Convincing one’s subjects of the monarchy’s value is an ongoing PR battle for the Royal Family and this week the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been on the front line. They’ve done rather well, haven’t they? Lugging the grumpy baby from photo op to photo op, smiling, smiling, always smiling and all for a measly ratings bump. According to a recent survey, 42 per cent of Australians are now in favour of a republic, compared with 58 per cent in 1999.
More fool the Aussies. In Britain we’ve always understood the value of someone to look up to. Our urge to venerate a royal couple was so strong that when it didn’t exist it was necessary to invent one: the original royal couple were Victoria and David Beckham, and they were brilliant.
Victoria marked her 40th birthday last Thursday by posting a selfie, looking tanned, toned and content in husband David’s arms, after nearly 15 years of marriage. Content, but not happy, exactly, because Victoria, like her royal namesake, rarely allows herself to be photographed smiling. Contrast her stony photo face with Catherine’s people-pleasing grin and ask yourself which is the more regal.
Although Victoria Adams was raised in a comfortable home in Hertfordshire, you may be surprised to learn she’s not actually blue-blooded. The “Posh” nickname began as a sort of snobby British in-joke, because, while her father drove a Rolls-Royce, that doesn’t make the family posh, not according to the standards of British society. It was a joke that Victoria always seemed to enjoy. In 1999, she and David had a gloriously trashy royal wedding of their own. They sat on golden thrones, she wore a diamond coronet and following the ceremony they moved into the seven-bedroom “Beckingham Palace”.
Perhaps burned by the utter cobblers that was “girl power”, feminism can be sniffy about the value of celebrity role models, but Victoria’s story really is inspirational. The disposable members of disposable pop bands aren’t supposed to enjoy longevity, let alone secure an invite to a real royal wedding. She’s phenomenally successful as a businesswoman, and she manages to convey the importance of family in her life, without making a show of subservience (unlike Beyoncé in her recent “Mrs Carter” guise). For any fans who wondered how a Spice Girl might become a Spice Woman, Victoria’s biography provides an eloquent answer: don’t take yourself too seriously, but take your ambitions very seriously indeed.
From her nickname to her unlikely embrace by high fashion, Victoria Beckham’s whole career has been a enjoyable piss-take of the absurd criteria by which we define our “betters”. All hail Queen Victoria, then. Because if we must grovel at the feet of strangers, just because they’re richer, thinner and more famous, better her than the rest of them.
The selfish traveller
It is unacceptable to speak ill of the dead. That is, unless they died on public transport. Witness the scenes at Eurostar terminals when travellers were told their Easter getaways had been delayed, in part due to a fatality near Lille.
There’ll be similar commuter cursing the week after next – with no hint of irony – about the “selfishness” of the striking London Underground workers. No matter that they’re taking a stand for workers’ rights, an issue that affects us all.
Why are people so lacking in public spirit when it comes to public transport? Perhaps because it usually works so well. We are able to glide across land, sea and air, without considering the engineering feats, human labour and irreplaceable fossil fuels which make it all possible. Convenience, like familiarity, can sometimes breed contempt.
Two hundred years ago, if an ordinary British peasant like you (no offence), wanted to see Paris, you’d have to sell your first-born into bondage to pay your passage, spend 12 hours chuntering down dirt-tracks, cheek-to-cheek with livestock, then risk your life in a rat-infested ship for the two-day voyage.
We forget, but modern transport is nothing short of a miracle. What a shame it’s wasted on such ingrates.
When once is enough
“Nobody knows anything,” wrote Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman, and his words were the movie-biz mantra until this week, when they were improved upon by the former child star who played the exceedingly cute daughter in Mrs Doubtfire (1993). “Sequels generally suck,” tweeted Mara Wilson, ruling out her involvement in the recently announced Mrs Doubtfire 2. Out of the mouths of babes! But if Mara’s old enough to know better, what’s 62-year-old Robin Williams’s excuse for making a film that’s bound to be terrible?
When I interviewed the actor a few years ago, he was pragmatic: “The idea is just to keep working. People say: ‘Why did you make Old Dogs?’ Because it pays the bills.” At the time, he ruled out a Mrs Doubtfire sequel: “At the end of the first movie they revealed his identity … so how does he carry on playing her?”
What Williams really wanted to talk about, however, was World’s Greatest Dad, a pitch-black comedy of which he was justifiably proud. It was about posthumous fame and auto-erotic asphyxiation (yes, really) and contained probably the best performance of his career. About 12 people saw it.
That’s movie-goers for you; they whinge about unoriginality but they won’t take a chance on anything unorthodox. Except, of course, if it involves a cross-dressing man infiltrating his ex-wife’s home by posing as an old Scottish lady. Because there’s definitely nothing creepy about that.
Don’t knock our climate
If you’re cursing the British climate this bank holiday, just be thankful we live in a country were even major geological events are underwhelming. Tremors in the Midlands made national news this week, but as one headline boasted, they were “100,000 times smaller than the Chilean quake”. Less of a quake, then and more of a gentle quiver.
Time to trade in Earth?
Her name is Kepler-186f and she’s turning heads at Nasa. But isn’t it a bit tacky to be ogling replacement planets while we’re still living with the old one? Earth used to be our everything, so we should at least try to make it work. Y’know, for the kids’ sake.