Family behavior down through the generations

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Looking west across the Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir from the Bridle Path in Central Park. 10:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Thursday, August 18, 2022. Overcast all day yesterday, as if we had some rain coming, with temps very mild (low 70s) and an occasional breeze. By dinnertime, still no rain, and then a deluge that ran long enough to clean the street and the parked cars and trucks and lowering the temps to a good night’s sleep temp of 63.

Harry and Meghan’s new book. I only know what you could know if you read the tabloids. The inference is there will be family tales to raise eyebrows and maybe some moral judgments. The Post referred to it as “Harry’s bombshell” memoir which is slated to be published this fall. The Post quoted a “publishing insider who told Page Six “… It’s juicy, that’s for sure.”

Another “publishing insider” also told Page Six that there are more new stories about Harry’s life that we’ve never read” and that “there is some content in there that should make his family nervous.”

So? Any family, particularly one with many surviving members has stories that could make a family nervous. We don’t know about them because 1. We don’t know a family/any family, 2. the “stories” don’t get tabloidal publicity because nobody cares.

What confounds is the press attitude about Harry’s wife. She’s ambitious by nature, yes; and she’s married a famous famous man a member of the British Royal Family. And she’s an actress out of work, and living palatially a hop, skip and a jump from Holllywood, her alma mater.

All of that is personal and all of that is human. We don’t know what their relationship is really like any more than we know what most relationships of people we see around are really like. What’s really going on with them is they both made a very big change in their own personal lives by committing to this marriage and parenthood.

They are what used to be called middle-aged but in 21st  century America, I’d say middle age now starts in the mid-fifties. In other words, they’re both new to the world they launched themselves into. And it is a world that is looking over the fence at them and having a good time poking them. Just like the kids we are.

Theirs may be a predictable situation. Many have already “predicted” their marital future (not for long). And that’s good for keeping you distracted from what’s really going on around us everyday — and we need that for our own sanity.

However, the Subject that is not only fascinating but it is a general record of family behavior down through the generations.

Edward, finally as King.

The British Royal Family. King Edward VII came to the throne when he was 62. At the time, he commented that it was “too late.” He’d already lived his life waiting for mother to go to heaven. He’d spent his life waiting for the inevitable. But the world had progressed naturally without him.

A British baron Lord Howard de Walden at the time, commenting on court life at the time Edward VII’s brief reign “I feel it is a sort of sad, last transformation scene: in a moment the curtain will comedown and the harlequinade of pure democracy will begin.”

Interesting observation of what it felt like for Edward VII, but I wonder if that’s not what it always feels like. Seeing Prince Charles at that dinner at Buckingham Palace (for the London Philharmonia) several years ago, I couldn’t help thinking that he was in an impossible situation as a human being. A nothing with all the privileges of a something, which one day he might be if he lives long enough and his mother dies pretty soon.

He’s “waited” for his “chance” (to be king) longer than anyone in British history, all the while being the object of scrutinizing attention as an individual and as a man. At first glance he does not seem comfortable in his skin although he knows quite well what his role is and how he should play it (a nothing waiting to be a something but acting like he’s already a something while knowing full well he’s a nothing). This is a powerful challenge for any man, and almost impossible. It’s something to seriously run away from.

Charles with his “dear papa.”

They were also very critical of David, Duke of Windsor for abdicating his role “to marry the woman (he) loved.” However they were lovers, they were successful at it — their relationship lasted until the end of their lives. That is a challenge they met, and however they did it, they must be admired for it. As king he would have been an indifferent leader, one who acts out a role which does not fit. I think women are better at carrying that responsibility anyway.

The role of King or Queen is really now just a masquerade, an acting out, for the role has no real legal power and therefore does not make the decisions. That is everything, as we all well know. Charles has basically been charged with amusing himself until his mother dies. It’s all there to curry our fancy. That wasn’t his fault; none of it can he be faulted for. His role has been that of heir apparent up until he comes to the throne. “Apparent” is a large word. And if he doesn’t succeed, then that is the role he will play to his end. A burden in and of itself.

His great-great-grandfather Edward VII was the previous holder of that title of Waiting, as his mother Victoria lived a long life also. Although Edward VII, known always as Bertie when he was Prince of Wales was just happy to be out and about, enjoying his prominence. Victoria liked to stay home in the palace, and not Buckingham. She hated London and liked her residences  where she lived as she wished, avoiding almost all public duties that didn’t interest her.

Edward’s parents, Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert, 1854. Royal Collection Trust.

Victoria also didn’t like her son’s presence any longer than necessary. I don’t know if she hated him but she did blame her husband’s early death on him. However, Bertie, once he was outside her palace grounds and going to school and to London which he loved, and where he was the only really ranking royal around because Victoria stayed away, Bertie was the Royal to meet. And he was the only one who was (eventually) going to be King. And it was still The British Empire — which is it not at all any longer — and even as Prince of Wales he was enormously important to the world leaders out there.

Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, with her son Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (right), and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (left). Seated on the left is Alexandra, Tsarina of Russia, holding her baby daughter Grand Duchess Olga.

There have been three monarchs since the death of Edward VII. Charles will presumably be the fourth. But in each monarchy, the power of the monarch has decreased to the point where their future lies in the attitude of the people toward a monarchy. Is it outdated? Useful but like a horse and buggy.

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