Tag Archives: royalty

Princess Dianas

When I changed my viewing and research from the British Royals to Wonder Woman, I was expecting a complete change. But Wonder Woman is also a Princess Diana, and politics as well as changing roles for women are key to both subjects.

Although one is blonde, one is dark; one is real, one is fiction; one is immortal, one died young, these women do have certain qualities in common:

Compassion

empathy

immediate and genuine rapport

beauty – from within as much as pleasantly aligned features –  but not an object

respect

tall – about 6ft (though Lynda Carter needed 3 inch heels to be that height)

national representative

an outsider

One was an English born aristocrat who became the wife and mother of heirs to the throne of the same country, and one was born on a secret island and took on America as her adopted country. But both had to get to learn the ways of a new world.

But Diana, Princess of Wales was more complicated and with conflicting qualities. Even those who were fond of her don’t deny a darker side. She said that her own suffering enabled and fuelled her to reach out to others.

In the TV series, Diana Prince has no emotional breakdowns and her problems do not seem very menacing or last long; but contractions have existed in all manifestations of Wonder Woman since her invention 70 years ago, and these are used more in comic story lines. But Lynda Carter said that she played Wonder Woman with a vulnerability, and that’s what made her  – and the other Diana – so appealing.

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On Being Liked, HM the Queen

Much of my Royal/national thoughts from last year’s wedding still stand:

http://elspeth-r.hubpages.com/hub/Why-the-Royal-wedding-was-astute

http://newsflavor.com/world/europe/the-royal-wedding/

I’d like to add a sense of pride* reading a newspaper I do not normally buy who wooed me by claiming they are “5p cheaper than the Mail and 10 times better” and their letters page with warmth for country and the remarkable lady that has remained our figurehead for 3 score.

Perhaps an icon of public restraint of emotion, it is easy to say we love the Queen in the same dutiful way she takes her role.

I have a book, by James Alison, called On Being Liked. It’s about God and I mentioned it in a recent post “Infinitely Beloved”. James says, God doesn’t like us in the dutiful way we may love a monarch – he likes us, for who we are. As much as the Queen’s true persona  is unknown I would like to say, for what I can tell of her, I like the Queen. And in a country of official free speech, I am not obliged to say so a la Orwell’s Big Brother. So I hope it means something that at the end of the Jubilee weekend, I choose to say that. I add with a sting that I’m aware of none who would greet any of the recent prime ministers in the same enthusiasm as our QE. And may she reign  long enough for me to meet her, and until we are ready for the next monarch.

*Not to mislead readers, my usual view of that paper has returned for other behaviours. It was on this principle only

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W/E

I have just seen Madonna’s new film on Wallis Simpson and her lover, the King who abdicated. strangely, without knowing about this essay of Madonna’s, I researched the British Royals and watched another film on the couple last year. I also saw the King’s Speech again and Bertie and Elizabeth  – making four films on the subject. I still like the 2005 TV film Wallis and Edward, by a British writer, Sarah Williams, the best. Interestingly her and Madonna’s portrait often concur which suggests shared sources but also corroboration. Bringing a more recent woman in for us to relate and compare with gives a new angle, but not an entirely necessary one, as I didn’t relate to Abbie Cornish’s character, although I totally understand how a historical figure can mean much and be someone real and significant in one’s life. What lacked in the new film is that the royal romance is not fully established. The fulcrum of the tale is a love so powerful that the King would give up throne and country, and almost family, to be with her – and as Madonna makes clear – for which Wallis made her own sacrifices. But I didn’t get a sense of the importance of that love, especially in its beginnings, of the  from the film, not sufficiently that I believed in all the effects of the affair.

You can read my earlier article here

https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/wallis-and-edward/

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Wallis and Edward

It is strange how history parallels itself. Since the Royal Wedding, I have researched our current royal family, about whom I truly knew little. It became like the story of Elizabeth I: I kept hearing about the previous generation and how their actions had a clear impact on the current. In the Tudor story and film Elizabeth, I found that I must know who ‘the whore Anne Boleyn’ really was to understand why Elizabeth’s claim to the throne was arguably tenuous. Understanding Anne actually told me far more than that and introduced me to a woman every bit as fascinating and remarkable.

Reading about today’s royal family is exciting because it is the same kind of epic history, but still unfolding, with the possibility to interact with it. We don’t know the end of the story. I like to read history and books where I don’t know the end; it is a shame that classics and history are half known to the general public so that there is rarely the pleasure of complete discovery for the first time. We know the Titanic sinks and that Mr Rochester does marry Jane Eyre. We know that Elizabeth I doesn’t marry and that Anne Boleyn is executed. Those events are best discovered like a film that starts with the end and you have to learn why that end is arrived at.

Reading about Prince Charles – whose story is still being made and whose ending is not known – I kept coming up against warnings about being like Uncle David, whose regnant name was Edward. This seemed to be the ultimate threat, the most dreaded comparison. The shadow of Edward VIII’s abdication was and perhaps is still looming in the memory of the royal family, though many of them were born after that event and even after his lifetime. I previously knew only that Edward abdicated to marry; I knew nothing of to whom, except her name and that she was divorced. However – any books, films and perhaps people are quick to fill in my blank that this was a feckless, selfish couple; she, a crude, loud American siren. And brave old Bertie conquered his stammer and stepped into his shameful brothers’ shoes and gave us the current royal lineage, with the strong Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at his side, known to us today as the late Queen Mum.

This year, I have seen three films about that era: The King’s Speech, Bertie and Elizabeth, and Any Human Heart. They all add to what the biographies say. David/Edward says little in the films, and neither does Wallis Simpson, but their small parts are almost caricatured in not being flattering. Only in 2001’s Bertie and Elizabeth was there a hint that he carried on with his duties, despite being exiled and stripped of his title, and still had popularity when he met people.

Yesterday, I watched the 2005 film for television, Wallis and Edward. I wanted to hear their side of the story. My instinct had been to wonder if Edward and Wallis were really so dreadful and to feel sorry for Edward. Who else but royalty cannot reject the work our family lines up for us? You can refuse to be a doctor as your parents hoped or to carry on the family business, but this is one firm you cannot leave. I find his abdication speech very moving. He says he can’t be king and do the best for his people without the woman loves. I understand that. Who else has ministers and laws telling you whom you should marry? Why is the anti-Catholic law still in place? The prime minister has no such scrutiny, yet Baldwin felt he could manipulate his Sovereign on that matter. Easy to deal the duty card to someone else when it’s not your companion that’s being dictated.

Jean Brodie says “…Stanley Baldwin who got in as prime minister and out again ere long”. This has stuck with me – that it’s the headmistress, Miss Mackay, who admires Baldwin and has the slogan near his picture, ‘safety first’. The complex antiheroine  loves truth, beauty, art, and esteemed Axis European leaders whose getting in and getting out caused immeasurable suffering. I think that regarding the Windsors, Stanley Baldwin can also be charged with suffering– not with the mass torture and execution of fascist dictators; but his prejudice fuelled pressure had an affect on the nation and his government as well as ripples of hurt and stress for the whole the royal family, Edward and Wallis especially.

I wish that Wallis and Edward had ended not with the end notes that they were ostracized for the rest of their lives and that Wallis died a recluse; but that Baldwin resigned and the sympathetic friend Churchill was who became our famous, perhaps iconic prime minister; and that their lives and duties had carried on beyond their wedding day.

Wallis and Edward is well written and the DVD’s interview with writer Sarah Williams is very illuminating. It’s her first made script, inspired by coming across a book on Wallis in America that perhaps indicated another light was possible on the woman so hated and decried over here. In Sarah’s telling, the Queen Mother comes across as scheming and controlling. King George V is not portrayed well in any of the films, always been bombastic and cold and autocratic, a negative force on both brothers. David/Edward is neither hero nor villain, but complicated. Wallis is not grasping at the English throne, but would rather see her love alone on it and lose him that cause constitutional crisis. She is always the one with caution, showing sadness and fear when things escalate. Rather than Wallis leaving yet another husband callously, it’s he who leaves her. She is willing to put her second husband before the king, but it is Ernest Simpson who asks for the divorce. There’s none of the crude, brash presumption in this Wallis, played by Joely Richardson. Joely’s an actress who plays symptheic protagonist roles and so this casting makes us willing to warm to her and suggests that’s what we are supposed to do.

It’s easy to see Anne Boleyn/Henry VIII parallels in that a man falls in love so passionately that he is prepared to go against his ministers and shake the constitution to do so. Henry, like many kings, took lovers of married women, and this was accepted. Edward VIII was advised to do the same, without marrying her, but this film has Edward refuse to take such a double standard and to marry his lover. Wallis, like Anne, is not aristocracy and her husband, like the men of Tudor paramours, angle their women towards the king to reap the benefits for themselves. Ernest Simpson is a nice partner who bravely confronts the King with his intentions – he does not want to leave Wallis unless she is well looked after.

The parallels with the current royal family are also powerful. Charles and Camilla’s wedding was announced during the filming of this drama. Had that happened earlier – or whilst Charles was king – a similar crisis could have emerged. I also recently saw the Channel 4 docudrama series, The Queen. It covers Charles and Diana’s break up and a parallel in living memory with Princess Margaret. Margaret wanted to marry a senior employee, Peter Townsend, but eventually gave him up for duty. I wonder how much of ‘Uncle David’ would have been behind that decision and the Queen’s views on both her sister and her son’s marriages. Being the daughter of the other brother, the one thrown into the limelight by the decision of the abdicator, one can surmise at how that affected Queen Elizabeth’s beliefs. A girl at the time, it may be that her parents influenced her ideas about it as she perhaps can remember little herself and I don’t think she had much contact with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as David/Edward and Wallis became.

I would like to do further research on Wallis and Edward, and am open to the more sympathetic view. Like Anne Boleyn, it seems she has been demonised, but it is better that she does not remain so for centuries if it not deserved.

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Fallen In Love

A review of a new production on ‘Anne Boleyn’s secret heart’

I was very excited to see this new play by Ipswich based theatre company Red Rose Chain, who say they had people crossing the Atlantic to see it and reviewers from all the national papers. They quote historical biographer Alison Weir’s positive comments, although she is thanked in the acknowledgements as being a key part of the research.

I have been passionate about Anne for several years and she formed a major part of my research degree. I was interested in how popular contemporary sources portray her, and how things have entered the canon of knowledge -ie what is seen to be true at any one time.

The canon regarding Anne has changed since the 1980s. Her enemies’ vilification programme was successful for 4 centuries, until several independent researchers of different backgrounds realised that there was another Anne than the Jezebel-esque ruthless upstart. Film has been slower to catch up, still portraying her broadly this way, and Philippa Gregory’s novel and now movie have tipped popular perception for the initiated back towards negative.

This summer, I’ll see two new plays on Anne, hoping that they might offer more of the fresh perspective that sees her as a heroine as Jean Plaidy, Vercors, Joanna Denny and Eric Ives have done.

Fallen in Love was disappointing for its portrayal and its execution – and no, not the one at the end of the play.

It wasn’t that I could detect historical inaccuracy, but that the portrayal fitted the conventional old style view – Anne as perhaps complicated, perhaps with a sympathetic motive, but not even as Prof Ives said – someone one admires but not likes. Naive Anne suddenly becomes hard, and we miss that trajectory out due to a major shift in time. The naiveté is shown through silly voices and exaggerated running about and frivolity.

I confess that I have never warmed to George Boleyn, and it is a shame that he is such a part of this play. Writer and director Joanna Carrick gives him the best lines – making out that it is he (not Anne) who is the religious reformer, the one who hates corruption but can also see genuine faith in some of the monks who are being so horribly butchered. She even lets George say the wonderful alleged final speech that Anne wrote to Henry about being raised from Commoner in stages to the highest honour of all – martyr.

A story about Anne that does not feature Henry feels odd. Small casts are tricky, and this duo didn’t hold the necessary interest for me. I didn’t know that it would just be Anne and her brother, and when this became apparent, my enthusiasm sagged. I also didn’t like the casting of Anne – again, a personal matter, but she didn’t act in a way that made you understand why the most powerful monarch of the western world was so smitten with her that he took such great steps to be with her. And – why this woman was deemed so dangerous that she was killed swiftly and then demonised.

That last part is something I have never found to be satisfactorily explained.

Fallen in Love is not the strongest title, suggesting a chick lit appraisal of one of Europe’s great moments of history. I had expected, therefore, a love story – and presumed this would be one of the few that would show Anne in love with Henry: often the affair is portrayed as onesided. I believe one intended interpretation of the play’s title is, as Gregory and Warnicke alone suggest, that Anne’s incest charge was actually accurate, with which I and most other scholars vehemently disagree.

I have particular tastes in theatre, leaning towards physical theatre and cross media as ways to best use the stage as a way of telling a story powerfully. This was a very traditional talk continuously play with too little room to act physically; the set is designed round a bed which also holds up the tee pee. The epic story doesn’t work in a small tent with not much of set. The post death scene with feathers and dancing was the best -for theatricality and innovation, and a welcome break from over egged young thespian voices.

Practically, there were also problems. Passing trains and football in the park didn’t help the authenticity. The tickets are expensive for what they are – £15 to sit an a marquee on uncomfy chairs with poor toilets, and a simple kiosk for refreshments. They have 2 evening shows back to back, meaning you can’t get in the carpark until the previous show has gone. This contradicted the ticket’s advice of arriving at least 15 minutes early. It wasn’t clear from the crude map that the Hall is not accessible from Gypeswick park, although it seems logical to assume it is. Retracing steps, having found the prohibitive high fence, wastes several minutes.

There was a free short aftershow by a community theatre. As much as I wish to encourage people to find their artistic feet, I have to say that this was a painful experience. What jarred most was not poor acting quality, but the incessant swearing. Dramatically, to swear constantly means you have played your trump card until it has no meaning. There are no more organ stops to pull out when the tension rises. The director warned it may offend ‘sensitive’ people, but sensitivity and a dislike of foul language are not connected. The action and dialogue were lost under the cursing. Group penned Guiltless Ghost is a play about transposing Henry, Anne, George and Jane Parker to a group of four friends on a modern housing estate, all on mobile phones and in chav gear. It forgets the high born grandeur, religion and politics at the heart of the Tudor story, and that Anne Boleyn does not lend herself to a kind of Gavin and Stacey directed by Shane Meadows or Peter Mullan. The bit that made me scoff into my hands was the closing voiceover quote that gave the piece its name. Halting, with a very Ips-witch rising accent, it made what might have been an interesting idea into a farce.

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