Britishness, Culture, Plain Speaking, Royalty, Womanly Feminism

Naomi Wolf’s Dishonest Perspective on the Recent Coronation

Crimenutely. Naomi Wolf.  King Charles.

She’s entering the seventh decade of her life and, thirty-plus years ago, was the darling of the feminist movement, being praised fulsomely by folks like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan alike for her brilliant ideas.

However, Camille Paglia never bought it.  Something that intelligent women should have paid attention to, IMHO.  Because I–an intelligent woman myself–am a fan of that great lesbian broad. So I listened.  And Naomi Wolf was never on my short list as a result.

Naomi Wolf gained fame in the early 1990s as the author of a book called The Beauty Myth, in which she claimed that the concept of “beauty” was a social construct (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Sort Of Thing Before), and that it’s determined by the patriarchy with the object of keeping women under its thumb (SMIYHTSOTB).  The fact that Wolf herself was something of a babe distinguished her from the Betty Friedans of the world and–I guess–made her more marketable as a result.  Perhaps this was function following form.  Perhaps it was just crass money grabbing.   Lord only knows, she said some pretty daft things, whether from genuine conviction, or with the intention of keeping herself in the spotlight, I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. I certainly don’t.

Still. Over the decades, Naomi got old, and gravity and irrelevance took over as it generally does, with only rare exceptions, even with the most beautiful of women, and so she has taken steps to reinvent herself in the late first quarter of the twenty-first century as what Wikipedia, and most of the mainstream media, delights in calling “a conspiracy theorist” and, subsequently, a darling of the Right.

Naomi’s recent famous beef centers around Covid vaccines, their efficacy, and the damage they’ve caused.  I’ve listened to her often (including on Mark Steyn’s GBNews show), and while I find myself sympathetic in the main to what she says, she so regularly veers into such lunacy that I just can’t endorse where she ends up.  Both Steyn and Wolf have been deemed guilty by British press censor Ofcom for “misinformation,” and I admire them both for standing up against the claims but–IMHO–Naomi has rather more work to do than does Steyn when it comes to demonstrating a rational case.

Which brings me to the meat of this post.

Naomi’s Substack rant on the coronation of King Charles.

I dunno.  Again.

Perhaps she thinks she’s earned the right to discourse on all matters British because of her involvement with GBNews and Steyn.  In that case, I’ll see her imagined right to do so, and raise her 1) actual British citizenship, 2) two British uncles who attended the same elite British school as the Canadian Mark Steyn, and 3) my own freedom of speech which is (totteringly) still guaranteed me in my adopted country, and I’ll respond as follows.

Here we go:

I think Dr. Naomi might like to brew herself a calming tisane and settle down.  It’s not her fault that she doesn’t appreciate the approximately equal amounts of reverence, bemusement, and hilarity with which most Britons view such national spectacles, but I can assure you that, notwithstanding wonky horses, fainting guardsmen, occasional issues of poor timing, and what Wolf imagines as sinister “Druid-like” white gowns worn by the women (women almost always wear white at these sorts of things), the most notable thing about Charles’s coronation was its ordinariness, and the fact that it managed to avoid what’s become known as the “Coronation Curse,” in which an event or series of events threatens to overwhelm the seriousness of the day with a moment of low comedy, or utter incredulity.

The coronation of Elizabeth II got off to a flying start when 8,000 people in Westminster Abbey heard what they thought was the royal party arriving at the entrance, and stood in unison to observe four cleaners using carpet sweepers to render the floor pristine.  It was only after the Queen arrived in heavy coronation robes that it was discovered that the red carpet, which had been unrolled along the length of the aisle, had been installed with the “nap” facing the wrong way.  The new queen couldn’t get herself going against the grain of the carpet, and had to call on the Archbishop of Canterbury to give her a shove and “just get me started.” (The day began on a bum note, as it were, when someone discovered that all the rolls of toilet paper had been stolen from the Abbey loos, and someone was sent out to retrieve replacement stock and hurriedly put it in place.)

A similar Velcro moment occurred at the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.  That time, the costumes’ fancy trains were disconnected and looped over the arms of the ladies wearing them to minimize the resistance from the carpet.  That’s also the coronation where the Archbishop of Canterbury put the crown on the king’s head back-to-front.  After doing so, and paying homage, the elderly archbishop couldn’t get back to his feet and had to be helped up by the king.  (Not quite as bad as 82-year-old Lord Rolle, who fell over backwards doing the same thing at Victoria’s coronation in 1838, the one at which the Archbishop of Canterbury forgot his lines, tried to give the queen the orb twice because he’d forgotten that he’d already done it before, and forced the coronation ring onto the wrong finger, causing Victoria excruciating pain in removing it.)

At the coronation of George VI, the late queen’s father, the Archbishop of Canterbury had taken the trouble of sticking a small piece of cotton to the front of St. Edward’s crown, so that he’d not make the same mistake as his predecessor, 35 years before.  Unfortunately, when the moment came, he couldn’t find the piece of cotton, and he could be seen by those in the audience desperately turning the crown round-and-round in his hands, trying to find it and make sure he set the crown correctly.

So it’s absurd to postulate (as Wolf does) that British reverence and exactitude for such events has never heretofore been challenged, and it’s probably not going too far to speculate that there were quite a few Brits hoping for the moment at this coronation when Charles might do a face plant in front of the altar, or that Camilla’s crown would fall off, all to no avail.  It seems the only such humorous moment was when the press discovered that the impressive red plume on the Princess Royal’s (Anne’s) military headgear appeared to completely block the view of the person sitting behind her in the third row from the front.  That person was the Duke of Sussex (Harry.)

Serves him right.

But otherwise, it was a rather bland affair, despite Wolf’s ridiculous claim that the “English monarchy” still “jealously guards its longstanding symbolism, its solemn ritual; with all of this bolstering, of course, its claim to Divine Right to rule.”

What a dunderhead.

The “English [sic] monarchy” makes no “claim to Divine Right to rule,”  and has not for almost three-hundred-fifty years.  One wonders how Wolf, who has a doctoral degree from Oxford, can be so daft.  Or so wrong.  (Come to think of it, perhaps one is just a natural outgrowth of the other, these days.  She could get her mind right by reading any, or several, of Mark Steyn’s lengthy perorations on the British monarchy on his own site.  Steyn is smart enough not to need any such distinguished academic credentials to bolster his credibility, and it shows.)

Charles is a constitutional monarch who knows full well that he rules only with the consent of his people, and that he is–indeed–subject to the earthly authority of his parliament and the laws of his country.  The last royal family to claim divine right were the Stuarts (Catholic imports from Scotland), and it didn’t end well for almost any of them.  After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which the Dutch William of Orange and his wife Mary (James II’s daughter) jointly assumed the throne, the monarch and parliament agreed to substantial limits on monarchical powers (a process begun when King John was forced to sign Magna Carta in 1215).

And today, the sovereign is largely a figurehead and a symbol. And a tourism cash machine, something for which most Britons with any sense–no matter their personal convictions–recognize as a plus.

Wolf also makes a hullabaloo about the “anointing” being a private ceremony, behind a screen.  Queen Elizabeth’s anointing was indeed concealed from public view by a gold canopy, as she had very strong feelings that it was a sacred part of the ordeal that didn’t need to be exposed to world view in this very early worldwide television event.  So I don’t really think Charles veered all that much from his mother’s wishes, in that he was concealed by a three-sided screen with embroidery representing the 56 Commonwealth countries.  (Wolf, of course, misses out on a great deal of the symbolism in all areas, even that of the heavy embroidery on a number of these “Druidical” gowns she’s so worried about.)

But here is where she really loses it:

Naomi Wolf: This may seem like an extreme concern to raise — but is any concern extreme these days? If British subjects cannot hear their King’s Anointing — it is literally drowned out, starting at two minutes in, in the clip above, by the robust choir — how do they know what has been said? It could be anything — or nothing. …If that were ever to be the case, this would be a big deal. These officials would have legal leeway to do much of what they want — including commit what would otherwise be treason. If King Charles’ subjects cannot hear the Anointing, how do they know to what — to whom – he has consecrated himself?

How do they know if it is to the service of their God, or of themselves?

This–wherein she seems to think that what can be seen or on the television screen is the only representative of reality–is a rather loony example of extreme presentism, or even just of Lady of Shallot syndrome.  Charles is the 40th sovereign to be crowned in Westminster Abbey (the first was William the Conqueror, 957 years ago, eat your heart out, United States of America), and–certainly–for the first 38 of them,  the “British subjects” had no bloody idea what the king said in his anointing, and couldn’t possibly have heard a word of it.

But Naomi knows better.  She insists that she can show us a rare bit of footage of Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation in which the “anointing” is both public and audible.  Here is that link from Wolf’s post:

The only problem is that the audio in this video, which Wolf presents as the “holy anointing” of the British sovereign, is no such thing.

The canopy is in place, the microphones are silent, and the anointing is unheard, just as in the coronation of Charles. The words of the actual anointing at Elizabeth’s coronation (which are not in Wolf’s linked video, because it’s not of the actual anointing) are as follows:

Be your hands anointed with holy oil.
Be your breast anointed with holy oil.
Be your head anointed with holy oil,
as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed.
And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so
may you be anointed, blessed, and consecrated King over the peoples, whom the Lord
your God has given you to rule and govern; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

The sovereign does not wear cloth of gold for the anointing.  The anointing–in which the sovereign appears figuratively naked before God–is conducted while the sovereign is wearing what passes for–if you’re royal–the simplest of undergarments. What is shown in the video that Wolf claims as a “rare” example of the public anointing of Elizabeth is actually a portion of the “Presenting of the Spurs and Sword and the Oblation of the Said Sword”:

Receive this kingly Sword,
brought now from the Altar of God,
and delivered to you by the hands of us
the Bishops and servants of God, though unworthy.
With this sword do justice,
stop the growth of iniquity,
protect the holy Church of God,
help and defend widows and orphans,

Honestly.  Anyone who thinks the holy anointing of the sovereign of Britain includes the words “help and defend widows and orphans” needs her head examined.

I can’t tell you how much Wolf’s entire ignorant post to this point offends me.

But she drones on, apparently oblivious of much of Church tradition, until she gets to what I suspect is the real issue: the inclusion of representatives of other than Christian faiths–in the most minor of ways–in the service. Thing one.

Thing two, weirdly, is her discomfort with the balcony scene.  Here’s the photo she uses to illustrate her point:

with the words:

Why are these preadolescent boys arranged in this cadre in this way? The nominal explanation is that they are members of the extended family, or “pages.”

But the iconography of this moment in the past did not, to my knowledge, include an aggregation, a lineup, of eight or ten 10-13-year-old boys. [Editorial intervention:  Aren’t there six in the photo?] The balcony iconography is always the immediate and extended family, of all ages.  What is this Lost Boys imagery? Why? (Are those indeed all boys?)

What’s you’re point here, Naomi?  Pedophilia?  Glory be.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  Yes, they are “pages,” and yes they are all boys, several of whom are grandchildren of both previously-divorced, septuagenarian sovereigns (something that was not even an option at the twenty-five year old Elizabeth’s coronation seventy years ago), or they are children of close friends who were offered a special role at the coronation.  Also, nice try.  Here’s the actual balcony scene, complete with the “extended family of all ages”:

Members of the royal family; balcony; king charles coronation

I can identify them all.  Can you, Naomi?

What a miserable, ignorant, bitch.  In the future, Naomi, try a wider lens.  Sometimes it’s clarifying.

Time, Naomi, to stop pontificating on matters of which you know not, and to move on to greener pastures.  If you’d like people to take your opinions seriously, or as read, you need to control the loony in you and stick to verifiable facts.

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