I sometimes wonder about the futility of the press. I wonder why people bother to read the meandering biases of other motivated human beings. And yet, as a self-confessed news junkie, I can’t stop reading these biases. Daily, I read The Guardian, The Independent and other UK newspapers. The vox populi can quickly become the vox imperative.
I retain a strong belief in the role of the fourth estate. However, it is imperative that the fourth estate act as a brake, and force for accountability, on the institutions which dominate society. To misrepresent the words of a citizen (subject) when speaking about the monarchy, is not only to denigrate that citizen, but also to denigrate the very function of the fourth estate. Elements of the British press may find it surprising that so-called “normal people” still want them to engage in investigative and enquiring journalism, I only wish that they would fulfil the mission for which they were created.
Rarely have I seen such a misrepresentation of a news story as this week’s reporting of Hilary Mantel’s speech at the British Museum. For, the British newspapers reported this speech as an attack on Kate Middleton. It only takes a cursory reading of the speech, to see that Ms Mantel was actually making a defence of Kate Middleton, and critique of the institution of monarchy. Far from attacking the Duchess of Cambridge, Ms Mantel was actually looking at the way that we create the institution of the Royal Princess, and expect her to conform to our socially constructed constraints .
Before you pass judgement on Hillary Mantel’s speach, I only ask you to read the full speech here, rather than just read the British tabloid press coverage.
In my opinion, Hilary Mantel is Kate Middleton’s best friend in Britain today. Far from attacking the Duchess of Cambridge, she defends the woman’s right to have her own voice, her right to her individuality, her right to be human. If there was an attack in the article, which is debatable, it is upon the institution that we, the people, have created, the social construction of the monarchy. Mantel, argues that we are the guilty people, not Middleton, nor the monarchy.
Most of the speech is a fascinating historical analysis off the social and biological situation of Henry VIII and his wives, I was thoroughly engaged by the discussions regarding Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn amongst others, and the contrast drawn between the current British Royal Family and Marie Antoinette.
Viewing brings privilege, the privilege also brings responsibility. As a viewer we also have a responsibility to be analytical in that which we view. Royalists often describe monarchy as a service, serving us. As such, it could be posited that we get the monarchy that we deserve. Therefore, the responsibility is upon us to ask for that which we hope to deserve. Our imperative could be the aspiration, borne of our behaviours, to create that we we think we deserve. In such a situation, the monarchy that we get is that which we have created from our capacity for imagination, hope and (psychoanalytically, as referred to by Mantel) desired.
Do we, as culture and society, still aspire to the constraint and confinement of women? Or, as Mantel explains in her speech, do we aspire to a more progressive and diverse society, in which women can be that which they hope to, and can obviously, be? Far from criticising the Duchess of Cambridge, Mantel, supports and celebrates The Duchess’s right to be the educated, intelligent, individual that she has a right to be.
Mediaeval England? Or contemporary, modern, England, that is today ? All we have to do is to read the original speech.
Is English nationalism so easily distorted by media such as the Daily Mail? For England has such a strong tradition of impressive Royal female leaders. From Boadicea , Queen Elizabeth I, to Queen Elizabeth II, to the modern day. Have we quickly forgotten the lessons learned from the tragedy of Diana, Princess of Wales?
Surely, the thinking royalist, should stand with Mantel today, and denounce the British tabloid press.