Titles and films28th January 2020
Sun Tel column below, about Meghan and Harry’s titles having just said in my previous post that I was bored of hearing about them. But that’s journalists for you. So fickle. One of the items this week was about David Copperfield which I saw on Friday and, actually, was a *tiny* bit disappointed. Funny but too pantomimey, in my ‘umble opinion (little Uriah joke for the literary ones among you there). On the other hand, I saw Bombshell last night and lovvvvvvvvved it, worth seeing for Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie alone.
That is all my news since I have six more days of editing The Wish List to go before sending it back to my editor. My flat looks like the home of a conspiracy theorist – mad post-its and scribbled pages ripped from various notebooks with indecipherable messages to myself on them. One of these post-its just says ‘JAFFA CAKES!’, which I know was a reference I wanted to put into the book, but I can’t remember where. Dickens was presumably more efficient.
Picture the scene: it is 2050, King William and Queen Katherine are on the throne; George, the Prince of Wales, has just married one of Boris Johnson’s children, and the debate over what to call Harry and Meghan continues. Oh, the fussing over this title. I reckon there was less commotion when Catherine of Aragon was cloistered away as the Dowager Princess of Wales to make room for Anne Boleyn. The Royal household is currently ‘reviewing’ the situation since, although they’ve lopped off the HRH bit, the style ‘Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’ suggests that she’s divorced. There was also a debate as to whether the pair should be ‘downgraded’ to Uncle Edward’s level and become the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton, but reportedly this was decided against on the basis it would be ‘petty’. Stay tuned for more updates when we have them.
Why don’t they just give up the whole thing? It feels Marie Antoinettish to make a big song and dance of ‘stepping back’ to live a more humble life in a £11m house in Canada but retain a dukedom of England. As one who’s shrugged off a title myself, I believe dropping it altogether would make their life much easier. Alright, the Sussexes’ title is better than mine, higher up the pecking order since a duke beats a poxy old honourable. But I’ve never used mine and I don’t think it’s handicapped me a great deal.
Take passport control, for instance. My sister made the grave mistake of including ‘The Hon’ as her title on her passport, which has caused airport embarrassment several times when officials demand to know why her ticket is in the name of Rose, but her passport says her name is ‘Thehon.’ Thehon! It sounds like a newly-discovered chemical element. A very grand woman I once interviewed for Tatler had a similar sob story about booking airline tickets. If she included her title, her name was so long that it didn’t fit into the little box online so she’d have to ring up each airline to book a ticket instead. She told me this with genuine sorrow. You see the travails that poor titled people have to bear?
I inherited mine when I was still at school. Unasked and with breath-taking efficiency, Coutts sent a new debit card with ‘The Hon’ stamped on it just a few days after my grandfather died and my father inherited the barony. As a teenager, I was disgracefully thrilled by this and left the envelope loitering on the wooden trunk where post was laid out in order that everyone in my boarding house saw it. Astonishing that I had any friends at all.
A couple of years on, I feel like it might have been while studying the Russian revolution at university, I had it taken off my bank cards and now cringe whenever more socially-minded friends send me cards with it ‘The Hon’ tacked on the front. The honourable? What does that even mean? It certainly seems too generous for one who often wears the same pair of socks two days in a row and forgets to brush her teeth in the morning. I’m not casting aspersions about Harry and Meghan’s personal hygiene. Her teeth look lovely. But in their new life they’re going to have to do all sorts of jobs which staff formerly did for them, and the Ryanair website is quite fiddly enough without having to scroll down for the ‘duchess’ option.
Three cheers for Dev Patel, star of the latest David Copperfield film, who’s admitted he hasn’t read a word of the book. Yes, yes, Dickens is one of our great writers, but does anyone else find him the tiniest bit wordy? David Copperfield is his lengthiest at 358,000 words and there’ll be plenty of people knocking about in the next few weeks pretending they’ve read it. ‘It’s not as good as the book,’ they’ll pontificate to anyone who stands still long enough – friends, colleagues, the poor woman behind them in the newsagents. Top tip for anyone feeling shame about this: I cheated and recently listened to a terrific abridged version because I wanted to know the characters ahead of the film’s release. If even the star hasn’t battled through 1024 pages, you don’t have to either.
I went to my first ever Burns’ night this week having always resisted previous invitations. Something about eating minced sheep lungs while listening to Scottish poetry just didn’t do it for me. But in an effort to be more social, I said yes this year. It was quite as barking as I suspected – assorted guests included Stanley Johnson (who refused his haggis at first, then decided he should eat it after all) and the Knight Rider himself, David Hasselhoff. There were endless sporran gags, extremely loud bagpipes, unintelligible poems, furious discussion of Nicola Sturgeon and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne round the piano. But how clever of Robert Burns to realise that, in the future, it would be practically illegal to drink or eat meat in January and he had to come up with a jolly alternative. Not just a poet but a prophet, too.