Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday 17 December 2022

Joining the Dots...

Like one of those shifting optical illusions, interpretation of the Lady Hussey affair depends on whether you see a hostile racist mercilessly interrogating her hapless victim or a rather deaf elderly lady, in a noisy gathering of many nationalities, asking impertinent questions about the background of a woman whose name, clothing and hairstyle clearly suggest overseas origins.*

Many journalists were quick to point out that this incident, having no apparent connection with the Sussexes, served as independent corroboration of their tales of unacceptable prejudice pervading the Palace; headlines on both sides of the Atlantic were fraught with terms such as ‘validates’, ‘vindicates’ or ‘gives credence to’ the couple’s accusations.

The timing, coinciding as it did with the Wales’ official visit to the USA as well as the imminent launch of the Netflix ‘documentary’, ensured maximum media exposure for those expressing their outrage. One of the most vocal of these was the photographer whose portraits of Ms Fulani accompanied Vogue magazine’s 2021 feature on her domestic abuse charity: ‘They should have known who she was’, he posted on Instagram, ‘A GIANT [sic] in her field’.

If his name sounds familiar, then you probably read coverage of - depending on your choice of news source - the Sussex couple’s thwarted attempt to bring their own photographer into the Queen’s presence or the select group of guests at Lilibet’s first birthday party. Ms Fulani’s vocal defender just happens to be a long-standing close friend of the couple and was in regular contact with them when he met Ms Fulani, who clearly made a big impact on him and runs exactly the sort of organisation likely to interest the Duchess.

Small world, isn’t it?

Update: there’s a brilliant take on this story at Eccles is saved.

*I have, in the past, met a number of elderly dowagers in various social contexts and been subjected to similar brusque inquisition at first hand, including questions about my ‘people’, a term which, while something of a hot potato in today’s ethnicity-conscious USA, has long been interchangeable with ‘family’ in British landed gentry and public school circles. 

My antecedents being more Baldrick than Blackadder, it usually takes them multiple questions to sort out where I fit into their mental map. It’s a bruising experience, certainly (think of Lady Catherine de Burgh rudely quizzing Elizabeth Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’), but it’s how they and their forebears have behaved towards younger people for countless generations - their ‘culture’, if you will - regardless of colour, creed or orientation.

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