When it comes to snobbery in Britain – one of our favorite pastimes – you might imagine that at the very top of the pile would be the Royal Family.
Born into palatial wealth and privilege, convinced that they have been handpicked by God to lead Britain, possessed of scores of tiaras, orbs, and various other glittering things, surely no one can out-snob a member of the House of Windsor?
Actually, they can. The fast-approaching wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, which takes place this Friday, has revealed the existence of a new kind of British snob, a cynical, sneering snob, who looks down his nose at both the Royal Family and the peculiar little people who wave flags and cheer at royal events.
Meet the Windsor-weary Will’n’Kate-haters, who view the Royal Family as a bunch of vulgar over-spenders and the British public as a moronic mass that has been brainwashed into bowing before the Queen and Co.
Staunchly monarchist newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and the Sun have been publishing daily articles about the preparations for the wedding. (The Sun even printed cut-out-and-keep Will and Kate masks, in case anyone fancies dressing up as the couple.)
And street parties have been organized in towns and villages across Britain, where revellers plan to knock back lemonade and tuck into ham sandwiches as they celebrate this fairly historic union between an heir to the throne and a commoner whose grandfather was a coal miner and whose cousin works in a chip shop.
The deep cynics
Yet alongside these well-wishers, there are deep cynics, too, who have taken to advertising as publicly as possible their lack of interest in the wedding – and damning as “dumb” anyone who shows even an inkling of enthusiasm for what one writer disdainfully describes as “wedding frenzy.”
Among what we might call the smart set – generally liberal, well-educated opinion-formers – it is now fashionable to affect a haughty feeling of “meh” toward the whole shebang. Will Self, an influential London-based novelist, joyfully told the Guardian that a friend of his has invited him to a party profanely mocking the royal wedding, so “I might mosey along to that,” he said.
Mr. Self and his well-connected media mates, who will no doubt be clinking their champagne glasses in an orgy of anti-wedding self-congratulation, are clearly far more intelligent than the average British pleb.
Because apparently the reason ordinary Brits are excited about the wedding is that they have been “brainwash[ed] on an Orwellian scale,” said Self in a recent article for Prospect magazine. We have been “conditioned from birth to accept there’s only one form of government for us: constitutional monarchy.” In short, we thoughtless creatures have been sucked in by the allure of the Windsor tribe.
Have we been brainwashed?
The notion that the British masses have been hoodwinked into backing Will and Kate is widespread in the smart set’s commentary. One writer says we silly Brits have “gobbled up” this “psycho-spectacle of a marriage.”
According to Brian Reade, a columnist for the Daily Mirror, the public doesn’t realize that this wedding has been organized as a kind of “opium for the masses,” where we are being given a “lethal dose of fairytale schmaltz” designed to distract us from the recession. The wedding is a “magnificent pleb-pleasing distraction,” says Mr. Reade.
He is echoed by another radical writer, who describes Friday’s nuptials as a “Wedding of Mass Distraction,” the aim being to keep the British public “happy and obedient while the government puts its economic shock doctrine into effect.”
So apparently all those little old ladies buying Will’n’Kate plates, and all those families that plan to wave the Union Jack outside Buckingham Palace on Friday, have been programmed to indulge in such witless behavior by a government keen to take our minds off the downturn.
Mocking Americans, too
Another favored pastime of the British smart set is to mock Americans for their super-keen interest in the wedding.
Newspaper articles and political comedians have heaped derision on you Yanks for treating this union as a dramatic and historic affair. The underlying message of their ribbing seems to be: Why are you people interested in this gauche event, when even we Brits (the clever, non-brainwashed ones, that is) can see that it’s a daft waste of time and money?
The underlying snobbery of the Will’n’Kate haters was brilliantly revealed in an article by the columnist Marina Hyde, the daughter of a baronet, who complained that “in the great scheme of global blue blood, the Windsors are really rather middle class.”
Real republicans trust the will of the people
Now as it happens, I won’t be cheering the wedding on Friday, and I am not a fan of the Windsors. Why? Because I am a republican. I have always thought that Britain should ditch its monarchy and become a properly democratic republic, where the people, rather than one woman or one man who happened to be born into the right House at the right time, are the ultimate sovereign power.
And yet I find myself made nauseous by the pseudo-republicanism of the Will’n’Kate haters. Republicanism has traditionally been about trusting the people over any unelected bigwig. Yet in the view of the fashionable wedding-bashing set, the little people – these easily entertained plebs – are empty-headed automatons who can be made to clap on command, a bit like seals. How can such losers be trusted to make up and run a republic?
The American revolutionary John Adams said we should trust adults to live in a republic, to be “sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy and superstition.” In contrast, today’s Windsor-weary complainers trust no one – except themselves, that is, and their superior-brained dinner-party friends.
Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked in London.