Whenever I think about that complicated mix and gelling in British attitudes toward rank, show, money, royalty, and the lares and penates of suburban life, two images swim into view, one several decades old, the other recent. But they hang together, sadly.
The older one is of a certain Lady Docker, the wife of Sir Bernard Docker, who was chairman of the huge British Small Arms, Ltd. (BSA) conglomerate in Birmingham not long after World War II. Lady Docker was monumentally vulgar, like a retired chorus girl who had married into money and meant to flaunt it. She rode in a gold-plated Daimler and sought acceptance in high places. I do not know if she ever mixed with royalty, but below that level she was accepted (except, oddly but to their credit, by the Rainiers of Monaco, who found her ostentatious antics too hard to bear).
She was the glittering pinnacle of a triangle. One leg of it was the tabloid press, who rightly guessed that their readers would swallow this glossy coarseness by the bucket load and so gave Lady Docker massive attention.
Little did those readers know that the other leg of the triangle, Sir Bernard himself, was presiding over the collapse of his industrial empire. Not enough R&D, not enough attention to new design, not enough sales initiative. The …