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Monday, April 25, 2011

Class War: No Ale at the Royal Wedding

This makes my Yankee blood boil:
Prince William and Kate Middleton have banned guests from drinking beer at their wedding reception. The prospect of guests downing pints has been deemed unsuitable for such a prestigious occasion. Instead, the couple will treat their 650 guests to flutes of champagne and wine to accompany their canapés as they mingle in the palace’s 19 state rooms.

“Let’s face it, it isn’t really an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen’s presence at such an occasion.... “It was always their intention to give their guests a sophisticated experience and they have chosen the food and drink with this in mind.”
Now, I come from a land where our most important rhetorical document is a screed against the King of Britain. (Sample sentence: "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.") Had he been handy--as opposed to, say, located across the Atlantic Ocean--beer-swilling revolutionaries might well have separated his head from his shoulders and mounted it on a pike.

So, when I see the royals raise long noses toward one of the proudest traditions of their people and sniff, when I hear them declare this tradition offensive to her Highness, the language of Hancock rises within me. They eschew this great standard of British culture in favor of the drink of France. France. It suggests that their sympathies lie with their own kind--other exceedingly pampered hereditary lords--rather than their own subjects. (Even "subjects" raises the dander.)

There is an interesting paradox here. Britain, with its House of Commons and House of Lords, explicitly acknowledges class. All men are not created equal: some are lords. But if the few are lords, the many are not, and in this they have solidarity. They are the ale-drinkers, the laborers, those who will never become king and therefore must look out for their own interests.

In the US, by contrast, we have the illusion of equality. We proudly note that "all men are created equal"--even though the men who wrote those fine sentiments actually thought some men were only 3/5ths equal. As to "women"--the thought didn't trouble their minds. This is the fiction of America. We are good about sending cultural cues of equality--the rich dress like us, commingle with us, drink beer with us, and refuse to build massive castles on the moor. The virtue here is that all Americans tend to believe they enjoy social mobility. The trouble is that, when social mobility turns out to be a crock, the bottom 60% of the country do not see themselves as fellow-travelers and find fellowship with one another. Like Groucho Marx, they don't care to belong to the club that will have them as a member.

So maybe it's good the royals will enjoy champagne while marrying off the heir to the throne. It keeps things in perspective. They are they and we are we. While they sip champagne and sup on caviar, the rabble will watch the telly, beer in hand.

It's not without its downsides, however. We Yankee dogs will use the occasion to smugly point out our leader is not offended by the humble--and delicious--beer. And so I do:

Update: I should have checked out Pete Brown before posting this. If anything, his makes mine look obsequious. We are, however, much of the same mind. Sample sentence: "Particularly given that £1 of every pint sold in the UK consists of duty and VAT, which goes to the public purse, which is in turn paying for the event, the contempt shown by the royals towards their subjects, their economy, and the icons and traditions of their kingdom, is sickening." Fun. But: where's the pike?



  1. For all the froth on the beer blogs about this, I've yet to see anything resembling verification. Who is this "source", and what prompted the quoted diatribe on beer? It just doesn't ring true. Beery flamebait by a random prankster, if you ask me.

    Oh, and the queen is a Majesty, not a Highness.

  2. Plenty of French wine and Champagne will be served instead of English beer. Ha! Should we be surprised? It all goes back to the battle of Hastings...

  3. Beer Nut:

    Dare you doubt the veracity of the Mirror?!? Shocking.

  4. A few thoughts:

    1. Thank goodness I declined my invitation. Now I can return the chafing dish back to Bed Bath & Beyond.

    2. This clearly shows how woefully out of touch the “Royals” are with the common folk.

    3. It proves that they don't drink good beer (on those rare occasions when they decide to slum it). If they did, they'd know that great beer rivals great wine and champagne.

    Best of luck to the happy couple.

  5. My dear Beer Nut, please don't interrupt my screed with "facts." They only make me speak louder. And I'm with Patrick, anyway: the Mirror HAS to be correct, right? I mean, they have a single, unnamed source.

  6. Common mans plea for attention?

  7. Of COURSE they're drinking the drink of France. The current monarchy was established by invaders from Normandy, remember? Hell no they don't identify with the English commoner. All the more reason I won't be waking up to watch the festivities.

  8. Bee-baw bee-baw!
    Fact Police: nobody move!

    William, Duke of Normandy, did have a claim to the English throne via his great-aunt. He didn't just rock up and take over the country as a foreign invader, he applied for the vacant position and only when it was given to someone else did he invade.

    Plus, of course, the Normans themselves were Norse in origin and newcomers to France themselves.

  9. Lee,

    The current monarchy are more German than they are Norman.

  10. Beer Nut, you are such a stickler for facts! I believe the characteristic of a good beer enthusiast is his/her distain for what you high-falutin folks call facts. We know that they are all lies propagated to subjugate us. We prefer opinions and stereotypes.

    As the great American philosopher (and beer lover) Homer Simpson once said: Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!"

    Anyway, I say let them serve only British wine and then justice will be served. (cue the defense of British wine)

  11. I love the commenters here. A post about poncy royals turns into a debate about the Norman conquest and the degree to which the current monarchy is actually German.

    I am proudly ignorant of the royals, and every time Hollywood rolls out another drawing room feature, I happily ignore it. (The Stammering King, or whatever it was that won this year's Oscar--the British monarchy has done very nicely at the Oscars--was another miss.)

    In any case, I thought the Norman Conquest made the Brits tetchy about French influence. Again, though, this is an opinion informed by half-remembered high school history, rumor, and fragments from Wikipedia, so.

  12. I think it's more the subsequent millennium or so of war with the French -- Agincourt, Napoleon and the rest -- that is the cause of the tetchiness. It wasn't an American officer who took the surrender at Yorktown, for example.

  13. Hoo boy, I love it! Now we are on to Yorktown. Yes, you see we can drink all the wine we want and still honor our noble history (such as it is) because we are fast friends with our good buddies the French - well, sometimes. Sometimes we have to put them in their place by not calling french fries, french fries but rather freedom fries. They they, appropriately cowed, return to doing what we want - like making wine and yummy cheese which we gladly drink and eat. But I digress....

  14. I'm just glad that this actually gives me a reason to complain about this wedding and the attention its getting. I think what really gets me is not so much that they aren't serving beer (it's their party, they do what they like), but the fact that beer was somehow not worthy enough to be in the presence of the queen, as if it was some sort of common swill or rotgut. It really sounds like their PR people messed up, a better response would have been, we forgot, the couple doesn't like beer, or it doesn't go with the food. Instead they sounded like the over privileged, spoiled rich kids they are.

    I'm just thankful we don't have royalty in America.

  15. I hate to quote from the Daily Mail, but the full quote from said "insider" is a lot less incendiary than is being touted about:

    "Let's face it, it isn't really an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen's presence at such an occasion. And while the younger royals enjoy a pint from time to time, neither Kate nor William is a big beer drinker so they decided to leave it off the menu. It was always their intention to give their guests a sophisticated experience and they have chosen the food and drink with this in mind."

  16. Well, I'm getting married in a couple of weeks at Meriwether's in NW Portland, and I'm promised an extensive selection of local craft beer will be on hand. I think it'll be way more fun than some stuffy royal wedding.

    God save the United State of America!

  17. @The Beer Nut reports British General O'Hara surrendered to 'Merican General Lincoln.

    Seems Earl Cornwallis was not feeling well [yeah, you think?].

    "General O'Hara, first tried to surrender to the Comte de Rochambeau who directed the British officer to General Washington who in turn directed him to Washington's subordinate General Lincoln."

    But, the Colonials would not have prevailed excepting for France.

  18. Fair point, Jack. I'm just making the oft-forgot observation that, for the British, the American War of Independence was at least as much about their global conflict with France as it was about losing their colonies.