11 Dec 2017 From Elizabeth Roberts
Last night I started to watch Series 2 of ‘The Crown’, the brilliant dramatized story of the country and the monarchy since the 1940’s. I gave the DVD of Series One in October to our partners in MRC via the State Library for Foreign Literature, with the aim of improving mutual understanding and as an advertisement for the very highest standards of film-making in the UK.
The whole series more or less spans my own life (born 1944), which gives it added interest as far as I am concerned. Series 2 includes details of the so-called ‘Margaret Set’ – the group of (predominantly) aristocrats she partied with. One, ‘Billy’ Wallace, was someone whose name was familiar to me from those days. I had remembered him as a very tall and rather unprepossessing individual. When I looked him up on line, I was surprised and disappointed that under some mysterious European protocol, all details, including his obituary, have been removed. What was online under his father’s entry on Wikipedia was the appallingly sad circumstance that both his older brothers had been killed in their late teens or early twenties in WWII. In the earlier generation, his father’s three older brothers had been killed fighting in WWI. What is on line is a jerky black and white Pathe News reel of ‘Billy’s’ wedding in a country church. He was 38 years of age, and looks older. He looks sad, even frightened and angry. His bride, Elizabeth Hoyer Millar, daughter of Lord Inchyra is swathed in a bridal veil which she adjusts impatiently before stamping up the steps into the church. The whole impression is of an unhappy occasion in which the two main protagonists had just had a blazing row. There is one touching moment, when some women bend over to put a circlet of flowers on a little bridesmaid’s head. One of the women is a ‘Norland nanny’, the Rolls-Royce of her kind, recognisable because of her sensible shoes, regulation brimmed felt hat and the trademark flat grosgrain bow on the neck of her brown and cream uniform.
Wallace was dead aged 50 within 12 years of this marriage – all details of bride and groom’s lives have been comprehensively wiped from Google. The bride’s sister, however, is on line – she was lady-in-waiting to HRH Princess Margret and then to HM the Queen.
Series Two of The Crown is depressing compared to Series One, because it was a turbulent period in British history and of the monarchy. But equally good from the point of view of the casting, the acting, the cinematography and the script. Highly recommended.
Other news: my reading has ranged far and wide. I was gripped by ‘The Ghost’, biography of James Angleton of the CIA by Jefferson Meyer; ‘The Great Spas of Central Europe’ by David Clay Large is very relevant to what we anticipate discussing 26-28 October 2018: the life, work and times of Ivan Turgenev 1818-1883; ‘The Dawn Watch’ is a much-praised biography of Joseph Conrad, who was born in Poland but wrote in English after a career on sailing ships. I had to take a break from it because the first 100 pages were so depressing, but I plan to soldier on this afternoon. Lastly, I have read two hilarious new books: ‘Diary of a Book Seller’ by Shaun Blythell who has a bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s ‘Book Town’ (Moffat was runner-up in the competition) situated towards the far western end of Dumfries and Galloway and ‘Diary of Two Nobodies’ by Giles Wood and Mary Killen. The bookseller has a dry wit which sees him through the imbecility of some customers ‘What do you specialise in?’ asks one customer (the shop is called ‘The Book Shop’ and clearly has nothing but books in it). The so-called ‘nobodies’ are two upmarket residents of a ‘cottage’ (albeit with 12 rooms) in rural Wiltshire, of pensionable age, who have come to national prominence from their regular appearances in a cult programme called ‘Gogglebox’, (a nickname for TV), where people are filmed in their own homes watching, and commenting on, TV programmes. Their diary is very funny and endearing, demonstrating amongst other things how a long marriage can be made to work with some good will and a sense of humour.
More in my next…