Corona Británica

I. Los viajeros por Gran Bretaña han puesto tanto ingenio y entusiasmo en el reproche que los denuestos contra la cocina nacional alcanzan el grosor de un subgénero literario. Baste referir que entre los testimonios más misericordiosos que podemos encontrar está el de James de Coquet, para quien la culinaria británica sería buena de no estar, por lo habitual, “celosamente escondida”. A nuestro Camba le honra, como a Paul Morand, haber echado un capote espiritual a unos británicos con la autoestima gastronómica siempre escocida: ahora nadie duda de que en Reino Unido se come, nacional o foráneo, de modo extraordinario. Los clichés culturales tienden a perpetuarse, sin embargo, aunque hoy en las islas se beba más café que té, haya más práctica católica que anglicana y convivan el tweed con los vaqueros y las onzas con los gramos.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is the curse of the Windsor men: they can’t resist marrying women who are more interesting than themselves. The news this week that Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, Prince Harry, is engaged to an American actress has not exactly rocked the UK. But those traditional balcony photos—men in military uniform, women in weird hats—are going to look very different in future.

Back in the 1980s, Harry’s father, Prince Charles, was aghast when his shy bride, Lady Diana Spencer, transformed herself into the first global superstar. Meghan Markle isn’t that, not yet at least, but it’s clear that she has star quality. Unlike his elder brother Prince William, who made a safe choice when he married Kate Middleton, Harry has gone full Hollywood.…  Seguir leyendo »

There were quiet rumblings in the press when they first started dating, a whiff of snobbery: Meghan Markle — half black, American, divorced, actress — was a curiosity. Perhaps it was a phase. There were comparisons to previous girlfriends, all of whom had been waifish blue-blooded blondes. There was a half-sister wheeled out, who declared Ms. Markle’s past behavior to be “not fitting for a royal family member” and pitched a tell-all book to publishers. All of it came with the implication that Ms. Markle was an unlikely candidate to be taken seriously. She would never join the House of Windsor.…  Seguir leyendo »

Entre las aportaciones que ha hecho el Reino Unido a la Europa moderna, cabe destacar la monarquía constitucional. En ningún país ha tenido tanto éxito la institución monárquica ni está tan arraigada. En los últimos años los británicos han sorprendido al mundo acabando con tradiciones como la caza del zorro. Han utilizado una fórmula muy poco británica como es el referéndum para preguntar a los ciudadanos por asuntos tan trascendentales como son la independencia de Escocia y la salida de la Unión Europea. Pero curiosamente, este nuevo afán de la clase política de preguntar a la ciudadanía por grandes asuntos del Estado no ha llegado a afectar a la Corona, ni siquiera tras la muerte de Lady Di.…  Seguir leyendo »

Princess Diana has been a staple of headlines for so long that articles and documentaries marking the 20th anniversary of her death may seem unremarkable. But the coverage is more than a stream of TV shows and newspaper and magazine special editions. It’s a meta reminder of the extremes that media coverage of Diana reached during her lifetime, and of the overexposure that continued after her death.

Diana was a 19-year-old nursery school teacher when she started dating Britain’s future king — and became a media sensation. Prince Charles bowed to pressure and proposed even though they had seen each other only about a dozen times.…  Seguir leyendo »

When she was alive, Diana, Princess of Wales, never held much interest for me. I didn’t watch her wedding or pay attention to what she wore to parties and ribbon-cutting ceremonies or care that she was unhappy in her marriage to Prince Charles.

When I worked at The Times in the early 1990s, we wrote about the scandals swirling around her gingerly, almost with distaste. Forced to pay attention to what seemed little more than celebrity gossip, we dressed up our accounts of what the British tabloids were reporting by expounding on the questions they raised about the role of the news media or the future of the monarchy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Twenty years ago, the death of Britain’s glittering, delicate, troubled global superstar, Princess Diana, shook the British monarchy and revealed a dangerous chasm between the palace and the people. In the wake of her death in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, the royal family was in danger of losing much loyalty and trust over its shabby treatment of “the people’s princess.” Today, though, two decades on, the monarchy is perhaps the most popular institution in British public life — a remarkable restoration that, more than anything, is the lasting legacy of Diana herself.

At first, the royal family was no more capable of dealing with Diana in death than it had been in life.…  Seguir leyendo »

Esta historia real que debo a mi difunta madre, emigrante española en el Reino Unido en la posguerra, trata sobre sobre la visita de estado que realizó el emperador de Etiopía Haile Selassie al Reino Unido en octubre de 1954. Yo era entonces un niño, y ver el cambio de guardia del Palacio de Buckingham se había convertido en una de mis primeras pasiones, algo que me duraría toda la vida. La precisión de los imponentes soldados británicos con sus abrigos rojos y la inspiradora música de su banda estimulaban mi imaginación, haciéndome sentir como uno de ellos, como si entrara en una fábula de Winnie the Pooh con Christopher Robin.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hubiera sido traición, o sedición por lo menos, hace un par de siglos, pero nadie me inculpará hoy de intentar conjurar o provocar la muerte de la monarca británica si digo que, por desgracia, al cabo de 90 años, la vida de la reina Isabel II está llegando a su fin. “¡Que viva el rey para siempre!”, reza textualmente el himno que se canta en las coronaciones en Londres desde 1727, basado en los versos bíblicos que aclamaban a los reyes de Israel. Pero tales sentimientos son realistas sólo en una de las aceptaciones de la palabra. La enfermedad que está sufriendo la reina -oficialmente señalada como “un catarro fuerte”- no tiene que ser la última.…  Seguir leyendo »

A heavy cold and a nation shivers. The cold is that attributed, this week, to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (her formal titles would take much of the rest of this column). The shivers are those of the political establishment.

Everything of moment in the United Kingdom depends, formally, on the 90-year-old Queen. She legitimizes all laws. She appoints all ministers. Parliamentarians must swear an oath of fealty to her. Ambassadors negotiate in her name, generals fight in it. She is the monarch in more than a dozen former imperial possessions, largely uncontroversially. When, in 1999, on the prompting of a Labour Prime Minister, the Australians tried to usurp her, the move failed, in spite of polls showing only minority support for her.…  Seguir leyendo »

From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, England was an empire. No more.

Brexit has turned the twilight years of the reign of Elizabeth II into the final chapter in the history of Great Britain. What its partisans, celebrating with flag-waving in the street, tearfully called “Independence Day” will unravel the role that England has played since the 16th century as a great power, along with the City of London’s reign as a financial capital of the world.

After Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558, her merchant-venturers began an imperial quest. By Elizabeth II’s birth, Britain’s empire spanned nearly a quarter of the globe.…  Seguir leyendo »

Corría el año 1926 y la circular de la Corte daba a conocer el nacimiento, en la mañana del 21 de abril, de una hija de la duquesa de York, así como las actividades de los Reyes, Jorge V y Mary, figurando entre ellas que los monarcas habían recibido la visita en el castillo de Windsor de unas egregias damas que luego habían permanecido para almorzar con ellos: la Princesa Heredera de Suecia, la Princesa Alicia (esposa del Príncipe Andrés de Grecia) y la madre de ambas, la marquesa viuda de Milford Haven. Las tres pertenecían a la rama Battenberg, ya denominada Mountbatten, desde la britanización de todos los nombres germánicos de la Familia Real en 1917.…  Seguir leyendo »

La monarquía del bienestar

Se bebe más café que té, hay más fervor papista que anglicano, los sastres londinenses visten menos a los duques que a los jeques y -para espanto de victorianos- hasta el sistema métrico decimal ha hecho avances sustantivos. De la reina Victoria a la reina Isabel, no hay casi nada que no haya cambiado en Gran Bretaña: la emperatriz de la India ejercía su dominio sobre “un continente, cien penínsulas, dos mil ríos y diez mil islas”; la Cabeza de la Commonwealth, sobre una docena de caprichos geográficos y paraísos fiscales.

Entre una y otra soberana, la pacatería decimonónica se ha abandonado a las sombras de Grey e incluso Escocia ha pasado del romanticismo de las Highlands a plantear su independencia.…  Seguir leyendo »

El próximo 9 de septiembre, Su Majestad la Reina Isabel II del Reino Unido de la Gran Bretaña e Irlanda del Norte, cumplirá un aniversario que añadirá una nueva marca a su ya extensa lista de ellas, solo que esta vez se trata de una, considerada de la máxima importancia y singularidad, desde el doble punto de vista dinástico e histórico, puesto que tal día se convertirá en la soberana que más días habrá permanecido empuñando el cetro, en el Trono de San Eduardo. Superará a su prestigiosísima tatarabuela, la Reina Victoria (1837-1901), quien a su vez, a fines del siglo XIX, escribió en su diario, en un día muy señalado para ella, que era el monarca que más tiempo había reinado en sus estados, al rebasar los años de mandato de su abuelo Jorge III (1760 -1820).…  Seguir leyendo »

Queen Elizabeth II, at 89, is a very old lady. By day, her subjects see less of her than they used to. But by night, it’s different. Then she and her family visit millions of households up and down the kingdom. Up to a third of Britons have dreams about Her Majesty and the royals.

According to “Dreams About H.M. the Queen and Other Members of the Royal Family,” the classic study by Brian Masters, author of several books about the British aristocracy, the dreams frequently involve cups of tea. A characteristic scenario is that she, or sometimes he, settles down at your kitchen table.…  Seguir leyendo »

It has been a long time since a prince toppled a prime minister.

But this is what could happen in Australia. When the adamantly monarchist prime minister, Tony Abbott, announced that he was going to make the heavily titled, gaffe-prone Prince Philip a knight, the nation laughed — then groaned. And now, as a direct result of his action, his party will be voting this Tuesday to decide whether it should be allowed to vote for another leader.

It was not that Mr. Abbott’s ardent affection for the royals was a surprise. He previously served as executive director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and at his signing in, he swore allegiance to the queen, unlike his two predecessors, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hats off to Richard III who, last week, surprised us again. The discovery last year of the King in the Car Park gave us fascinating insights: he wasn’t a hunchback, but he was killed in battle by blows to the head; he may even have been handsome with fair hair and blue eyes. But last week was the most astonishing yet, with the news revealed by his DNA that there was infidelity in the bloodline – and so our royals might not be royal at all.

Last week, the genealogy of Richard III was headline news across the world. Analysis of Richard’s DNA suggested there had been a break in the male line, somewhere in the generations before or possibly since.…  Seguir leyendo »

Their relationship titillated a nation. For more than a century, biographers have tried to fathom the improbable friendship Queen Victoria had with her Scottish servant John Brown. It has been posited as one of the great unanswered questions of her reign. How intimate were they?

New evidence suggests that the world’s most powerful queen had a passionate relationship with Brown, a man far below her station, something not unusual today but unthinkable then. We have tended to think of Queen Victoria as strait-laced, so we may have misread the evidence. Still, whether it was ever in any way sexual, or just extremely close, is impossible to know.…  Seguir leyendo »

King Juan Carlos I of Spain will be abdicating his throne on Thursday in favor of his son, Felipe. The king and his wife, Queen Sofia, will reportedly be allowed to retain their titles.

In the midst of this transfer of royal power, the United Kingdom’s The Guardian newspaper conducted a small experiment. It set up an online poll to see whether readers felt the 88-year-old Queen Elizabeth II should follow the 76-year-old Juan Carlos‘ lead and step down.

The result: 50-50.

The Guardian is a left-wing newspaper with a long-held republican (or anti-monarchical) streak. We should still keep in mind that Queen Elizabeth’s personal popularity has often stood in contrast with a declining interest in the British monarchy.…  Seguir leyendo »

The British queen is down to her last pennies. Well, actually, her last millions of pennies.

Last month, the Public Accounts Committee — Parliament’s watchdog on public spending — published a damning survey of the state of the royal finances. The queen had spent down her “reserve fund,” a savings account built up by years of surplus public subsidy, to “a historically low level” of only £1 million ($1.6 million), from £35.3 million in 2001.

Trying to make sense of the royal finances is like trying to eat spaghetti with a spoon. Here’s the puzzle: Queen Elizabeth II is often described, by some measures, as one of the richest people in the world.…  Seguir leyendo »