heraldry - Baronage header
Looking Back Over Fifty Years
Cross of St George Royal Arms of England
Changes during
Her Majesty’s reign
as revealed in print
Fifty years ago, with memories of the war still very real for us, the Royal Family was our own family, as advocates of the sacral nature of kingship insist has always been and will always be true. We were aware of royalty and what it meant for us. And thus tourist publicity such as this did not strike us immediately as odd or extreme.
Under its very roof, in the present coffee-room, King Richard III signed the death warrant of the Duke of Buckingham; who could fail to enjoy an excellent lunch in such Royal surroundings? ~ remarks on the Angel Hotel at Grantham in the L.N.E.R. publicity for “Railway and Road-way Holidays”
And if excuses were needed, then there were always writers around who could provide them ~ although not always as egregiously as in this example.
The popular account of King John’s financial dealing with the Jews is that he imprisoned wealthy Hebrews and had their teeth extracted in instalments until they yielded to his extortions. In all this, however, there are extenuations for King John. The Government had to be maintained out of royal patrimony, and there was then no well-ordered system of rates and taxes. Nor did he deprive them of the means of livelihood or cause them to be “beaten up”. His tooth-drawing was not sadistic, but merely a practical method of exercising financial pressure. There was nothing malicious or destructive in it. ~ imaginative article in The Church Times
But not all the people were so ready to forgive, and the new high standards generally expected of royalty were, as those of Moses, believed to have been written in stone.
If Princess Margaret is lightly to be allowed to marry the man she loves, a grave blow will have been struck at the sanctity of marriage, already hard-pressed by decaying moral standards. ~ editorial in The People
Of course, those who conformed to the public’s expectations were treated with awe. Here it is the young Princess Anne . . . . . . .
Princess Anne is reported to be alarmingly unafraid of horses. She has been seen to wander up nervelessly to very large horses who are not aware of her royal status. ~ gossip in The Daily Express
. . . . . . . and here it is the much-loved Queen Mother . . . . . . .
Later a woman called from the riverbank. “Thank you for the fly,” she said. “It improved sport a lot.” The woman was Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. My friend was startled but, even so, standing in the river, she curtsied. ~ letter in The Sunday Pictorial
. . . . . . . but we continued to worry about the temptations they would face, even at the age of three.
Tories as well as Socialists should question the wisdom of giving Prince Charles an income of £10,000 a year. It is never good for a young boy to have too much money to spend. ~ opinion in The Daily Express
The Royal Family was at the apex of a society whose structure was in change, but there were many who were nostalgic about the old days.
The fifth Earl – was one of the old-fashioned earls – old-fashioned in the best sense. When he died last April, in his 79th year, he had 28 servants. ~ report in The Daily Mail
Peers, and especially what they represented, were still accorded a degree of reverence and were understood to have expertise beyond the knowledge of ordinary men.
I have heard it said of the backwoods peer that he had three qualities. He knew how to kill a fox, he knew how to get rid of a bad tenant, and he knew how to discard an unwanted mistress. ~ Lord Winster as reported in The Manchester Guardian
The 14th Earl of Home personified for many the typical British peer ~ unassuming, modest and extremely courteous. He renounced his title to become, as Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister, and later was created a life peer to enable him to return to the House of Lords.
Mrs Florence Hill was Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s under-nurse when he was one year old. . . . . . “I had to see that Master Alec didn’t talk to the servants,” she recalls, “and that he didn’t leave our part of the house.” ~ interview in The Evening Standard
The younger generation among the Baronage readers may find this fanciful, but then look at the memoirs of the admirable Cronin on his formal relationship with Viscount Tredegar
I remember the morning when he was taken exceedingly ill. Instead of the usual nod of the head to me on my arrival, he spoke. “Cronin,” he said, “I think I’m dying.”

The habit of years could not be broken in me and I knew that Lord Tredegar in his more collected moments would not wish it to be. So correctly I replied, “Very good, my lord” and thereafter the normal silence between us was re-established to our mutual satisfaction. ~ Cronin’s memoirs published in The People

Arms of Morgan, Viscount Tredegar
Viscount Tredegar
The upper classes then were for many middle class and working class parents a model of that to which their children should aspire. Despite what is taught by sociologists today, there was movement between the classes ~ upwards based on education and ambition, downwards based on vice and spendthrift ways ~ but seldom fully accomplished in one generation.
Mrs Dimmock deplored the fact that young people no longer went into private service. She thought that, apart from the pleasant relationship that existed between employer and employee, the servant picked up a far better accent. ~ report in The Worthing Gazette
But the greatest change in society over the last fifty years has not been in attitudes to monarchy and the peerage ~ it has been in attitudes to sexual relationships. Our final quotation is from a letter printed at the start of our Queen’s reign with probably no editorial hesitation, but which an editor today would spike without thought, for being just too absurd.
Sex used to be treated with decent reverence – now it is discussed openly. This sort of thing can do immense harm. The moral standards accepted as “normal” by most young people today are a case in point. Why our all-wise Creator should have chosen such a distasteful – even disgusting – means of reproducing humanity is a thing that I, personally, have never been able to understand. ~ Letter in the Bristol Evening Post
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© 2002 The Baronage Press and Pegasus Associates