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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Are you Betty, Queen of Scots?

H-Britannia96.jpgER BRITANNIC MAJESTY, as she is labelled in my passport, has many titles, amongst them Queen of England and Queen of Scots.

Notice the distinction? It once was important to us.

There has never been a King or Queen of Scotland, though much of the literature you may come across on the web will deceive you? No: since Kenneth MacAlpin treacherously unified the scots and the picts under one crown in 841AD, there have only been Kings or Queens of Scots - monarch of the people, never of the land. At the ancient palace of Scone - pronounced "Skoon" in a fit of perverse mockery towards the timeless Sconn/Scoan battle - where scottish kings and queens were traditionally crowned while sat upon the Stone of Destiny, there is a small hillock - the Moot Hill - where scottish nobles would empty a sack or two of their native soil to stand upon, and from that vantage swear allegiance to the new monarch. Monarch of the people, not the land.

James VI, King of Scots - the Wisest Fool, progenitor of your favorite translation of the Bible, original hater of the game of Gowff - he was first to muddy the title waters. In 1649, by dint of his lineage, he was acclaimed King of England too, and joined the crowns of England and Scotland in a union that lasts to this day. James the First and Sixth, he is often called. It was said of him, to digress for a moment, that he once had two babies - a boy and a girl - raised in absolute isolation on the island of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth, to prove his theory that Hebrew is the natural language of all mankind. Didn't work. Anyway, to return: The Union of the Crowns brought into being for the very first time the nation state of Great Britain. We scots have always been the prickly lesser partner in this union, and have always insisted on maintaining a measure of our own ways: we had our own parliament until 1707, when scottish nobles sold us out for £150,000; but we still today have our own, separate legal system. Scots Law, which encompasses all civil and criminal law in Scotland, famous - or infamous - because of its "Not Proven" alternative to "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" verdicts? It means "we know you did it, but they couldnae prove it" so we set you free, and free too from future jeopardy.

Despite our annoying nationalistic tendencies - we will shout you down should you ever imply we are english, we paste our cars and our cubicles with Saltyres and Lions Rampant - it is we, oddly, not they, who are quickest and most comfortable calling ourselves "British" or our country "Britain"? To the english of every stripe There'll Always Be An England, which to them means the entire british isles and Ireland too. It pains us deeply that their view prevails in America.

Our present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, or ER II (Elizabeth Regina II), is not without her scottish controversy, as my good reader DarkoV reminded me recently? Her coronation in Westminster Abbey, back in 1953, was the singular event that caused british households to purchase television sets: before that day britons had been more than content with cat's-whisker radio sets. You can see for yourself the pomp and regalia that attended that occasion.

She was, in fact, crowned twice: once in Westminster, then later again in Edinburgh, where she accepted the "Honours" of Scotland - the crown, the sceptre, the sword of state. But on that occasion she wore no robes - unlike the scottish nobility who attended her - but instead turned-up in what has since become her everyday fare: a turquiose suit, a funny hat, and that goddamned f*cking handbag.

Imagine: you are crowned Queen of a proud and ancient nation and you turn up for the occasion in a hat and a handbag?

Worse: she is decidedly Elizabeth II - not now, not ever "Elizabeth the first and second", nor even "Elizabeth I, Queen of Scots."

Should you ever visit Edinburgh Castle and take the tour that includes our Honours, there too you will see paintings of that great state occasion, and an honest commentary of its controversies.

Given this long-standing grievance I have no qualms relaying the following gossip to you. I apologize if I have written this before - one of the failings of a poor memory; one of its blessings is that I'm always able to laugh at The Simpsons freshly?

This story was told to me by Wee Tony, a colleague from way way back when we both worked for a british defence conglomerate. Wee Tony was of irish descent, and could spin a yarn better than most. A strange and interesting character, an accomplished session musician, keyboard and tin-whistle and saxophone player in a band called Choux-Parrot, and later sadly taken from us in a horrific car accident. It was Wee Tony, incidentally, who introduced me to the "two kinds of music" quote, and encouraged me to open my ears.

Wee Tony was part of the team that installed the "new" security system in Buckingham Palace after the Queen, in her nightie, was visited by Michael Fagin, a burglar who proceeded to unburden all of his personal troubles on our poor listening Queen. That Tony worked there on that project is absolutely true.

What he told us was that, while installing and testing security cameras, the engineers noticed how policemen, maids, gardeners - any kind of lowlevel staff - would occasionally run towards bushes, cupboards, doorways, any place near, and hide themselves. They learned that Her Majesty,and her family, are not supposed to see the staff: so whenever a Royal approaches the staff all run to hiding places! Apart from personal retainers and Court hangers-on-in-waiting, the Royal Family is not supposed to know they have a staff - remarkable!

It is also true that the Queen never visits the bathroom, and always wears gloves wherever she goes because nobody - outside her family, at least, nobody is permitted to touch the monarch's flesh. When she is forced to shake a hand, when preznits visit or whatever, she does so gloved.

The handbag, dear DarkoV, carries within it a brick.


Blogger DarkoV said...

As is the usual when I read your blog, I leave with a distinct feeling that someone, namely you, is leading a much more interesting life than me. Thank God for your blog, so that natives of Boringlifeovia can catch a glimpse of that disease we all wish we were stricken with. Excitement.

As far as the brick in Her Majesty's handbag...is it used by the Queen when she does go to the loo? You know, she puts it in the water supply container to save water and all that. Her toilet water requirements must be minimal. I can't vision her having much waste to pass through her system; I've never seen a picture of her eating.

Oh, yeah. I'm typing this with white gloves on. Just a touch of royalty to pass through this day.

11:36 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Oh - once again you have reminded me of something I'd forgotten: it is forbidden to film or photograph Her Majesty eating. That's why you've never seen it.

Absolutely true, too.

As far as an "interesting life" goes, you know that is my favorite curse? That and "f*ckin' f8cker's f*cked!"

11:43 AM  
Anonymous stephenesque said...

You seem to know a lot about royal etiquette - who are you really? The Hon. F.C Bearded, Royal Thistle Remover Persuivant of the Imperial Grouse Moors? I think we should be told...

11:19 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Everyone in Britain grows-up knowing this stuff - it's part of the pattern: fathers are mostly grumbling republicans, mothers obsessive monarchists who buy every book about the Royal Family good or bad and who kick you out the house to go play outside so you don't interrupt their watching of the Royal Wedding.

Except for the tale that Tony O'Niell told me, that is.

Took me ages to remember his surname - he was always just "Wee Tony" to just about everyone who knew him.

11:36 AM  

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