This is a blog I wrote some time ago, but which must have been misplaced as I was waylaid for some reason or another, so better late than never, here is the subject of class.
When the subject of class came up I was reminded of a post I saw on Facebook where there was a comparison between the Titanic and the modern cruise ships to which I responded that they looked like a container ship with a block of flats plonked on top of them and that they had no class whatsoever.
A couple of American fellows took up the case for the modern ships on the grounds that it was progress and that the modern traveller wanted rock climbing walls, water slides, and all sorts of other amusements.
There was some suggestion, that ships had evolved and this was what the modern person wanted, to which I replied, it still has no class and here’s where I felt he started to get his wires crossed, for the reply was, “class distinction went out the window a long time ago.” It was at this moment that I realised what a vast difference there was between the British and American idea of class.
Personally, I can’t understand why on earth anybody would want to be on a ship with thousands of other people, in an environment more like a floating Disneyland, give me the smaller and classier Titanic any day, barring of course the unfortunate incident with the iceberg.
Obviously it would be ludicrous to suggest there was no class system in Great Britain, for not only do we have one but it is as diverse and interesting as you could possibly ask. Rather wonderfully in the UK it is possible to be as poor as a church mouse and yet be extremely upper class, whereas in America one can have vast wealth and yet no class whatsoever, see for example their current President, Mr Donald Trump.
America has no real upper class as it lacks landed gentry and aristocracy and sadly doesn’t even have in place a system like that in the UK where one may be ennobled, although the minefield of British aristocracy is one that would take a lifetime to explain.
There are obviously three basic classes in any country, lower, middle and upper, with a wealth of variety in each class, although I’m guessing it would be easier to change your class in America, for to change class in Great Britain requires more than just the acquisition of vast wealth. For in the UK it requires great patients and the passing of at least three if not four generations and the selection of the right schools and eventually the right clubs.
One has the impression, perhaps wrongly that having wealth in America for three generations would entitle one to call oneself “old money” whereas in Great Britain one’s family has to have been in the funds from the time of William the Conqueror or before.
We are rather used to the down at heel Lord, who through bad luck with inheritance tax or a penchant for gambling has lost most of the family wealth but none the less is still a cut above the average member of his club, even if he is less sartorially elegant and has slightly frayed shirt cuffs.
Most of our Prime Ministers have been educated at Eton and then Oxford University, along with a smattering of others who went to Harrow, one of whom was the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated, Spencer Perceval in 1812.
I believe it was the Victorians who with the assistance of Prince Albert invented etiquette and the middle class, prior to that one could quite happily eat any meal with whatever knife took ones fancy and now we’re stuck with the basic principle of starting from the outside and working ones way in.
The same can be said of clothing and etiquette, where for example, one wouldn’t want to arrive at The Royal Enclosure at Ascot dressed in shorts and flip flops as some of the more brash elements of today's society seem to think is de rigueur for so many occasions, oh no dear boy, top hat and tails for Ascot.
Having been brought up and educated with the British way of life, I rather like our system of class, especially the faded grandeur of old money, now that’s real class.