Thursday 18 November 2010
Karl Marx spent a good bit of his life as an exile in England. It was the place to be, the place at the most advanced stage of industrial development, the place with the most developed working class; it was the place where revolution, by the lights of his theory, was bound to come, had to come. After all, it was historically inevitable.
Except it did not come; it never would come. For all his time in this country he acquired no understanding at all of the English way of doing things. We do not rebel: we absorb, we adapt, we adjust. According to Marx the bourgeois should have overthrown the aristocracy, just as they in their turn would be overthrown by the proletariat. But no- it was the middle classes who became the measure of all things, not the aristocracy or the proletariat, the middle-class who would be the motor of change from the high Victorian age onwards.
The truth did actually dawn on the old prophet towards the end of his life. He began to share the cynicism of Friedrich Engels, his collaborator, a factory owner from whom Karl had not the least hesitation of skimming off a spot of ‘surplus value’ now and then to support his own bourgeois lifestyle. The English proletariat, Marx said, “"was becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat as well as a bourgeoisie."
Marx! thou should’st be living at this hour. Yes, he should, because he would be able to see that he got one thing right at least: the bourgeois advance has continued. We have a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat, yes, but now we have a bourgeois monarchy!
This is a long and convoluted way of saying that I’m absolutely delighted at the announcement that Prince William is to marry Kate Middleton, his long-standing amour from Saint Andrews days, an impeccably bourgeois girl! Actually she is more; she has poise and she has elegance, the most fantastic dress sense I’ve seen on a public figure for such a long time. I think she will make an absolutely delightful queen for a new monarchy, a monarchy for the twenty-first century, a monarchy for the people, by the people, of the people.
She won’t be the first commoner to marry into the royal house, an honour that belongs to Elizabeth Woodville, who married Edward IV in 1464. There have been others since, not just commoners but people without any aristocratic lineage. I'm being disingenuous, though, in suggesting that that Kate is the harbinger of a new middle-class monarchy; that’s long been in evolution, a monarchy of quite domesticity and familial duty; a monarchy really created by Victoria and Albert, impeccably bourgeois in taste and morality despite their disreputable Hanoverian lineage. Edward VII was really the last king with any vestiges of the old fashion. Thereafter it was comfort, duty and dependable mediocrity! Now Kate brings a touch of colour and style, a new bottle for old wine. I wish her well, our once and future queen.