As the Royal wedding approaches, there is a Tsunami of Kate Middleton coverage headed our way.
Much is being made of her social origins. Not grand enough, apparently.
Indeed, Kate is being called a climber.
“Kate and [sister] Pippa were dubbed the Wisteria Sisters
because, as one wag put it: “They’re highly decorative, terribly
fragrant, and have a ferocious ability to climb.”” [Daily Beast]
But this made me think of the wonderful comment someone made about Eton, that it was not so much a school for gentlemen as their fathers.
Britain has always been a place of status mobility. Despite the 16th century claim that it takes 5 generations to wash away the “taint” of commonality, people would rise much more quickly, sometimes make the transition in two generations.
The English are very good at two things. Theatre and History. And they are particularly good at using the first to reinvent the second. If you can act the part, mastering the codes of behavior, clothing, housing, language, all, you may rise. Efforts will then be made to “paper over” the speedy ascent, and Bob is no longer your uncle. Now his name is Robert.
It is just possible that the industrial and consumer revolution happened in Britain because Britain allowed upward mobility in a way that France and Spain would not. And so was a contradiction managed: a status system intertwined with a meritocracy.
Go, Kate, grow.
Pearson, Allison. 2011. Citizen Kate. Newsweek/Daily Beast. April 11.
Image of a ruler is from the Noun Project at http://www.thenounproject.com.