In his great study Culture and Society (1958) Raymond Williams takes Morris to task for his ‘generalised swearing’. Perhaps it is more the generality than the actual swearing that bothers Williams, so some more particularised political swearing (as in this blog post’s title, which I have borrowed from an anti-monarchist Facebook site) might therefore conceivably serve some useful purpose.
Today’s royal wedding has already been the occasion of the usual spectacular display of obsequiousness on the part of the British media (the BBC’s Jenny Bond and Nicholas Witchell have over the years been perhaps the most abject specimens of all in this respect). In the wider society, however, I don’t sense quite such intense devotion as usual. Perhaps we are all remembering what an utter fake the so-called ‘fairytale’ wedding of Charles and Diana (which I watched in an Oxford pub thirty years ago) actually was, and we might therefore be a tad more sceptical and cautious this time round – and these are, anyway, chastened economic times.
So a Windsor is marrying a commoner – one, indeed, who even (like myself) has County Durham miners among her ancestors; so might there be a socially utopian dimension to our celebration of this particular wedding? Good luck to the young couple themselves, of course; but if William were becoming a miner rather than Kate a princess, if the social transformation were operating that way round, then I might believe that utopia really had come.
Morris’s derogatory references to Queen Victoria as ‘Empress Brown’ are a good index of how refreshingly rude his attitude to British royalty could be; and in July 1887 my own local (i.e. Lancaster) branch of the Socialist League was doing its best to disrupt Victoria’s Golden Jubilee by distributing leaflets denouncing Britain’s imperial violence. So it must always be the task of socialists to challenge such national royalist outpourings, to prick the nauseating bubble of British complacency and obsequiousness in whatever ways they can.