Her Majesty’s Bloomers

It seems that people collect almost everything these days, and are willing to pay amazing amounts of money to do so.  Still, some of the “collectables” are decidedly . . . odd.

Consider a recent auction in England, where an anonymous collector paid $16,500 for a pair of Queen Victoria’s underpants.  The white cotton u-trou, which are, well, expansive, bear a monogram with a crown and a “VR,” and experts believe they were worn by England’s longest-serving monarch back in the 1890s.

This story is weird on two levels.  First, why would anyone want to acquire such items?  Were the Queen’s old bloomers bought to be part of a collection of royal family memorabilia, or as part of the apparently growing interest in underwear collection — with people paying big money for the unmentionables of Elvis and Michael Jackson and even the dingy undergear sported by Walter White on Breaking Bad?  Are these underwear collections ever actually displayed to anyone?  Can you imagine being invited to someone’s country estate and, while there, being taken by the proud owner on a tour of their collection of celebrity boxers and briefs, nicely displayed in glass cases?  Small wonder that the bidders at these auctions are acting anonymously.

Second, it’s sad that people are selling this stuff, and it’s got to be embarrassing for the descendants of the long-deceased Queen.  Who wants to see an ancestor’s underwear being publicly displayed, especially when it is very much plus-sized?  Apparently Queen Victoria’s clothing was parceled out to staff members after her death, and some of the staffers’ families kept the garments for generations before finally being unable to resist the temptation to make a few bucks.  If I were Queen Elizabeth, or any member of the current royal family, or any kind of celebrity, I’d make sure to include a provision in my will that required all of my underwear be cast into the bonfire as soon as I breathed my last.

Ironic, isn’t it?  Queen Victoria so characterized primness and propriety that people now use the phrase “Victorian attitudes” to refer to antiquated, repressive views on gender and sex — and yet Queen Victoria’s underwear is being publicly displayed, sold to strangers, and made the subject of jokes because of its size.  I think the Queen would be shocked and sternly disapproving of this regrettable development.

Monarch Mania

048Richard and I walked through St. James Park today and then looped back toward Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, the route took us past Buckingham Palace, and that area was a madhouse. There was no Changing of the Guards ceremony on the horizon — so what in the heck were all of the people doing clustered around, standing on every available inch of sidewalk and wall and fountain, jammed together so thickly you could walk for a mile or more by stepping on the heads of people in the crowd.

As Richard and I slowly wove our way through the mob, we heard someone say that one of the members of the royal family — Prince Harry? Prince William? — was supposed to be arriving at some point. Could all of the people have been waiting for hopes of catching a fleeting glimpse of one of these guys through a window as a limo sped by? It’s hard to believe, but maybe that’s the case.

We were glad to leave the royal riot behind.

Royal Wedding Versus Jersey Shore

On Friday many Anglophilic Americans will get up extra early, brew some good strong tea and let it steep, heat up scones with clotted cream, and tune in the royal wedding.  Great Britain’s Prince William is getting married to Kate Middleton, and the royal watchers will be agog at the extraordinary display — commenting on every nuance of the ceremony, the cost of the event, the origins of the silks and satins in the bridal gown, the nature of the floral displays, and countless other details that no rational person would even notice.

The British people have a hereditary monarchy; they more or less have to pay attention to this stuff.  Why do any Americans, who fought the Revolutionary War 235 years ago to throw off the British monarchy, care?  Who knows for sure?  But Americans do like celebrity, and the British royal family are just about the essence of celebrity.  They’re super-rich and seemingly stylish, they live in castles and palaces, they take fabulous vacations and holidays, they wear crowns and medals and kilts and fine hats and gowns, and they don’t have jobs in the normal sense of the word.  What’s not to like?

Some haughty Americans will use the occasion of the royal wedding to make fun of the Brits and their American cousins who are obsessed with the royal family.  However, in a land where the dim-witted cast members of Jersey Shore are famous, we shouldn’t be so quick to cast judgment on our friends across the pond.  After all, even “Fergie” is not more appalling than Snooki.  If you have to live in a culture that seems to inevitably make otherwise unremarkable people famous, at least let it be folks who can speak the King’s English properly, who live in Windsor Castle, and who don’t apply make-up with a trowel, flaunt their perma-tans and cleavage and pumped-up muscles, blather to a camera about their inane personal problems, and routinely engage in drunken misbehavior.

So, good luck and best wishes to the Prince and his bride!  Now, let us get back to our fixation on American low lifes.