Thursday, September 24, 2009

Confederate Royalty

This week is the annual used book sale of the American Association of University Women. Of course I attended, as I do every year. One of my finds was a book I owned in the 90's but somehow or other lost: A Southern Belle Primer, or why Princess Margaret will never be a Kappa Kappa Gamma by Marilyn Schwartz.

The question raised in the subtitle is answered in the Introduction:

It was a sultry afternoon in 1985 when the British princess [Margaret] was being feted in a chic Dallas home. A crowd of local belles gathered, excited to meet a member of the British royal family. Of course, Princess Margaret was hardly the only royalty present. There were at least six former duchesses of the Tyler Rose Festival and an ex-Queen of the Memphis Cotton Carnival. The Southern royalty all arrived on time. The British royalty was an hour late.

Not only that, but she arrived wearing pink chiffon in the middle of the afternoon (this might have been overlooked if her shoes had not been a different shade of pink). But what really caused talk was when Princess Margaret began walking around the room puffing on a cigarette. No one could believe it. She was in the living room of the president of Neiman-Marcus, for goodness' sake.

There is an entire chapter which continues to tongue-in-cheek talk as if the Princess of the Azalea Ball or the Queen of the Pilgrimage were genuine royalty. The story is told of a wealthy man who tried to make his daughter Queen of Fiesta in San Antonio, Texas, only to find that instead a penniless girl whose mother and Grandmother had been Queen of Fiesta was chosen. Her "royal blood" was considered more important than money. And an Englishman who attended the coronation of Elizabeth II is quoted as saying that that of the King and Queen of Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama was far more lavish.

It seems Southerner and monarchist Florence King was right when she said, "The itch to crown someone, if only a Corn Harvest Queen, pervades our populist heartland."*

Southerners are old-fashioned people. Not that we haven't been contaminated by the modern age like everyone else, but the decay is less advanced here than in much of the country. And I really think that most Southerners, traditionalists and romantics that we are, are royalists at heart. If we had won the War of Northern Aggression, I wouldn't be surprised if President Jefferson Davis had been succeeded by a king.

Another anecdote from A Southern Belle Primer is of interest, particularly to detractors of Sarah Ferguson, such as myself. It also illustrates that nations which lack titles must instead depend upon byzantine codes of behavior as class markers. After several pages of arbitrary but nonetheless ironclad rules one must follow to be a respectable person in the South (potato salad is not eaten off good china), Miss Schwartz relates:

One has only to look at the Duchess of York's visit to Houston in 1989 to see just how seriously this is all still taken.

Fergie arrived in November, wearing a summer dress and white shoes. Eyebrows were raised all over town. Reporters talked about those white shoes on the ten o'clock news. The shoes were still the topic of conversation the next morning on the radio talk shows.

Finally, Her Majesty's press secretary issued a statement that there were no such seasonal rules in Great Britain. [Ed.: And they call England civilized?]

"Well, she should have realized she was in Texas," a newspaper quoted one observer as saying. "I would rather wear my crown crooked than wear white shoes after Labor Day."

* Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye.

1 comment:

MadMonarchist said...

There was more bowing and scraping when QEII came to Texas than I've seen anywhere else. Also, on the subject of Confederate royalty, I would say look up Lucy Holcombe Pickens. I've posted on her on my blog but info is not hard to come by. She was called the "Queen of the Confederacy" and was good friends with the Romanovs.