Ghosts on the Stairs

“F--k socialism!”

—Evelyn Waugh

Octogenarian knight Sir Peregrine Worsthorne is famous in Britain for several things.  He was the editor of the Sunday Telegraph and a political columnist for that paper for 30 years.  He is married to the jolly Lucinda Lambton, who presents enjoyable, occasional TV programs on heritage-related topics.  He wears pink bowties.  Less creditably, he was the first person to use on British radio a certain four-letter word starting with f.  And, like his Tory and Telegraph contemporary Lord (Bill) Deedes, he has been immortalized by the British satirical magazine Private Eye as “Sir Perishing Worthless.”

Private Eye’s fondness for this disrespectful nickname is very funny.  It is also symptomatic, however, of the way in which Britain’s aristocracy has plummeted in the estimation of British people.  A once well-known British proverb was “Everyone loves a lord.”  Now, while most Britons still seem to attach a degree of talismanic respect to titles and harbor a fondness for the monarchy, these are tinged with aggrievement and envy, as was seen during the long-drawn-out mawkishness of the death and funeral of Princess Diana—the “People’s Princess,” whose supposed demotic...

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