Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 21 January 2014

The Cult of Youth...

... Or not.

I’ve never been a fan of the cult of youth. I want experience and wisdom and charisma, and a whole lot of those three things plus more than the sum of those parts from everyone and anyone. I certainly want them from leaders and heads of state.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles
enjoying a giggle during the jubilee.
A job-share might just suit them.
It turns out that’s exactly what we have now, if the Sunday papers are anything to go by... Not a head of state, not QEII, but HeadS of State: plural. According to the Sundays, and the red-tops, who, it seems to me, caught up on Monday, the Queen is to be joined in some of her grander and more demanding state events by HRH the Prince of Wales. He is to shoulder part of the burden of the Crown from now on... This is to become something of a job-share.

Queen Elizabeth said some time ago that she didn’t plan to abdicate in favour of HRH Prince Charles, or anyone else for that matter, and I, for one, admire her sense of duty, but the poor woman is 87 years old, so should have retired at least twenty-two years ago, and, potentially as many as twenty-seven years ago. Prince Charles is 65 and could have retired at the end of 2013. Their average age is 76 for crying out loud!

I have no issues with anyone working beyond retirement age; I fully expect that the husband will expire at his desk when the time comes, whatever his age, and I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if I died, probably falling down the stairs (but that’s a story for another time) with an unfinished novel in the documents folder on my desktop, no doubt with some highly improbable working title. 

I do wonder about this job, though. I wonder whether we don’t have enough white, entitled types swanning around the globe representing our country, and if we were to have more of them, which seems entirely likely, wouldn’t it be nice to have some younger people, or more women, or perhaps someone new, or single or gay? Or... I’m sure you’re all able to fill in the gaps on this one, but they could at least be a little less terminally familiar.

OK, I know, they’re all familiar. Who in the World doesn’t have at least a passing acquaintance with the faces of all the members of the Royal Family, including the younger ones? And I’m with the consensus and the Palace on the subject of allowing (for example) Princes William to grow-up and have at least some semblance of a ‘normal life’, whatever that is... If only it could prepare him for what’s expected of him when his working life and the biggest title in the land kicks in, even if it isn’t until long after his working life might be expected to be over.

The Queen Mother was 101 years old when she died. If her daughter lives as long, and Prince Charles outlives her, he will ascend to the throne at the comely age of 79, which seems a little old to be taking on a new job, especially one which includes representing an entire nation globally. It’s probably just as well that his apprenticeship began some time ago, and the whole job-share idea might even have come along a little late in the day.

If King Charles III lives to 101 years old, King William V will be a young pup when he ascends to the throne at the age of 67. When his time comes, I suspect that this will fall within the standard age of retirement, and the balance might well be redressed. What will he do until then? I suppose he’ll do what his father has done, or something fairly similar. Perhaps more to the point, some might ask the question: What will WE do until then?

I’m not a royalist, except that the status quo seems as workable a system as anything else on offer, and the presidential system as (perhaps) exemplified by the USA seems unlikely to work here, where we tend to be disparaging of elected leaders rather than automatically loyal to them once they take office. I’ve also stated that I’m not a fan of the cult of youth, and there are arguments for allowing Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge to have a family and grow into the roles that they will no doubt assume to a greater degree in the fullness of time.

I don’t know how good a fit an 87 year old white woman and a 65 year old white man are in the World, though. I don’t know how far they actually stand for the country they represent in its current form. I’m white and middle class and a professional, and I’m pretty sure I don’t adequately represent the majority of the people with whom I share the place I call home, and my experience of my country and the World is far removed from the experiences of the people I’m talking about.

Perhaps, in the end, it’s all a dog and pony show. Perhaps it’s not real at all... Not real in the way that you and I perceive our every day realities. Perhaps it’s a trick of the light, a fantasy. Perhaps it’s for other people. Perhaps it’s a separate world entirely where, for the most part, dignitaries meet other dignitaries and the trickle-down effect is minimal to nothing.

For what it’s worth, I’m the sort of person, who, confronted with a famous face, sticks out her hand and offers a smile. I’ve met some fascinating people in my time and most of them were just like you and me. I’ve also met some hugely famous people who were equally hugely ordinary.

On the whole, I’m glad that any 87 year old woman is relieved of any of the more obvious stresses in her life. For most that means a little extra help around the house, a visit from a friend or family member, some additional income from savings or a private pension, and the means to live a comfortable enough life. If for this 87 year old woman it means company on a long, hard foreign trip, shorter working hours, fewer hands to shake and fewer smiles to bestow, causing less muscle strain in her old hands and her old face, that’s fine too. I wish her joy of it.

In the long run, I doubt that much will change. I don’t expect it, and I’m not sure I want it. The cult of youth has been a worrying trend for far too long and these old folks don’t appear, to me at least, to be doing too much damage. 

I hope I’m right.


  1. Enjoyed your post, Nicola. Is it time to reclaim old age?

  2. "the presidential system as (perhaps) exemplified by the USA seems unlikely to work here, where we tend to be disparaging of elected leaders rather than automatically loyal to them once they take office..."

    Surely that could only be a good thing? I think a British republic would likely be a relatively healthy one for precisely that reason. Is there anything more socially toxic than automatic loyalty to authority, elected or otherwise? I'm not a constitutionalist of any stripe, but (while I realise you're not arguing in favour of either system) I think your observation effectively highlights the fact that constitutional arguments in favour of monarchy are all ultimately rooted in an appeal to authority. The benefits of 'strength and continuity' in authority only accrue to those actually wielding it. For the rest of us it just makes any kind of meaningful progress that much harder and slower.