Are the "Arriviste" Royal Family Beneath the Concern of the Intelligent Middle Classes? -- Andrew Crofts
I am entering an age where the memoirs of old men and women are filled with characters, events and attitudes that I recognise as being part of my own past.
I am currently reading “Based on a True Story” by Anthony Holden, a journalist a few years older than me, who distinguished himself on the Sunday Times in a period when it was possibly the greatest newspaper in the world, and went on to work for several others.
Fleet Street tales from the pre-internet age, when newspapers actually did have their offices in or around that famous street, seem as ancient and redolent of smoke-filled pubs and shabby privilege as they did when satirised by the likes of Evelyn Waugh less than half a century before.
Now that anyone and everyone can write and find an audience somewhere, the days when an expert in ancient Greek poetry, such as Holden, can drift to the top in popular journalism, might seem finally over, making this a nostalgic read about a time which one might have thought, for good and bad, was now passed. But since Britain is staggering under the weight of a government dominated by characters like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, (the latter the son of William, himself a previous and distinguished editor of the Sunday Times), perhaps we are not yet quite out of the woods when it comes to the pompous attitudes of the British, post-imperial establishment.
Holden’s book is absolutely full of fantastic period detail, but my favourite quote so far is, “in those days, the mid-to- late 1970s, the so called ‘quality’ British press rose above coverage of the royal family, the implicit assumption being that these Saxe-Coburg-Gothas-turned-Windsors were petit bourgeois arrivistes beneath the interest, let alone the concern, of the intelligent middle classes.”
Holden, who was commissioned by Weidenfield and Nicolson to write a biography of the young Prince Charles, gets to spend a great deal of time with the heir to the despised throne, and appears to be pretty much in agreement with this lofty view.
The book is a hilarious glimpse into just how pleased the
denizens of the “quality” media are with themselves, and how much amused contempt they
hold for virtually everyone else. Being a middle-class Englishman of roughly the
same age and background as many of these people, I feel the time has come for considerable
pause and inner reflection.