Facebook is but one more embarrassing fracture in the perceived dignity of the monarchy – like forcing the queen to wear a sombrero at a Spring Break Cinco de Maya party. Even attempts to maintain some propriety and ceremony seem silly (oh, but her “friends” do try. One commenter on a photo of the queen trumpets: “Your Majesty . . . a shinning light you are. Your servant, the Yank.”).
It used to be the case that people could command some clout if they were seen to be in with a monarch. Proximity to the royal family was implicit in a system of titles, after all. Being a Lord looks rubbish when the language of the hierarchy is telling us that a Marquis is more in his or her Royal Highness’s favour.
All that changed one day in 1813, with a remark from Beau Brummell, who was famous for dressing nicely (that’s Old English for “famous for being famous”). The Prince Regent snubbed him, so Brummell said to the prince’s companion, “Who’s your fat friend?”
From then on, the tide has turned, so that now, just as mere civilians such as Barack Obama and Tony Blair, can only really be respectable if they hang out with celebrities.
Happily, the Queen has access to endless celebrities. The Prime Minister finds them for her, by preparing Honours Lists. Then, day by day, luminaries in limos roll up to Buckingham Palace to receive medals.
This is the most striking thing about Her Majesty’s facebook page, called, self-deprecatingly, The British Monarchy. People of whom you’ve sort of heard arrive for an investiture. You’ve sort of heard? Actually, you might not know whom I mean by Fred Dineage. He’s a local newsreader, highly familiar to people who grew up near enough to a transmitter in the south of England, but not global, or even national. But there he is, receiving an MBE, and smiling at the Queen. All the comments about this scene pay homage to Dineage, and a children’s show he had in the Seventies, called HOW.
Still, one Dineage fan has paid lip service to the royal presence, with a two-word allusion to the work of Justin Timberlake: “Sexy back.” The back of the queen is all you can see in this picture. She’s looking good, in a blue floral number.
Compared to Beau Brummell’s quip, it has a 21st-century kind of gallantry.