Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vicarious stars in our firmament

From Mr Alexander Boot:

We don’t just need to like, respect and appreciate. We also need to worship.

The traditional object of worship, the Holy Trinity, is now seen as a bit infra dig for our masses yearning to be free. That is, free of traditional faith, commitments, customs, loyalties.

One could describe this quest for liberation as anomie, but let’s not argue about terms. Suffice it to say that abandoning the divine object of worship didn’t get rid of the innate craving to worship something. A vacuum was created, which nature abhors and people try to fill.

Hence our cult of celebrities. In the past, fame was derivative from achievement – the greater and more substantial the latter, the brighter and more durable the former.

Then gradually the link between fame and achievement grew weaker until it snapped. The most trivial of attainments or increasingly none (say, winning the lottery or appearing on a reality TV show) could now provide a springboard to stardom.

In due course, people forget what it was that sprinkled stardust on an otherwise unremarkable person. He, or more often she, will remain famous simply for being famous.

For example, anyone who has opened a newspaper recently knows that Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters are bona fide celebrities. Who are they and what are they celebrated for? I don’t have a clue. By today’s definition, a celebrity is someone I’ve never heard of.

This is all par for the course, as it’s laid down nowadays. But a new phenomenon is in full swing, and it’s even more baffling. People become celebrities simply because they know celebrities, carnally or otherwise.

Such is for example Nancy del’Olio who once cohabited with an unsuccessful manager of the England football team. Upon being dumped by Mr Eriksson, Nancy declared she no longer needed him: “I can be a celebrity in my own right.”

And she was as good as her word – even those who can’t tell a holding midfielder from a hole in the ground accept Nancy’s fame as her due. In the same vein, Coleen Rooney has been able to parlay her marriage to one of Eriksson’s flops into a multi-million income of her own.

By contrast, Rosa Monckton, aka Mrs Dominic Lawson, is an accomplished woman. Yet her achievements fall short of earning her the celebrity status which is these days a sine qua non of success.

Hence Mrs Lawson’s real claim to fame comes from her friendship with Diana, the Princess of Wales, who was herself a celebrity by association only. That makes Mrs Lawson a star at two removes, but hey, who’s counting?

To keep the flame of celebrity at least flickering, if no longer burning bright, Mrs Lawson has delivered herself of yet another lengthy panegyric to Diana in The Mail, this one timed to the birth of the royal baby.

Diana, according to Mrs Lawson, was exceptionally good with children because 'her wicked sense of fun was infectious'. The naysayers among us would agree that Diana’s sense of fun was indeed wicked. It’s largely because of it that she did serious damage not only to the royal family but indeed to the monarchy itself.

“She proved communication is not just about the spoken word,” continues Mrs Lawson, “a look and a caress can be more eloquent than words.” I’m sure Captain Hewitt, Will Carling and many other friends of Diana would vouch for this.

But to keep the vicarious celebrity going, Diana has to morph into ‘Diana and I’ and then eventually into ‘I and Diana’. That’s how the game is played.

Thus, "I had met Diana only the month before I conceived through our mutual friend, the then Brazilian ambassador’s wife, Lucia Flecha de Lima.” Conceiving through a woman sounds like a tall order, but then we know that a celebrity doesn’t need to be good with words. ‘A look and a caress’ can work just as well.

Diana, insists Mrs Lawson, 'would have been the most magnificent grandmother and it makes me ineffably sad she will not be a part of the royal baby’s life'.

Well, call me an unfeeling cynic but, sorry as I am that Diana had to die so early, I’m just as ‘ineffably’ glad that the royal baby will be spared the lessons his grandmother could have taught him.

Petty egoism, ignorance of anything that matters (including the meaning of monarchy), putting a ‘wicked sense of fun’ before duty, insistence on being ‘me’ no matter how puny the ‘me’ is, the conniving ability to manipulate others for personal ends – all these saturate the ambient air anyway.

Our future king will be much better off growing up without being in daily contact with all those fine qualities exhibited by a past master of them.

No doubt Mrs Lawson has warm personal recollections of her friend. She should keep them just that, personal – even at the risk of losing her vicarious stardom.

The rest of us should rejoice at the birth of the royal baby, hoping he’ll benefit from more benign influences as he grows up.

Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes.


Blogger carl jacobs said...

Diana might not have done so much damage to the Monarchy if Charles had treated her as a wife instead of a combination 'suit to be worn at formal functions' and 'broodmare to produce the royal issue.'

Did he keep his vow to love her? Not in the slovenly modern sense of self-absorption best described by the phrase 'being in love.' In the true sense of selflessly choosing to act for the sake of and in the best interest of his beloved. Love after all is an act of will. Did Charles do these things? Then at whose feet should the damage be laid?

who had no part in the cult of Diana.

25 July 2013 at 14:11  
Blogger Naomi King said...

I agree, Mrs Middleton will do just fine as a grandmother without Diana having to steal the show. Diana's inability to win over her husband's heart and her gross infidelities showed how shallow and self serving she was. She was a very unwise choice, William was much better advised on his choice of spouse, God bless the new family.

25 July 2013 at 14:12  
Blogger Mark In Mayenne said...

Diana wrested power from the royal family (hard to do) and, uncorrupted by it, wielded it to her own humanitarian ends. Cool.

25 July 2013 at 16:20  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Diana wasn't perfect, and pointless celebrities are irritating, but this is just vacuous and nasty bile from a clapped-out, jealous-sounding shock-hack.

What happened Your Grace - did Peter Hitchens pull out at the last minute?

25 July 2013 at 16:33  
Blogger Nick said...

I am puzzled YG. You began with an intelligent insight into modern idolatry but ended with a merciless attack on the mother / grandmother of the future King. We know her failings, but there are also several members of the Royals who don't stand up well to scrutiny

It would have been better to pick on one of the many morally bankrupt public figures we see regularly on our screens. Diana did far less damage to British life than they have.

25 July 2013 at 17:50  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Yes, what a loss Diana was to us all, Mr Boot, or WAS she ? Looking back to those troubled last years of her life, isn’t it rather marvellous that Prince George will not be doted upon by her children with that Arab playboy, the muslim uncles and aunts that never were. There will be no mosque attendances for him, or learning the Koran from cover to cover, or flying over to Mecca, or rearing halal meat on his farm. His grandmother will never appear to him in her veiled face and arrange a marriage with some muslim princess who whips her servants.

Diana, you were a gentle soul, but weak and as a result verged on the edge of madness. You did as much for your country by dying young, as you did when you were alive. You being here today - a shy obedient muslim wife walking two steps behind your husband - would have made a ghastly sight…

25 July 2013 at 17:56  
Blogger David B said...

"We don’t just need to like, respect and appreciate. We also need to worship."

Speak for yourself, please, not for me

"The traditional object of worship, the Holy Trinity, is now seen as a bit infra dig for our masses yearning to be free. That is, free of traditional faith, commitments, customs, loyalties."

Traditional objects of worship tend to vary somewhat from country to country, from culture to culture, do they not?

Some of us might want a bit more back-up for metaphysical positions than 'it's traditional in my country'.

If anything is to be held sacred, I would suggest that truth is a pretty good candidate, despite it being pretty difficult to pin down in many circumstances.

There really is not a lot to show that any theist position is true, at least in the customary usages of 'God'.

Leave alone any particular brand of theism.

A yearning to be free of bovine ordure, perhaps?


25 July 2013 at 18:12  
Blogger Flossie said...

I am so pleased YG has acquired Mr Boot for your august blog - I read his own blog and he frequently makes me chuckle with his ascerbic style.

I was never a Diana fan, but felt a bit sorry for her - she was totally unfitted for the position she held, and had nothing in common with Prince Charles. I met her once - she visited a choir I was part of, and she was very sweet and charming - but out of her depth with the Royals.

I loathe the cult of celebrity. Young women now want to become footballers' wives or supermodels rather than doctors and lawyers - they see a way of becoming super-rich without having to work for it.

What did Liz Hurley achieve before becoming famous for wearing a dress - or part of a dress?

25 July 2013 at 18:35  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Inspector 1. Boot 0.

25 July 2013 at 19:13  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

It’s somewhat comforting that the biggest offenders of this wannabee celeb business are Anglo Saxon thick types. So thick, that when they stand accused of it, they have no shame whatsoever. Still, let them have their dream and remember we are not losing future scientists and technicians this way – it’s a damn sight more exciting for the afflicted than working behind a till, which would have been their lot...

25 July 2013 at 19:20  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Salutations Integrity. Boot’s a good chap. Let’s hope we will hear more from him, what !

25 July 2013 at 19:22  
Blogger ardenjm said...

For every vainglorious leech, vampirising the 15 year old memory of a famous friend there is a Alexander Boot making egregious comments like this:

"The naysayers among us would agree that Diana’s sense of fun was indeed wicked. It’s largely because of it that she did serious damage not only to the royal family but indeed to the monarchy itself."

Nope. The damage was done when a 19 year old virgin from a broken home was cynically selected by a self-serving Royal Family who knew full well that the 31 year old Prince still had every intention of keeping his mistress. As did the Archbishop of Canterbury who married them.

I'm amazed Diana didn't decide to wreak even more revenge after the way she was used. 19. She was just a kid, really.

So, no, on balance, the Royal Family was very, very lucky that they managed to learn the lessons of 1997 and become a little more human and humane.

As for this cheap shot:

"Well, call me an unfeeling cynic but, sorry as I am that Diana had to die so early, I’m just as ‘ineffably’ glad that the royal baby will be spared the lessons his grandmother could have taught him. "

The baby is 48 hours old and already you spit on the grave of his grandmother out of some kind of perverse loyalty to the House of Windsor.
When will Royalist Flunkies GET it?

William and Harry loved their Mother. You don't win any brownie points in their eyes saying - with such pompous, stuffed shirt scorn - how much better royalty they'll make now that she's dead.

25 July 2013 at 20:07  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

So, lamb to the slaughter then ardenjm. This 19 year old who used to hang around with Fergie, Duchess of York, and whom together was reputed to have visited gay bars incognito...

You’re worse than the BBC reporter who has drawn the short straw and is commanded to follow the doings of the royal family, the poor bleeder...

25 July 2013 at 20:27  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Come off it Inspector.

Claiming that a new-born baby is better off without his father's much-loved mother, who died 16 years before and isn't around to defend herself, is just a cheap, nasty and unnecessary shot, presumably made for no other reason that to shock and offend.

25 July 2013 at 20:52  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Darter Noster. If this man was going to shock and offend, he doesn’t need to do it off the back of ‘The Peoples Princess’. A title given to her by a nauseating press.

It is better she’s gone. Fair enough, she was used, but she didn’t have to enter the royal family. She could have declined, but for all her innocence, she didn’t. She took a gamble. It didn’t pay off so she slept around and found her Arab prince. Bit of a shame that, as she had two young children to look after, but what chance had they against her desire for personal fulfilment...

25 July 2013 at 21:17  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Incidentally old chap, she was a great one for colon irrigation. If that isn’t a sign of personal obsession, then etc...

This man rests his case...

25 July 2013 at 21:24  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

She had her faults, and I was no particular fan of hers as a public figure, but 16 years after her death all this venom is beyond belief - except from Boot, who's a shock-hack.

25 July 2013 at 21:42  
Blogger Nick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

25 July 2013 at 21:42  
Blogger Nick said...

ardenjm said...

"The baby is 48 hours old and already you spit on the grave of his grandmother out of some kind of perverse loyalty to the House of Windsor.
When will Royalist Flunkies GET it?

William and Harry loved their Mother. You don't win any brownie points in their eyes saying - with such pompous, stuffed shirt scorn - how much better royalty they'll make now that she's dead."

Expressed more eloquently than I managed. When it comes to skeletons in cupboards we know the Royal Family have a few of their own, but out of respect we don't use them for personal attacks. The woman is dead, so why can't you leave her alone and show some respect for her sons? I wouldn't blame them if they wanted you sent to The Tower Your Grace

25 July 2013 at 21:44  
Blogger ardenjm said...


Yep. She was flawed and damaged.
Anyone could see that.
You only needed to look at the home she came from to see that she was vulnerable, needy, flighty, unreliable, and over-emotional.


Largely because the Queen Mother insisted on a virgin and Diana, God love her, unlike many of her contemporaries in the upper classes - still was one.

I think what the Royal Family did in choosing Diana Spencer was typical of the last vestiges of its pre-War past and, ultimately, its unaccountability.
Charles was 31. With a married mistress that he had no real intention of giving up.
EVERYONE knew it.

Except Diana.

So stop trying to justify the unjustifiable.
Such sycophancy is not only distasteful - it's un Christ-like.
"The truth will set you free."
If you're going to look at the flaws of Diana Spencer and her mistakes - do so for Charles and the Queen also.

Diana pre-marriage was all of the things I listed above. Diana post-marriage was all of the above and more besides - and 15 years older.
But are you SERIOUSLY going to try and suggest that this manifestly flawed woman was more powerful than the House of Windsor?
Come off it.

She made some really bad mistakes after her divorce. That's for sure. Only a fool would deny it.

But what's good for the goose is good for the gander: our future King and Queen, you will recall, had a conversation where he expressed the desire to take the place of her tampon...
Here's the whole, excruciating, transcript:

Oh - and that was in 1989. BEFORE the divorce and separation.

So lastly - your inherent contradiction:

"She could have declined, but for all her innocence, she didn’t. She took a gamble."
Innocent and naïve people generally don't know to look before they leap. So the innocence you speak of ill prepared her to have the prudence to make a wise decision. Especially when it came to the Royal Family.
Likewise, such people learn the hard way to calculate, manipulate and gamble.
But she was taught well.
The House of Windsor and the Royal Flunkies saw to that. The Firm is tough. Dynastic survival is paramount. Everything else comes second: as the Church of England will discover when, for reasons of political expediency the Royal Family won't lift a finger to keep it established if such a position would threaten their own future in the realm.

The teenage Mary Tudor was declared a bastard and her Mother declared a liar and a virtual harlot by Thomas Cranmer. On the King's orders Mary was forbidden to see Katharine of Aragon until her Mother was sick with the illness that killed her.
You can understand a lot of Mary Tudor's subsequent behaviour in the treatment she saw meted out to her Mother during her childhood.
Cranmer didn't stand a chance.

The House of Windsor owes an AWFUL lot to Diana. Her death made them realise that they had to change.
And that's exactly what they've done. You may hate the fact that she was the one who taught them that. But taught them she most certainly did.
Her boys understand that.
And in the end, that's all that matters.

25 July 2013 at 22:07  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

ardenjm. Your disquiet noted.

Been meaning to say this for some time. You have an uncanny ability of wielding words in the same manner as a participant in a pub fight would wield a broken bottle.

If this man was younger, he might even consider himself a student of your style, but to the no doubt relief of Cranmer's regulars, he will not...

25 July 2013 at 22:36  
Blogger bluedog said...

ardenjm @ 22.07, shouldn't you reserve your criticism of Cranmer for his murderous employer, Henry VIII?

Cranmer was no saint (look at his role in the demise of Anne Boleyn), but he was faced with an impossible task.

25 July 2013 at 22:43  
Blogger ardenjm said...


Henry VIII was a monster.
Cranmer was his flunkie.
Together with Thomas Cromwell they installed caesero-papism in England and put an end to 1000 years of the Catholic Church here.

Enough said, really.

25 July 2013 at 23:14  
Blogger bluedog said...

Ardenjm @ 23.14, so HVIII installed caesaro-papism in England?

Some would argue that monster though he was, HVIII was prepared to free England from the shackles of the Holy Church and its inherent caesaro-papism. The idea of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, responsible for about 10% of English GDP at the time, would have sealed the deal from his perspective.

It is not impossible that apart from the financial benefits of the Dissolution, Henry may have seen the Catholic Church as a reservoir of pro-Plantagenet sentiment, which it almost certainly was. Given the Tudor penchant for murdering Plantagenets, destroying any constituency that might have supported that family would have made sense. Note that Thomas Bourchier, a Plantagenet family member, was Cardinal ABC and died in 1486 having crowned Henry VII.

25 July 2013 at 23:37  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Poor Diana. A beautiful young girl used as a pawn and lied to by everyone. What a miserable life hers was, her children,her only joy.Charles would make a frightful English King.Weak without integrity and a horse for a Queen.May the existing Queen reign for another twenty years and her successor be William.

26 July 2013 at 07:26  
Blogger IanCad said...

Now, the first part of this post is an excellent commentary on the utter vacuosness of the cult of celebrity.
I would go further and suggest that in this super safe society we nearly all lead lives that are, in essence, entirely vicarious.
Sports fans, TV addicts, Monday morning quarter backs and armchair sailors.
Boredom. inactivity and fantasy are the lot of most of us I'm afraid.

But why Mr. Boot would attack the grandmother of our future king is beyond me.
A gratuitous and unecessary swipe at a dead woman whose memory must be precious to those who loved her.

26 July 2013 at 07:35  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! Rest in Peace is what we say of the dead, so let it be for the late Princess of Wales. Her story, in some ways, reminds me of how poor Queen Caroline was treated by George IV...nasty business! Here in Barchester it is a lovely morning. The Cathedral Square is decked out with bunting and the whole town is celebrating the birth of the new prince. Mr. Slope has not yet returned from some SSM shindig (Saint Sebastian, Martyr?) hosted by the Prime Minister, though why he should be invited and not My Lord I have no idea. I must dash, as I have organised a ladies' committee to make sandwiches, a task I cannot leave to Mrs. Quiverfull poor dear, always willing to have a roll but no sense of when to stop spreading...

26 July 2013 at 08:53  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Not sure I can agree with the thrust of this article. To seemingly gloat over the fact the baby's grandmother and father's mother isn't around... seems inappropriate. I agree with Cressida.

Hopefully the Monarchy will skip a generation; William and Kate who are more down to earth (along with the public service of the current Queen) have done more to restore the Monarchy to public popularity than the insular aloofishness that used to prevail in the Monarchy. Who changed that, than none other than the people's princess?

I'd also say that Harry (we could have had Henry 9th?) is also a bit of fresh air and at least he's found his calling in life in fighting in the army...

26 July 2013 at 10:21  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

26 July 2013 at 10:26  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

The public apparently is still divided as to whether the late Diana was a saint and martyr or a shopaholic bimbo. Perhaps the most nauseating aspect of the Diana cult was the perverted attempt to accuse the Royal Family of assassinating her. That did a lot of harm and showed how stupid and emotional a lot of people are over celebrity.

If the silly girl had stood her ground thst night in Paris and said 'OK we're shagging, you all know that. Now take yer photos and piss off.' and then put her seat belt on, perhaps she'd still be here.

26 July 2013 at 11:01  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

This is unkind.

What Diana wanted was a monogamous loving faithful relationship with a man she looked up to, and to have a joyful loving family.

What are we Christians supposed to criticise in that exactly?

When she realised how unattainable her goal was, and that the world thought her beautiful but her husband disrespected and engaged in PR against her what was she expected to do? What would any of us have done under those circumstances? Whatever you do you get flak from somewhere under those circumstances.

She tried to make the best of her lot. Hardly surprising she showed flaws, tearfulness, and unreliable judgement then.

But she had the nerve to stand for children and against landmines, against the arms manufacturers. Not a lot of people had rushed to do that, had they?

Again as Christians we should find the idea of little children being maimed whilst going across local fields in all innocence horrendous, and should be 100% behind this campaign, not sniping with her detractors, some of whom no doubt are and were in with the landmine manufacturers, from the sidelines.

26 July 2013 at 13:39  

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