Someone once said that you can see where people are in the family pecking order by watching who ends up doing the washing up!
Family power games can be fun to watch if you’re not part of the power struggle and we‘ve had a very public power struggle to enjoy in the last week, in one of the most famous families in the world. It wasn’t about washing up of course, but it was definitely about the pecking order.
I mean the Windsor family of course – its main members sometimes known in a popular skit as Brenda and her son Kevin and daughter in law Cheryl – probably better known these days as The Queen, Charles and Diana. The court has just announced a new Order of Precedence – meaning the Queen has decided who will have to defer to whom.
She’s decided that Kate Middleton is going to have to courtesy to the “blood princesses”, which means the two sisters known as Princess Beatrix and Princess Eugenie, both of them famous for their fantastic headgear at Kate’s wedding. Apart from being known as Fergie’s daughters, Beatrix has famously lost weight, and Eugenie always looks as though her mother has just run up her dresses on her Singer sewing machine at home.
Neither of them can get a job, apparently because no-one wants to employ two unqualified socialites who go everywhere with a burly bodyguard in attendance. A large chap sitting around the office drinking tea, in and out of the loo, cluttering up the photo copier, unable even to read a good book if he’s supposed to be on duty, stopping in-house terrorists from bumping off his charge, would be rather in the way in a busy office. So no jobs for princesses.
These two girls are the daughters of Andrew, Duke of York, once known as Randy Andy, but more recently as Air-Miles Andy. He earned notoriety when he had a job promoting British trade. During this career, a number of highly trained mandarins in the Foreign Office put their careers on the line by reporting that amongst other problems, his association with a notorious American sex offender, and his links with Gaddafi’s family, and with corrupt regimes like Kazakstan were counter-productive. He was also accused of exploiting his travel opportunities.
Soon after leaving this job, the Queen gave him one of her personal medals signifying her approval of her favourite son, and presumably her displeasure for those who had ousted him in the name of duty and patriotism. So no medals for mandarins.
Love is blind. So in this family struggle in which the Duke is reportedly also trying to wangle royal jobs for his daughters – which Prince Charles is said to be resisting – the Queen has obviously given in to Andrew’s pressure to have his daughters placed above Kate in the Royal pecking order, hence the new curtseying regime. The logic behind this is that the sisters have the blood royal, and Kate doesn’t.
Certainly Beatrix is the spitting image of her great- great- great- great- grandmother Victoria. Take away her red Fergie hair, and give her black hair coiled in a bun at the nape of the neck, and she would look exactly like the young Victoria in the beautiful Winterhalter portraits with her husband Albert, and some of her eight children. Beatrix has the same protuberant eyes, sharp little nose and rosebud mouth and she’s also named after Victoria’s youngest daughter, who married a Battenberg, the same family as Prince Philip. But do these connections make her any more worthy of respect than beautiful, dutiful, middle-class Kate?
Prince Andrew’s wife Fergie and non-royal mother of the girls was called vulgar by royal courtiers at the time of their marriage, by which they probably also meant that she was tasteless. Fergie’s bad taste included various toe-sucking lovers, a cringe-making session on the Oprah Winfrey show having public psycho-therapy, and an attempt to get money using Royal connections. A former principal of Goldsmith’s College in London (co-incidentally the princesses’ university) Caroline Graveson, a Quaker, once wrote that if the church had paid as much attention to aesthetics as to virtue, we would probably feel as strongly about bad taste as about sin…
I think she’s right, bad taste is actually a lack of discrimination, which was one of the virtues of the ancient Christian Desert Fathers. So this week’s public power struggle in which Mummy’s favourite (but rather shady) son has come out on top, dragging his daughters with him, is not just power play and egotism, but a triumph of dubious values over virtue.
Kate Middleton can be seen to be virtuous, even paying for her own clothes, unlike the late Queen Mother, for example. She practises middle class thrift, buying clothes from chain stores as well as couturiers, and dresses with understated elegance instead of being extravagantly fashionable. It’s her husband who drives a freebie, like the two princesses, who were all given a Chelsea tractor each (large gas-guzzling four wheel drives) by the makers.
If only we were flies on the wall, we would be able to see how cleverly Kate is able to circumvent this attempt to put her down… only entering rooms with her husband, so then she doesn’t have to curtsey, telling the girls with a laugh at the Sandringham breakfast table, that they can take the word for the deed? Not doing it, and waiting to see if they report her to Granny?
Games people play! … especially in families, even when they don’t have to wash-up!
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
Winter food is comforting, often stodgy, and frequently fattening! This recipe is all of those things and delicious too, and I crave it in cold wintry weather. It’s a simple apple crumble, but not your dry crumby institution version, but a rich luxurious version, in spite of being an economical pudding using apples in season.
You need at least six cooking apples, but sweet ones will do if you have none. Take eight ounces of flour (I use self raising for everything), and six ounces of butter. Rub them together like coarse breadcrumbs, and then stir in six ounces of brown sugar (white will do if you have none). If you like, add some grated lemon peel. This mix will keep for three or four days in the fridge if you want to make it in advance, and I’ve also made extra and put it in the deep freeze and brought it out when I wanted.
When you want to eat it, boil the peeled chopped apples with sugar or stevia to taste, and when soft pour into an oven- proof dish and cover with the crumble. Cook for 40 minutes in a hot oven. Sometimes I add a cup and a half of mincemeat to the apple, to make a Christmassy tasting pudding and even add a tablespoon of brandy. Sometimes I add a few ounces of ground almonds to the crumble to make it extra rich, when I’m feeling rich. It’s just as good with a tin of plums if you haven’t got apples, and sublime with stewed rhubarb, or apple and blackberry. Serve it hot with cream, custard, or crème fraiche if you feel like pushing the boat out. You can re-heat it.
Food for Thought We will be held accountable for all the permitted pleasures we failed to enjoy….. reputedly from the Hebrew Haggada.