Thursday, July 1, 2010

British Obsessions (#8)

Americans are obsessed with Mickey Mouse and movie stars.
According to the newspapers here, the Brits are obsessed with World War II. Now after 70 years later, they’re still traumatized by the blitz on London and everything concerning the war. I mentioned it to my brother-in-law, and he said that he totally understood them. “Americans can’t relate, because we’ve never had a war on our soil. The British had the Luftwaffe flying over their homes. They weren’t safe anywhere. Of course, they’re traumatized.”
I guess I couldn’t relate, because we Israelis have seen war and terror almost
constantly (well, B’H we’ve had a few quiet periods).
The British are so fixated on the War that the newspaper reported that the Minister of Education wants the schools to teach a little less Hitler and a little more Cromwell.
Everywhere we went, the War was referenced. Even in Windsor Castle (which is an ultra-spectacular opulent indescribable place of gold and priceless treasures), there was a photography exhibit of the princesses Elizabeth (now HRH the Queen) and her sister Princess Margaret.
First, they are shown in their royal princess finery as babies and little girls, and then as adolescents, during the war, their photos no longer show symbols of royalty or luxury. They’re in sensible clothing in every shot.
The British mention this too, and how the late Queen Mum, also put away her queenly trappings for sensible British togs during the War.
We also heard that during the War, the present Queen went to work as a mechanic. Essentially, she’s a good one to be with if your car breaks down. She can in fact fix it.
Hey, Hank. I don’t know who that guy in the broken down jalopy is, but he must be someone important, because the Queen is fixing his car.
British tours are filled with, “During the War, this building…”.
The British are lucky. More or less, they’ve only had one war. (Well, they had World War I and all kinds of foreign conflicts, but no one seems to mention them. I guess because they were far away, and didn’t affect the people personally.)
Can you imagine if Israel had to reference every war in every place it was fought?
“Here on the left during the War of Independence we…and during the Six Day War, the soldiers…in the last intifada the forces…during the…” You get the idea. The tour bus wouldn’t make it down the street in the course of a day.
The British also have another obsession – Henry VIII!!
The newspaper article said in fact that the Brits have to stop emphasizing “Hitler and Henry and make way for Cromwell.”
[Cromwell led the revolution against the monarchy and brought the democracy to the country. He led England for more than a decade, and the people realized they’d like a king again. Hence, the monarchy started anew in 1660 something.]
Henry VIII is probably England’s most famous monarch. His colorful, sometimes violent life is the talk of every tour guide and, it seems, teenager too. His face is recognized by everyone. Stores all over London have Henry VIII cups, towels, rulers, erasers, swords, hats (I bought one for one of my children for Purim.), every piece of memorabilia you can think of.
You don’t see any James or Edward pillows or shot glasses. It’s all Henry VIII.
Henry VIII, a Tudor King, was the perfect Renaissance prince – an athlete, a scholar and a musician. He became king at 17 in 1509 and ruled until 1547. Unfortunately, he became cruel and ruthless. He had two wives beheaded, and because he lusted after Ann Boleyn, he dissolved the Church, divided the nation, and created a whole new religion with himself at the helm, just so he could divorce wife number one to make way for Ann.
He went through wives like cooks go through kitchen towels. He put down the country’s rebellion with savagery, an yet “in a violent and turbulent age, he was an admired and respected monarch.” Go figure.
Can you name his six wives? I can now.
Hm, can you name all of King David’s wives? He had a bevy as well, but B”H, he didn’t have to behead anyone.

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