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Friday, June 01, 2012

"I look up to him and I look down on him..."

My favourite bit of the BBC's excellent The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the appearance of the reliably waspish art historian Roy Strong (born in Winchmore Hill, went to Edmonton County School and London University, subsequently re-invented himself as the grand aesthete) to deliver the withering observation that Viscount Eccles (Winchester and Oxford), the Minister of Works who oversaw the Coronation, had "a flash of car salesman about him".

The English class system is far more subtle and plastic than people give it credit for and its most reliable observers are always the people who get close enough to want in. It took the Irishman George Bernard Shaw to observe "it is impossible for one Englishman to open his mouth without making another Englishman hate him".