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Prince William and the Two Nations

by Christopher Chantrill
August 07, 2005 at 6:51 pm


AFTER ALL the tragedy and heartache in London over 7/7, at least there is some good news. Now that Prince William has got his degree at St. Andrews University, he’s moving back to London and will set up house with his constant companion Kate Middleton. So that’s all right then.

Of course, this is nothing new. Princes of the blood have always lain upon a soft pillow, and there is no reason to stop now. For instance at the turn of the nineteenth century the prince’s namesake, the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV), enjoyed the favors of Mrs. Jordan, the greatest comic actress of the day. But when it came time for the Duke to produce an heir, he married a princess and abandoned Mrs. Jordan to a fate worse than death.

It says something about the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, not to mention the eternal power of an attractive and intelligent young woman, that handicappers say this is unlikely to happen in the case of Kate Middleton and Prince William.

The tragedy of Mrs. Jordan was performed back in the days of Disraeli’s Two Nations “between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy... the rich and the poor.” At least, there was no intercourse and sympathy when it came to the crunch. As the old song goes:

It’s the same the ’ole world over,
It’s the poor what gets the blame.
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,
Ain’t it all a bloomin’ shame?

The power of Kate Middleton tells us that it is time to update the hoary old Two Nations concept—and modernize it, as they say in Britain. For the Two Nations of the developed world are no longer the rich and the poor. Not in an age when the “poor” are fatter than the “rich.”

The new division is between what we might call Venture Nation and Tenure Nation. Venture Nation is the community that accepts life as a risk proposition. It recognizes the principle of responsibility and the principle of service. Businesses, marriages, and families are built out of responsibility and purpose, and the glue of personal commitment. And nothing can be achieved without the ethic of service. Life is not all about me; it’s about meeting someone else’s needs, and meeting them willingly. You can see Venture Nation in the life of Kate Middleton. Her parents, according to Matthew Bell in The Spectator, are “energetic business folk, running a highly successful mail-order company called Party Pieces, selling [stuff]... for children’s birthday parties.” The “business is operated from a series of converted barns” in Berkshire. Kate went to a top British public school and then to university at St. Andrews. She “is an entirely ordinary upper-middle-class girl... lineage can’t be traced much further back than the suburbanization of Berkshire.” Not much tenure there.

But then there is Tenure Nation. Tenure Nation regards risk as proof of oppression. It whines “I have my rights” when things go wrong. Whereas the folk in Venture Nation spend other peoples’ money on their businesses and their ventures, spending money that is freely given and usually returning that money with increase, the folk in Tenure Nation are different. In Tenure Nation they also spend other peoples’ money. But the money is not given freely in a contract between equals. It is money taken by force, usually by political power. The people of Tenure Nation occupy the government offices, the government schools, the government universities, the government social services, the government “enterprises,” and they browse upon government entitlements and benefits. And they have Tenure. Prince William belongs to Tenure Nation, as a second in line to a hereditary job with tenure. But there is hope for him if he can learn the Venture Nation culture of sensible Kate Middleton from Berkshire.

The Muslim immigrants who came to Britain a generation ago belonged to Venture Nation. They put their lives at hazard to create a new life in a new country. But their children have been “thrown,” to use Heidegger’s term, into Tenure Nation, condemned to indifferent schooling in Britain’s “bog-standard” comprehensives and exposed to the depravities of Britain’s lager louts. Not surprisingly, they view Britain’s youth with contempt. Yet they have learned to whine “I have my rights” with the best of them. As Minette Marrin writes in the London Sunday Times, there is a connection between the decadence of British public life “and the miserable failure of Britain’s schools; illiteracy here is beyond belief, disruptive behavior is normal, exams and degrees have been debased,” and social mobility “has declined in the past 30 years.”

Unfortunately Britain does not enjoy a conservative movement like the United States that champions the culture of Venture Nation and actually proposes to do something about the whining adolescents of Tenure Nation. But at least it has Kate Middleton.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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