In news conference this morning our television monitors were tarnished with the sight of William Windsor and Catherine Middleton wandering around Cambridge, shaking hands and smiling procedurally for camera in their inimitably vacuous way.
The caption said it all. “Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit city for first time since receiving their titles”. The word “received” is doing a lot of the work there, don’t you think? The thing that makes Cambridge famous is that it has one of the great universities of the world. And that university is premised on the idea that you have to obtain certain standards to gain entry: through effort and industry, you can earn a place on merit. It’s a noble form of elitism.
William Windsor and Catherine Middleton have the word ‘Cambridge’ in their titles for a reason opposite to merit. You could call it anti-merit: they “received” their titles through aristocratic decree. That is ignoble elitism.
This would be a very terrible thing at the best of times, and indeed is; but what makes it infinitely worse is that the young couple who flashed up on our screens were entering the magnificent Guildhall, just off the central market square. That would be the same magnificent Guildhall that I will be getting married in next summer.
After the trauma of today’s images, I may have to reconsider.