Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Asked by a liberal Dutch monarchist to address the point that to him hereditary succession itself seems more rational than favouring males over females, I responded at my forum that one rational argument is that republicans especially in the Commonwealth countries would do their utmost to turn the necessary debate into one on the very existence of the monarchy itself. Most of us would rather not open that can of worms.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is relatively new, a creation of the post-Napoleonic era, so it is perhaps somewhat more appropriate for it and its even younger neighbour the Kingdom of Belgium to "move with the times" to a certain extent (though I don't really agree with the adoption of equal primogeniture there either). But the British Monarchy with its roots in the ninth century is all about Tradition, and the tradition there has been for male monarchs to be the norm (even if it doesn't quite seem like it due to three female monarchs having had exceptionally long reigns), with queens regnant the exception. Personally as an admirer of Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II I think that female monarchs shine when they are the exception, having come to the throne due to the absence of any (living) brothers.
I would consider it a travesty for Prince William's eldest son to be bypassed by a sister, which with the unique exception of Prince James Stuart (1688-1766) (hardly analogous to the present situation; somehow I doubt the "Glorious Revolution" was motivated by concern for gender equality) has never happened before in the history of the British monarchy. It is natural, and in accord with most monarchical traditions, for the eldest son of a king to expect to be king in turn, and cruel to deny that to him as it has been denied to Prince Carl Philip of Sweden (b 1979) whose sister Crown Princess Victoria (b 1977) would probably have preferred not to be heir to the throne. [In the Netherlands, ruled by Queens since 1890, it's a moot point at present since Prince Willem-Alexander has three daughters and no sons, but in Belgium Princess Elisabeth (b 2001) precedes her brother Prince Gabriel (b 2003), which still seems odd to me.]
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
THE LAST TRADITIONAL ROYAL WEDDING MUSIC?
Like the vast majority of the population I like to take Saturday mornings at a nice easy pace; in fact so easy that I try not to wake up until 9 o'clock at the earliest. I have to tell you that I fail every time to meet my target even though I refuse to open my eyes when I put the radio on in the early hours in the hope that the drone of the morning Overseas News Service and Weather Forecast will send me straight back to sleep again. From then on it's a toss -up whether I snooze, meditate, ruminate or contemplate.
On this particular Saturday I was thinking about the recent Royal Wedding, its colour, its pageantry, its beauty, the crowds, the music – ah the music! Having been Head Chorister at Canterbury and eventually going from there into the profession (indeed I had been a member of Westminster Abbey Choir itself), I have played my part in previous Royal occasions. Like those young choristers I was brought up to perform to high standards of discipline and technique, and was thus able to appreciate the hard work that must have gone into their performance whilst not forgetting the influence of the Master of the Choristers James O'Donnell. With their clear voices still ringing in my memory my subconscious took over and I was suddenly very much awake - “what a stupid thing to say” I declared out loud, opened my eyes and sat up in bed.
I was referring to a piece I had read about the Royal Wedding which rightly praised the wonderful choirs of men and boys of Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal but then added “It's probably time for the Monarchy to rectify this ancient bias, perhaps by inaugurating a parallel girls choir”. The next day a different writer added “O what a pity....things would have been even better with female singers”!!
With my background you would hardly have expected me to go along with that kind of thinking, but I have never seen such a deliberate dollop of insane political correctness and frustrated feminism! Most of us are fed up with political correctness just about as much as with some of the the ridiculous Health and Safety rulings which spoil so much of the fun and challenges in our lives, particularly those of our young children.
It is the same political correctness that insists that whatever boys do, girls must do the same, and that a male institution must have its female equivalent however unsuitable that may be. Of course we are all agreed that girls should sing as often as possible, and let us hope the present interest in Choral singing and singing in small ensembles becomes an educational and cultural requirement for all.
However, let us also remember that the sound of a boy's voice is different from a girl's, lasting a mere 5/6 years, before developing into a Counter-tenor, Tenor or Bass. Whereas a girl's voice lasts well into maturity. There is real concern that by mixing the voices of boys and girls, the unique sound of the boy's voice will be lost. Moreover, since we are also denying girls the possibility of developing their own particular style, we are in danger of reaching a creative stalemate.
We should not underestimate the benefits of creative stimulus at an early age and the positive influence that this has in later life. The tragedy is that the opportunity for building lasting self-esteem is being denied to many disaffected young people in our society. The good news is that the potential for artistic and creative success is not merely a bolt-on for those with money and privilege. There are countless musicians, artists, writers and sportsmen and women for whom social disadvantage has not been a handicap. But at some time or another these people will have been inspired to pursue their own particular excellence by their teachers or role models.
The boy chorister is no exception. He is uniquely placed to carry forward a long and distinguished tradition into 21stcentury Britain. He is making and enjoying music – often to very exacting standards – with boys of his own age, whilst at the same time being part of an adult world. We must not deprive him of the opportunity to scale his particular heights, or the evocative “Once in Royal David's City” and “Oh for the wings of a Dove” will be lost for ever.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
The Duke has been a fixture in British public life for so long (since his engagement to then-Princess Elizabeth in July 1947) that many people probably do not realize that he was born a member of the Greek royal family, the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece (1882-1944) and Princess Alice of Battenberg (1885-1969). At Andrew & Alice's 1903 wedding the guests included her aunt and uncle Empress Alexandra and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, providing a startlingly close connection between present British and long-gone Russian royalty. Contrary to the stereotype of royalty having "privileged" childhoods, Prince Philip had to be smuggled out of Greece in an orange crate as a baby due to political instability affecting his father and grew up moving from place to place relying on various relatives without a true home of his own, his parents estranged and his mother suffering from deafness and mental illness. Being born a Prince of Greece in the 20th century was no guarantee of safety, let alone privilege, but as a member of first the Royal Navy and then the British royal family Prince Philip has made his own mark on the world, to the benefit of countless people affected by the causes he's championed.