The Return of Hogarthian Britain:
Figures released for launch showed 1,000 young people, aged between 15 and 25, receive serious facial injuries in alcohol-related attacks each week while 18,000 suffer permanent scars every year.
Separate figures show some 5,500 people are "glassed" every year while more than 80,000 others are threatened with glass or a broken bottle.
Treating such injuries costs the [National Health Service] NHS £2.7 billion a year.
Follow the Kipling brain at work here, or not, depending on your perspective. This story proves that Britain needs a monarchy. Yes, exactly. I don't mean the media monarchy of today, I mean the sort that Queen Victoria projected. A values monarchy. That was largely the current monarch's plan. She of the older stiff upper lip generation. Not how it turned out. Between coming down that tree in Kenya (see below), and her eldest son's nasty divorce, the Royal Family became a sad joke. Actually the same joke, repeatedly endlessly. The modern Royal Family is no more or less dysfunctional than its predecessors. The difference is that whenever one of them says or does something daft, it gets included as part of a snarky headline in The News of the World.
Imagine living your life with Rupert Murdoch's minions waiting, often up a tree, for you to do something silly or tactless. No matter how bright and decent you might be, you'd wind up looking like a prat within days. Had the modern tabloid media existed in the medieval era, they would have accused St Francis of practicing bestiality. It's the way they work. The problem here is democracy, not the political sort, though that's partly to blame, but its cultural tributary. When you establish vox populi, vox dei, you establish at the same time a vulgarian ethos.
It's worse in Britain, than in America and Canada, because of the war on manners and civility. North America, lacking an aristocracy in the traditional European sense, never generated the lower class themes of alternating resentment and aspiration. In America it was shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. Sir Robert Peel's father and grandfather were pioneer industrialists, yet neither would have, despite their obvious talents, been considered as possible ministers of the crown. Their hands had been sullied in trade. That block to merit was the spur for genuine, and understandable resentment.
As so often in history, the understandable soon married with the vicious. Socialism, either Marxist or on the rocks, worshiped the working man as victim of the modern world, and soon to be heirs of the glorious utopia of tomorrow. Whatever smacked of the elites and their bourgeoise lackeys - including manners, civility and restraint - was automatically despised. Generations of intellectuals, and their avatars in the teaching profession, began a war against the painfully constructed world of Victorian manners.
By manners I mean something far broader than personal conduct in a public setting. Social reformers, many of whom were also humourless puritans at heart, in the early nineteenth century sought to moderate the excesses of Hogarthian Britain. The rampant alcoholism and promiscuity - sound familiar? - was to be replaced by moderation and personal restraint. Acting upon your impulses rejected, and behaviour subordinated to an understanding of morality, however imperfect it may seem in hindsight. If the stoicism of these reformers, and the Britain they created, seems harsh and alien to us, the Rome in later days decadence of modern Britain would seem no less strange, and repulsive, to them.
The call here is not for reaction. What was was not always good. Restraint too often drifted into repression, and rules of thumb into commandments. A more flexible approach would be needed, the details of which are really beyond the purview of this post. We are talking about means, in particular about the means of the monarchy as projector of better values. It's often remarked that the monarchy is doomed. It has lost the magic, and once lost it cannot be regained. Yet magic is only a metaphor. Bagehot's monarchy was a Victorian creation. As was the Victorian world. As is the modern world. History is not a teleology, men possess free will and what has been made can be unmade.
One of the standard saws of Canada's crypto-republicans is that the monarchy is no longer relevant to Canadians. Neither is castor oil. The reason is the same for both, neither is used in modern schooling, If you don't teach people things, good or bad, they won't know them. A few intrepid minds will discover the treasure trove, but ignorance is the fate of the less curious. Along with monarchy is manners, in the broad sense we are employing here. I join the two because they were once seen as synonymous in the public's mind.
At the end of the film version of The Madness of King George, the much missed Nigel Hawthorne (playing George III) remarks about how his vast progeny must become the model family. It's a bit of anachronism. It was Victoria that created the model family with her tremendously clever, if perhaps too ambitious, consort. The Britain of the 1840s and 1850s wanted and needed an ideal family. Whereas future generations would look to television sitcoms, that Britain looked to the Royal Family, for the serious and the trivial.
Prince Albert liked Christmas Trees, they became a fad and then an institution almost as entrenched as images of the Nativity. George IV had been a notorious rake. Albert was the perfect husband and father, preferring family duties to carousing. Real men in Georgian England went out and stayed out. Real men in Victorian Britain stayed home. As projector of an ideal few have, or could have, done better at creating a new conception of manhood. There is little reason why Prince William, who looks ever inch the future monarch, cannot play that same role. It's been said that modern monarchy is celebrity with a conscience. We here, at any rate, aspire to something a little higher and broader for the crown. A sort of cultural touching stone. The monarch in Britain, and in the fifteen other Commonwealth realms, does not rule, she reigns. The influence of the monarchy cannot today be felt by brute force, but by persuasion. The power of a good example. Staring the media monster straight in the face and being as anti-vulgarian as possible. The original meaning of aristocracy is "rule by the best." It's a meaning the monarchy needs to reflect again, if neo-Hogarthian Britain is be reformed.