Thursday, November 18, 2010

No One Is A Continent, Not Even Queen Victoria

This is from Scottish author Muriel Spark in her Momento Mori (New York: Macmillan, 1959)—

The real rise of democracy in the British Isles occurred in Scotland by means of Queen Victoria's [weakness of the] bladder… When she went to stay at Balmoral in her latter years a number of privies were caused to be built at the back of little cottages which had not previously possessed privies. This was to enable the Queen to go on her morning drive round the countryside in comfort, and to descend from her carriage from time to time, ostensibly to visit the humble cottagers in their dwellings. Eventually, word went round that Queen Victoria was exceedingly democratic. Of course it was all due to her little weakness. But everyone copied the Queen and the idea spread, and now you see we have a great democracy.