whose sisters was married to Luftwaffe pilot while another was married to an SS officer.

But Prince William's mother came from one of the greatest dynasties in English history; from the old Whig oligarchy that stitched up the succession for the present line but has only ever regarded it as an unfortunate political necessity, a clan of obvious parvenus and nouveau riche immigrants. "The People's Princess" was the exact opposite of the truth: to herself and, not least, to her brother, Diana had married down.

And now, Kate Middleton. The next monarch but two will be three-quarters English. England will not have not seen the like since 1066.

No comments:

Post a Comment