Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Queen: Royalty & Rehoboam

I have never been an anglophile. I didn’t stay up to watch the Royal Wedding of Charles & Diana like a lot of my romantic peers. The British were always too stuffy for my taste. That was before I encountered The Queen.

The movie is a study in contrasts: The Royal Family - older, staid and traditional and the Blairs – younger, informal, modernizers. To a lesser degree, it is also a study of two princesses: Elizabeth, who was thrust into the monarchy at a young age and whose life seems to exemplify British ideals of a stiff upper lip, dignified carriage and proper conduct, and of Diana, who also was thrust into the royal life at a young age but in a completely different age, as it were. It is the contrast between paradigms – old/traditional and young/modern and the lifestyles inherent in each. This is the core story of the film while the events depicted center around the death of Princess Diana.

I was reminded of this movie recently as my hubby is preaching through the books of Kings.
I Kings 12:6-11 recounts King Rehoboam receiving two offers of advice on how to respond to Jeroboam’s request for a lightened load on the people:
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon
while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?”

And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”

Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus
you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father
made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them:
‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! And now, whereas my
father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you
with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’”

The actual vulgarity of the advice of the “young men,” who were probably in their 40s, is missing from our translation. These middle-aged men acting like boys and their brashness and vulgarity contrasted with the thoughtful, diplomatic response of the elders is what reminded me of the movie, The Queen.

For the Royals, the world is black and white. There are things you do and things that simply aren’t done. Propriety rules. The Blairs were disdainful of the pomp and the pomposity of these royal figureheads. Cherie Blair’s contempt for Her Majesty has been widely documented. Members of the Blair camp are depicted referring to the Queen as an old bat, while the Queen is incredulous that her prime minister and staff “live like college students.” Tony Blair came to power on the promise of modernizing, changing the processes of power. The Queen is depicted in the film as not so subtlety reminding the new Prime Minister of his place:

HM Queen Elizabeth II: Have we shown you how to start a nuclear war yet?
Tony Blair: Er no.
HM Queen Elizabeth II: First thing we do apparently, then we take away your passport and spend the rest of our time sending you around the world.
Tony Blair: You obviously know my job better than I do.
HM Queen Elizabeth II: Yes well, you are my tenth Prime Minister Mr. Blair. My first of course was Winston Churchill, he sat in your chair in a frock coat and top hat. And he was kind enough to give a shy young girl like me quite an education.

However throughout the course of the movie, you see Tony Blair developing a respect and even affection for the Elizabeth. There is a scene in which he comes to her defense against his director of communications:

Alastair Campbell: Well, at least the old bat's finally agreed to visit Diana's coffin.
Tony Blair:
You know, when you get it wrong, you really get it wrong! That woman has given her whole life in service to her people. Fifty years doing a job SHE never wanted! A job she watched kill her father. She's executed it with honor, dignity, and, as far as I can tell, without a single blemish, and now we're all baying for her blood! All because she's struggling to lead the world in mourning for someone who... who threw everything she offered back in her face. And who, for the last few years, seemed committed 24/7 to destroying everything she holds most dear!
Helen Mirrem did a magnificent job and is well-deserving of her Oscar. This film humanizes Elizabeth. It paints a picture of a woman who had greatness thrust upon her and who tried to do her best for her country. A woman with frailties and foibles, but one who is always mindful of her duty. The movie paints a picture of The Queen as a monarch, grandmother and wife. The finished portrait, I believe, is a complimentary one.

God Save the Queen!

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