The rise of the middle class

Posted by Helen Friday, January 05, 2007

Back in the days Tory Historian studied A level history there was a saying (one with which most readers are probably familiar).

Only two developments in history are inevitable: the country (whichever country) is always going to the dogs and the middle classes are always rising. In fact, there was an urban myth of a history examiner who set the following question: "Give an example of a period when the middle classes were not rising in England and explain why not." Not sure whether there were any takers.

According to Andrew Roberts, a Conservative historian if ever there was one, the present rise of the middle class in the shape of Kate Middleton, possible bride to Prince William, is an entirely GOOD THING. Good for the monarchy and, therefore, good for the country. Sadly, the article is in today's Evening Standard, the newspaper with the most useless website in existence.

Mr Roberts considers it rather a problem that the British royal family has consistently married either European royals (sometimes it worked but sometimes not) or offsprings of the English aristocracy (sometimes it worked but most often not). They should look beyond that rather limited gene pool to the middle classes.

The last time it happened was in 1660, when Anne Hyde, daughter of the politician Edward Hyde, married James, Duke of York, the future King James II. She turned out to be an excellent wife for him, and she ran his politican and economic affairs adroitly. Samuel Pepys might have complained in his dary that "The Duke of York in all things but his amours was led by the nose by his wife," but she led him very well. Had it not been for her tragically early death in 1671, aged only 34, James might not have become one of the most disastrous and shortest-reigning monarchs.
There is a wonderful idea for a counterfactual article: what if Anne Hyde, wife of the Duke of York, had not died in 1671. After all, we know that his second marriage, wherein he reverted to type, was anything but successful for him as King. Then again, would we have had the Glorious Revolution?


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. Ms. Hyde looks intelligent and is very pretty but not to the point of looking like a fashion model. She has the calves of a good field hockey player, by the few photos I've seen, not that there is anything wrong with that. I think she will strengthen the gene pool of the royal family. It needs it. Too much intermarriage amongst them. Wasn't Victoria the great grandmother of both Phil and Liz?

    I like the look of the blond prince, too. He seems like a young man of average intelligence, but a decent enough sort, though of course somewhat brattish. The military service is a good thing for him and the country. I wish Charles could somehow be just skipped over. A relatively young and lively king would be very nice and might strengthen the monarchy.

    The loss of Scotland might also strengthen the monarchy. A United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland would probably be more royal-friendly than the current UK.

  3. Anonymous Says:
  4. Oh, sorry, Ms. Middleton is the current girlfriend. Ms. Hyde is long gone.

  5. Helen Says:
  6. Victoria was the great grandmother of just about every royal and semi-royal bod in Europe in the twentieth century. Hence the amazing resemablance between some of them, for example George V and Nicholas II. In fact, Prince Michael of Kent is the spit image of Nicholas II.

    So, yes, Ms Middleton would be a very useful addition to the Royal Family, should the two of them decide to tie the knot.

  7. HM Stanley Says:
  8. You all ignore the lovely middle-class Sophie Wessex...already married in the royal family...whose family [Rhys-Jones], I believe are car salespeople or some such thing and she was a PR person!!!

  9. Anonymous Says:
  10. Suspect that we might still have had a reaction to absolutism, as indeed we did against William III in the Act of Settlement. But no old Pretender or the Bonnie Prince, and jus a possibility that we might have had another branch of the Elector Palatine's family on the throne - however, the prejudice against Roman Catholics was so strong that we might have legislated the Protestant succession at that stage. So it might not have been that different. Some counterfactuals seem to me not to shift the basic balance of forces and hence continuities, although they shift incidentals; others no doubt are more fundamental, but it is harder to play through their consequences.

    A counterfactual to yours - if James had carried on, would we have had the Act of Union?

  11. Helen Says:
  12. I suspect counterfactuals around James II would prove that the details would not have made all that much difference. For James to carry on he would have had to be a very different person with a different attitude to kingship. If that had been true we probably would have had the Act of Union - Scottis parliamentarians would have been as bribable as they were in real life.

  13. Anonymous Says:
  14. The thought was Anne Hyde's potent influence - would James have converted (perhaps). There would have been no marraige to Mary of Modena and no son. However, I agree that James temperament would have remained the same, but the pursuit of absolutism might not have led to a very early revolution if the Church had not seemed is some danger, and of course that might have made William's task much more difficult.

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