The British monarchy is known as a bit stuffy, centuries-old institution that is much revered by the British people. It was almost beyond criticism. But in the 1950’s, the national post-war mood in Britain was shifting.
In August 1957, John Grigg, aka Lord Altrincham, published a scorching public criticism in his own National and English Review of Queen Elizabeth II — specifically her public persona. “The personality conveyed by the utterances which are put into her mouth is that of a priggish schoolgirl, captain of the hockey team, a prefect, and a recent candidate for confirmation.” The Oxford Dictionary Of Modern Quotations captured his quote. Some of his most severe comments and criticisms spread worldwide, even without the Internet and today’s social media tools.
At the time, his criticism of the Queen caused a protest eruption: the Daily Mail was outraged, as was the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Duke of Argyll even speculated that he should be hanged, drawn and quartered. Grigg was depicted as a “crypto-republican and subverter of established order”, according to The Guardian. He later contended that the criticism had been intended as constructive. He declared himself a reformer and a strong believer in the constitutional monarchy.
Constructive? He had been keen to publish that the Queen was remote and removed from her average subjects, that the court was “complacent” and “out of touch”. His blistering criticisms of the Queen’s speeches were attached to her “tweedy” gentry, the “tight little enclave surrounding her”.
As a result, Grigg was “invited” to a meeting with Martin Charteris, the Queen’s assistant private secretary at the time. Amazingly, several of Grigg’s recommended reforms for making the monarchy more accessible and relevant to the people were accepted by the Palace.
Perhaps Queen Elizabeth II was listening, and learning, from the criticisms. During her Christmas message of 1957, the first to be televised, the Queen said, “I very much hope that this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and direct”.
Roughly 30 years later, Charteris praised the changes that Grigg had helped to effect: “You did a great service to the monarchy, and I’m glad to say so publicly”.
Criticism is potentially helpful in any field, even a constitutional monarchy.
In Other Words…
“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson in His Journals
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” ― Abraham Lincoln
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” ― Philip K. Dick, How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later
In The Word…
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6