Updated: Apr 17
"Oh for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention, a kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene! Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, asume the port of Mars..."
So opens the play, Henry the Fifth, by William Shakespeare, with these words from the character, the Chorus.
So do I here , as does the Chorus there, ask, that you, too, allow me, to be "Chorus to this history."
I am not referring to the same sort of "history," though there are similarities. There we see, or they saw, a play about a war between England and France, and the victory of Prince Hal. Here we see the playing out of a war of words between personal life and public life, and the victory again of another Prince Hal. Unlike Sir John Falstaff, who had a personal relationship of many years of friendship with the noble prince of old, I, do not, but, share in the personal interest and offer the hand of friendship to the noble prince of now. And especially to his bride to be.
To attempt to live a private life amongst the paparazzi, "at his heals leashed in like hounds," to borrow from the Bard again in the same speech, has not been easy for the modern Prince Harry or his brother William. The leash has been loose, despite the pleas for other than this, after the hounding of their beloved mother, the late, great, and much lamented, Princess Diana. A tighter leash and greater control, would have been far better for them, but such are the drawbacks of a welcome, free society and resultant, free press. Yet freedom, like much that is wholly good, can be wrongly used. The wedding of the year, as it has, with inevitability, been described, has, with equal inevitability, been exploited. The private love between two people, if the two people are in the public gaze, has a public spotlight shined on it. The two people involved here, like the institution one was born into, one marries into, have handled themselves and the circumstances, with a dignity beyond the cliche of the word, and a personality each has suited to the occasion. The occasion becoming one in which the embarrasments of family revelations, have been less of a revelation, than the stoicism, that the couple involved, have themselves consistently revealed.
If positive discrimination, or affirmative action, is, for some, the antidote to discrimination and prejudice, then bias is its near relative. I declare a bias in favour of the Constitutional Monarcy of my country, and though a Citizen of the World also, unlike Prime Minister Theresa May, who seems to openly dislike that phrase, I am affectionately, as well as officially, a Citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and a Subject of Her Majesty the Queen! If the Americans, with customary, real confidence, can refer to their exceptionalism, based on their country's history and trajectory, so too can the British, at least, amongst several things, in my view, on the position of its Head of State and her family.
Other countries have systems that on the surface make far more sense, but few have the history of the UK, that says it loud and clear, that common sense gets us to the system that we have, and keeps us happy with it, or at least, content. And it is not perhaps by accident, but maybe, by design, that I say, common sense. For it was in the pamphlet of the same name, that the remarkable and controversial, revolutionary philosopher, Thomas Paine, made his case against the British Monarchy and for the independence of the American Colonies.
What Paine did not understand, was there is no great case to be made for violence, that is convicing, if a peaceful alternative, is available, or possible. What Paine failed to realise, was the cathartic experience, of the fact that his fellow countrymen and women, had been there before, indeed before the American War of Independence, before the French Revolution, in the English Civil War. I , as a Londoner by and from birth, need only visit, Buckingham Palace, or the Tower of London, to see the contrasts and the alternative histories, peaceful existence, or "off with his head!" I as a resident of the City of Nottingham, need only walk down the road, to be at Standard Hill, where King Charles the First, attempted to rally the troops to the Standard, or flag, of his cause, only to see the bulk of the locals prefer the cause of Cromwell! Charles was executed by the victor, Oliver Cromwell and his men. And after over a decade of the dictatorship of that man, who they called the Lord Protector, the British people, having had their theatres, all closed, their taverns, all often closed down, and their pleasures, all but disappear, decided they did not need "protecting" from all that, but rather, preferred the alternative, thus reinstating the monarcy, but not as an almost Absolute one, which King Charles the First, had to his cost, seemed to be veering towards, but a Constitutional Monarchy, with checks and balances, and popularity the result. King Charles II, son and heir, ruled, known as the Merry Monarch, theatres reopened, and taverns, and Royal Mistresses present, like the actress Nell Gwyn! All a bit of a farce, some might say, but, why? History is a journey, one gets to travel, to get to where we are, and history can repeat itself.
So the modern scenario, of our very modern British Royal family, need present no surprise to a wider public, familiar or not, with its history, even if it can surprise us, with its reinention of itself, aided and abetted, by its new additions to the fold. Farce is inbuilt in family life and this is true of monarchies and of more, of paupers and presidents. Are the Trumps not a soap opera, even they, the result of a questionable election?!
I console the Royal couple with the thought, that at least two recent Presidents, Carter and Obama, have had family skeletons in closets, come out, throughout, those Presidencies. And as for the families of any of us, are we any of us, so different, surely the only difference is we are not as public, in our private, lives.
Meghan Markle is going to be a very welcome new member, of this semmingly very British, though also rather cosmopolitan, family and institution. Of mixed race, this alone is a marvellous addition to the Royal lineage, that has already seen the leader of the most "alt-right," political party, in the UK, the United Kingdom Independence Party, dismissed, as a result of a relationship with a lover, who made a series of awful racist comments, in many tweets, about Meghan Markle, to the outrage, of many, and open distaste, of most. The party, that precipitated Brexit, as a consequence, then partly, is on a precipice.
Indeed, unlike that other American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, whose relationship with King Edward VIII, led to his abdication, Meghan Markle seems further from the superficial social whirl, of the sycophant socialite world. Yes television stardom, or something approaching that, hardly makes for the status, or lack of it, of sainthood, but since when is the reverse of something, the only alternative. She seems to have substance, as well as a career of her own, she is someone who has been involved in humanitarian campaigns for many years. And that career, as an actress, like the late, great, and as lamented, as Princess Diana, Princess Grace, of Monaco, gives her an awareness of that public gaze that becomes a public glare, and can thus prepare her for her new role. Her husband, Prince Harry, shall, as he has all along, be a support to her, as he, like his brother William, and Sister-in-law, Katherine, shall be a support to the very many causes and charities their stalwart work benefits, locally and regionally, nationally and internationally. These two brothers have served in the military, in search and rescue, in the front line, brave and valued. William, as heir to the throne, has been a credit to his parents, in his efforts, not least in picking a partner in his personal life, who has turned out to be as brilliant at the task in hand, as any who could have been born to it. Harry, with his work too, such as the founding of the Invictus Games for servicemen and women with disabilities, and his discussion of mental health issues, has made his own real impact, and his partner is already too, and shall all the more in the years ahead. I see a family, more than a system, individual people, more than an age-old institution.
Perhaps it is because my father was an Italian who was in the compulsory Mussolini Youth and had to salute Il Duce in person himself, and that my father went on to support the partisans, against Mussolini, and later on, serve in the British military led police, in Trieste, but settled in Britain and lived here longer than there, I am aware of the history and its alternatives.
Could it be because of the example of my mother, who I used to mock in jest as favouring the totalitarian regime of Castro for Cubans, but the department store of Harrods for herself, and who laps up the Royal gossip, as much as she has a sympathetic view of them all.
Or perhaps it is because I discovered as a boy that I have the same birthday as Queen Elizabeth the First, who, amongst much else, presided over the renaissance, that saw the the blooming, the blossoming, of the work of Shakespeare, that I, have, over the years from youth to manhood, become rather keen on this dedicated family institution.
No, it is surely, really, because Queen Elizabeth the Second, has reigned without putting a foot wrong, and has stood as a bulwark, against the tides of fad and fashion, to form and fashion a family instituition, that is inclusive, international and now and increasingly, no doubt, shall be, interracial.
Meghan Markle, like anyone marrying, or any of us, anywhere, in any context, as we travel the road ahead, brings some baggage with her, as does her husband to be, as do we. It is probably best to go on something of a trip, some time before the wedding, unpack those bags, discard the unwanted contents, if there are any, repack for the honeymoon, enjoying it all the more and the marriage!
And so, I shall end this piece in verse, not from the pen of that great Bard, but with the decidely humbler, openly cornier, efforts of my own. It was Cole Porter who gave us Kiss Me Kate, based on the Taming of the Shrew, again by William Shakespeare, an appropriate thought, no doubt, on the eve of the wedding of another William and his Kate in recent years. I think my inspiration here, though, has been another Sir John, not Sir John Falstaff, as much as Sir John Betjeman, the Poet Laureate in the England of my younger childhood, his appearances on television, a delight of eccentricity, his contributions to national life, as pleasing, as his wimsical evocation, of "bunting in the hall." And thus, this. My little wedding present, perhaps, to the Royal couple, shared with any who can appreciate, that private love, and public good, can cohabit, or should...and can only do so with a sense of humour...
WEDDING BELLE, Ode To Meghan Markle!
Family gathering, guests are all babbling
Welcome to a Royal Wedding
Last minute wobbling, why thus the squabbling?
Windsor that's where we are heading!
Cry God for Harry
Meghan and Saint George!
For she, he'll marry
And carry a torch
Father of the bride, might yet want to hide
The people's view, who can blame him?
Who though, walks her up, won't show Meghan up
Some folks yet arrive on a whim!
Music by Parry
This thought we carry
Let's all have a ball!
The bridegroom's handsome, best man, too, and some
Both men are doing their duty
See Meghan Markle, she then can sparkle
Behold a vision of beauty!
Pray do not tarry
Gather all around
Join Meghan, Harry
With the love they've found...
Author : LORENZO CHERIN