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The Enchanted Glass: Britain and Its Monarchy Paperback – 19 Sep 2011

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 2nd Revised edition edition (19 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844677753
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844677757
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 494,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Dazzling, cliche-nailing - The first serious study for more than a hundred years to take a coldly analytical look at this most emotion-charged part of our heritage, it reflects a growing sense of the peculiarity of it all. --Observer

A long and brilliant meditation on the nature of the British state, its identity and national culture... one of the most powerful and original pieces of writing I have ever read on the subject. --London Review of Books

About the Author

TOM NAIRN's many books include The Break-up of Britain, Faces of Nationalism and After Britain. He writes for, among others, New Left Review and the London Review of Books.


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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Purely for academics, impossible to follow his argument in a fluid fashion. I am only a humble history graduate and professional tour guide and I can make head nor tail of most of this. I would recommend The Grand Delusion by Stephen Haseler.
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I probably read this book too quickly; it's a journey best taken slowly. This is a witty, Scottish nationalist view of the kitsch English monarchy, and of the cosy little club of Westminster, that coterie of so-called journalists, the corporations and politicians they serve, all willfully blind to the needs and aspirations of folk north of the Wash. I enjoyed the ride, sometimes hilarious, sometimes bitter and at other times deeply vexing, though Nairn is sometimes obscure, strident and his reasoning a little hard to follow. But his clever intuitive leaps serve a vital purpose quite aside from venting the anger underlying his writing; he reveals the absurdity of the royals, the self-serving nature of the English political classes and the immense service the Tories have undertaken on behalf of the SNP. If anyone is responsible for the imminent breakup of the UK, it's Mr Cameron and his supporters.
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Format: Paperback
Rather like the sainted Patrick Wright, Nairn is a highly intelligent and well informed critic steeped in critical theory, hence another reviewer castigating him as too learned, too liable to quote Adorno at you (the rotter). Admittedly he doesn't wear his learning as lightly as Wright - few do - but the latter's self-effacing demeanour is epic. So don't let that put you off since Nairn is treating a complex and knotty notion with the seriousness it deserves. He is also very funny and his account of people's reactions to the royal personage is very amusing. I regard this as the seminal book on our anachronistic constitution and doubtless I'd find Nairn less comfortable were I a monarchist. But he makes the case for a quite different Settlement very persuasively in what is probably his best book. A must for every Republican; Monarchists would benefit since, if Nairn is right, then a King Charles 3rd will give plenty of monarch-fanciers a headache (one even greater than is seen in Mike Bartlett's admirable 2015 play, 'King Charles 3rd).' I think Nairn's is the indispensable book on this subject, it has a depth and is undergirded by scholarship absent in Haseler, who has more obvious fish to fry. A 2.5 star rating overall is quite ridiculous, skewed by a patently undeserved 1 star. It is CERTAINLY a good book; it may be a great one (well one of my favourites anyway).
And as a republican may I lament the sheer volume of what Private Eye calls arslikhan on this, our sovereign's 90th birthday. One risks censure in doing so; one risks censure from Jim Davidson for having 'no sense of humour' if you find him unfunny. I have had it with this puerile nonsense and if I read one more thing about "how very nice" or "how hard she works" then I am going to scream and not stop.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9e29d204) out of 5 stars 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e3eebe8) out of 5 stars Mass Psychoanalysis or Mass Pychosis? 11 July 2013
By Edward G. Nilges - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Excellent book; I read a previous edition a number of years ago.

Nairn has a Continental-theoretical style which may be off-putting for many readers, but I like to plug away at this type of text. Gives you something to chew on.

Nairn takes a couple of approaches two of which are "legitimacy" and "Mass Psychoanalysis".

Legitimacy: take a look at pictures of the French revolution(s) as they tried to create a *Republique* acceptable to all and succeeding after five tries.. Danton looks like a conventional merchant which he was until he was executed by his friendly enemy Robsepierre, R's hand being forced. Robespierre looks like an 18th century schoolteacher which he was until he and Ste. Juste about whom the less said the better were sent hand in hand to the knacker's yard.

But then there was a change. The Directory, an attempt at administering at least Paris to the benefit of the growing middle class and its *Jeunesse dorée*, used absurd and buffoonish fancy dress to get people to acknowledge their authority and legitimacy. You'd think that the working classes would see right thru this but they didn't. True descent from ancient rulers of Wessex, today checkable by DNA as was Richard III's DNA was verified when Dickie Crook-back was dug up at that church by matching it with a known female descendant, proving with 99% certainty that the churched up bones were the bones of a King, a rotter to be certain, but a King all the same. So everybody likes inheritance because its legitimacy is obvious.

There's something verifiable and direct about inheritance. Although the mathematics of "trees" can be somewhat formidable, everybody knows about sons, daughters, fathers, and grandfathers, and how extended families form local power structures and fight over legacies as did the Yorkists and Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses...a family feud among other things which was ignored by, and ignored, the middling classes of its time:

Mayor
See the coast clear'd, and then we will depart.
Good God, these nobles should such stomachs bear!
I myself fight not once in forty year.

Shakespeare Henry VI Part 1

But what only seems decidable is a legitimate right to the throne. An idiot eldest son, or twin eldest born at the same time, or a Claudius, an ambitious younger brother competing with a grown son, can cock things up "royally" as it were. This way solutions become ad-hoc and driven by perceptions sometimes unspeakable like Edward II's or Richard II's homosexuality or Prince Charles' passivity.

Mass psychoanalysis tells us that the British use assent to Royalty so deeply that sudden deprivation would stop everything as in the experience of the smoker who quits four packs a day cold turkey. More of us (people, not Brits: I'm American) organize our lives, which are often more difficult than they should be, with childish games such as playing bagpipe music or Grenadier marches on an iPod to man or woman up for another difficult day, and perhaps Royalty gives British a reason to struggle on "in the Queen's name". Certainly, this phenomenon was named and known during the Blitz.

Edward I's, Edward III's and Henry V's readiness to commit mayhem on foemen is well-known and celebrated and it became the stiff upper lip, and the readiness to approve Prime Ministerial adventures such as the Falklands by way of silence. Royalty as Nairn shows veers a very liberal, left-wing, and to this day rather union-friendly society to the right like an unbalanced wheel in a car and thus protects the great fortunes, not only of Royalty but also of various Dukes, Earls, and Dukes of Earl from an unconscionable distance in the past...and also of clever newcomers brutal and situated enough to smash and grab a piece of the action right up to Russian biznizmienie. I don't know if used car salesmen have been endukified or made a Marquess but I'm willing to bet they or their ilk have been given peerages, whether for true service or just silence. Tony Blair is not going to get so much as a simple knighthood because he stood up to the Queen over Diana's treatment after her death. It's a petty and nasty business.

GLOUCESTER
I cannot tell: the world is grown so bad,
That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch:
Since every Jack became a gentleman
There's many a gentle person made a Jack.

Shakespeare, Richard III

It also needs to stop after thousands of years...rather like my country could use more Amendments of our regal Constitution: the ERA (equal rights for women), an amendment transferring education to Federal control, and so on. But that discussion doesn't belong here.
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