p. 362: "The fact was (and remains) that the British monarchy canonizes the most entrenched system of arbitrary social stratification and class distin...morep. 362: "The fact was (and remains) that the British monarchy canonizes the most entrenched system of arbitrary social stratification and class distinction in the developed world. Openly representing rank and privilege in an era committed to democracy and the triumph of classlessness, the Crown stands for the class system, for the right of inherited wealth and status. The monarch embodies not so much the aspirations of a people but the aristocracy itself - all the terms and hierarchies that once defined England instead of the mixed society it aspires to be. In England an entitled gentleman is inferior to a knight, who stands beneath a baronet, who is beneath a baron, who stands beneath a viscount, who is inferior to an earl, who stands beneath a marquess, who is inferior to a duke, who is less than a royal duke, who bows to the King or Queen. One has to go to the Vatican to find a hierarchical structure as quaint."
Donald Spoto's book, published in 1995, dishes the dirt on the British monarchs (from Queen Anne, the last Stuart who ascended the throne in 1702 to Queen Elizabeth II and her progeny) in his somewhat restrained way typical of his celebrity biographies. What you find within The Decline of the House of Windsor is a bunch of desperately unhappy, emotionally stunted mediocrities leading idle lives, unable to make anything of themselves because of their restrictive and archaic social status.
Spoto is quite sympathetic to Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne for.
This is already an enjoyable book but what makes it even better is if you picture Scott Thompson ("Hell-oooooooooo!" from Kids in the Hall) in all the parts about Queen Elizabeth II. For example: "During an international crossing in 1976, the royal yacht Britannia suffered frough seas after leaving Bermuda. A Force 9 gale was announced; the ship pitched at a forty-five degree angle, then lurched over a crest and rested once more with its deck pitched at an opposing forty-five degrees... When the queen departed the dining room after dinner, the ship was still rolling badly, and as she gripped a sliding door she slid with it. 'Wheeeeeeee!" cried the Queen as the Britannia shuddered and her chiffon scarf blew around her head. 'Wheeeeeee!" squealed Her Majesty again, like a child on a thrilling ride." HAHA(less)
First, I have to say that Kate Beaton's comic inspired me to read this (I LOVE KATE BEATON!!). Second, I'm generally not a big fan of the work of the...moreFirst, I have to say that Kate Beaton's comic inspired me to read this (I LOVE KATE BEATON!!). Second, I'm generally not a big fan of the work of the Romantic poets. So melodramatic. So frilly. I have a marginal appreciation for Percy Bysshe Shelley's poetry, and little patience for Byron and Keats. However, reading about the lives of the Romantics is quite another story. The decadence! Scandals! Eating disorders! Hysteria! Bastard children! Suicide! Incest! (Wow, the English aristocracy are really into their half-siblings). Entertaining stuff.
The authors depict Lord Byron and Percy Shelley as gigantic assholes and are sympathetic to the women in Byron and Shelley's lives (as well as John Polidori whom Byron treated like garbage). As the subtitle indicates, the book is primarily a biography of the long-suffering Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the men who dominated her life - her husband and her father, William Godwin. The authors analyze Frankenstein while considering its historical context as well. Read it in one day. A very enjoyable read indeed.(less)