The Queen and I

The spot on my chin is getting bigger. It's my mother's fault for not knowing about vitamins.'

It was her creation of Adrian Mole and a series of books on him that turned Susan Lilian Townsend into a world-famous author. Her published works on this eminent character include The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3\4; The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole; The True Confessions of Adrian Mole; Adrian Mole, From Minor to Major; Adrian Mole, The Wilderness Years and Adrian Mole, The Lost Years. In all these Adrian Mole books, as well as in the novel The Queen and I, shades of her life experience turn up, in one way or another.

As a native of Leicester, Susan Townsend was born on April 2 in 1946. She left school early at the age of fourteen and got married just as soon at the age of eighteen. Townsend had three children shortly thereafter but was left by her husband to raise them alone. She later met and married another man, with whom she had a fourth child.

It is not surprising then that Townsend writes of British domesticity - and particularly the working-class family - from an insider's perspective. The links between the fictional representations in her books and Townsend's own life help to suggest a greater accuracy in her portrayal of the British family than might otherwise be present.

Before her success with Adrian Mole (she also wrote the Adrian Mole play and television series), Townsend was chiefly a playwright. She has written many plays as well as drama shows for BBC television such as, Womberang (Soho Poly, London, 1979); Bazaar and Rummage (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 1982; BBC Television 1983); The Great Celestial Cow (Royal Court 1984); Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes (Library Theatre, Manchester, 1989) and many others.

Townsend still resides in Leicester.

Produce an essay discussing the central issue raised

Down the Royals! Up the Republic!

An essay on the true state of the monarchy following the fictitious novel The Queen and I -


A mirage or a prophesy?

The sudden nasty and cruel dethronement of the Royal Family in Sue Townsend's novel The Queen and I is by no means as far-fetched as it makes the reader believe.

Fact is that within the last couple of years a change in public opinion, away from the monarchy towards Republicanism, has been observed. The monarchy is increasingly regarded as an old-fashioned and out-of-date institution. In other words, Republicanism has moved closer to the political agenda in Britain than ever before. What the supporters of this 'anti-monarchy-movement' struggle for is - in contrast to the cruel dethronement of the Royal Family in The Queen and I - an abolition of the monarchy by peaceful, democratic means, as many Britons simply do not believe in the future of the Crown any longer. Sue Townsend makes it obvious to the reader that a majority of the Britons are dissatisfied with the Royal Family as the head of the state and that they prefer the Republican Jack Barker as their leader instead. In Great Britain there are also a growing number of signs that many are no longer willing to put up with the present situation.

Great Britain is, as we probably all know, a constitutional monarchy, which simply means that the monarch's powers are limited. This curious situation came about as a result of a struggle for power between the Crown and Parliament during the sixteenth and the seventeenth century. In 1689 Parliament won this struggle, yet, allowing the Queen to continue to function within certain limits. Thus, one of the key-problems seems to be the existence of the Crown prerogative. The Queen receives her authority from Parliament. As she is only sovereign by the will of Parliament, she reigns but she does not rule. This does her Prime Minister on her behalf. Consequently, many British cannot understand what the monarch is still good for, as his remaining powers are 'only' to appoint ministers, judges, diplomats, bishops of churches, etc. and to give royal assent to legislation passed by Parliament. The British are very well of the fact that the monarch's function has been changing radically since the constitutional revolution of 1689.

Another point indicating the shift in public opinion is the increasing concern of people about not having a proper constitution. Apart from some legal documents called Statutes, no constitution has ever been written down. Therefore, people fear that Britain's unwritten constitution is not a sufficient safe-guard of democratic and individual rights any longer.

Many people also disapprove of the Royal family earning so incredibly much money.

Jack [Barker] picked up a jewelled cat...'How much do you reckon they're worth?' asked Jack, indicating the twinkling menagerie...

'Well, something in the paper did catch my eye last year. A Faberge tortoise it was, fetched 250,000 pounds at auction.'

Jack looked again at the little animals. He counted them under his breath.

Mr. Bostock said. 'There are four hundred and eleven of them.'...

'So, this is only part of the collection, is it?' Jack asked when they visited each wondrous room.

'Tip of the iceberg.' (Townsend, 50-52)

Nobody knows for sure the size of the Royals Family's private fortune but the Queen is reputed to be the wealthiest person in Britain (estimate of her private fortunes about five billion pounds). What is more, the Queen's wealth is free of all taxes and she also receives a large sum from the taxpayer known as the Civil List. This list is provided to cover the expenses of the Royal Family. All this and the fact that the Royal Family members are not very approachable does not contribute anything to their popularity.

'Tone, why they moved a posho in Hell Close?' asked Beverley.

'Dunno,' replied Tony, peering into the gloom...

'Christ, just our bleedin' luck to have poshos nex' door.'

'Least they won't shit in the bath, like the last lot of mongrels.'

(Townsend, 35)

There is no normal time when you can have access to the Royal Family and they, themselves, hardly ever - if at all - mix with ordinary people. Instead, they play rich-men's hobbies such as polo or golf.

They do not only build up a huge barrier between themselves and their nation but - as it seems - also between their own kind. The wisdom 'One should not show too much affection to one's children for not to make them dependent' (which I vigorously doubt), the Queen seemed to have taken serious...perhaps too serious. The sight of her not hugging the tiny Prince Charles on a railway platform after months on a Commonwealth tour, still haunts the mind. The failure of three out of the four marriages so far contracted by her children clearly shows the outcome of such 'independence'.

She [Diana] tried once more to decipher the message that Charles had mouthed to her as he was being led away to prison. It had looked like, 'Water the Gro-Bags,' but he couldn't have been thinking about his stupid garden could he? Not at such a tragic moment...[Diana] turned away in disappointment, for whatever else it could have been, it certainly wasn't, 'I love you, Diana,' or 'Be brave, my love,' or anything else that people said in films to their loved ones as they were taken from the dock to the cells below. (Townsend, 222)

There is, of course, a firm group of seemingly unshakeable Royalists. Although these people favour the monarchy, many of them are hostile to the idea of Prince Charles taking over the Crown should the Queen's reign end. Fact is that a majority of the British population - be they Royalists or Republicans - would oppose to Charles succeeding to the throne. Many are simply dissatisfied with the way he is doing his job as Prince of Wales and, therefore, do not regard him fit to be king. So, the expectations of him as a future king have declined dramatically. His divorce from Diana, who died in a spectacular car-crash in Paris last summer, and his affair with Camilla Barker Bowles was not conducive to his popularity, either. Has Prince Charles become a national joke, a soap-opera actor instead of a dignified successor to the throne?

I do wonder whether the Royal Family has realised how terrible the crisis of the Windsors has become, especially after Princess Diana's death, who was joined by more than a million people in central London to line the route of her funeral procession. Diana's brother, Earl of Spencer, described his sister as 'someone with a natural nobility, who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic'. The appellation Her Royal Highness was taken from her when she got divorced - The Queen had seen to it. The Queen did best see to it that she and her family will gain the same sympathy as Diana did, otherwise she might be suffering the same fate as her likeness in The Queen and I, where Sue Townsend manages brilliantly to depict what is hard to pronounce and even harder to imagine: a Royal Family, who is forced to lead a domestic life amidst the most appalling working class people.

To exclaim now that the Crown has not much of a future would be inappropriate and biased, but to say that the Crown is bound to exist forever seems to be improbable as well.

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