Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Monday, 21 May 2012


JUBILEE season is upon us and from the coverage you'd be forgiven for thinking that Elizabeth II is just like Elizabeth I.

Our little white-haired granny is like that bewigged armour-plated termagant in the same way that My Little Pony is like a frothing Arabian stallion with crazy eyes who'd smash you to death in a heartbeat.

Neither was expected to become queen, but both did. Aside from the name that's about all they share.

Elizabeth I's birth led to schism in the church. Her mother was murdered, her stepmothers all died or were rejected, and she was repeatedly disowned and reinstated. She spoke six languages by the age of 11, she spent most of her life under threat of execution or assassination by her own family and she was seen as nothing more than a tool for men to marry off for political gain.

She was told, in every way, that being a girl was a disaster and she turned her femininity into triumph. She traded any chance of personal happiness for power, she started an empire, and she did it all from the age of 25 after inheriting a country which was broke. She was horrible, vicious, a despot, the world's worst dinner party guest; a far cry in every way from the modern monarch who has barely a sniff of the same DNA.

Our queen has ridden lots of horses. Um. That's about it.

She's travelled a lot, she's dealt with politicians and not put a foot wrong that we know of, but she's never worked more than three days a week if you can call it work at all and hasn't had quite the same asked of her as her namesake. I wonder if the two queens were switched in time how either would cope? I'd hope Good Queen Bess would discover condoms and have the chance to let her hair down, but I bet Brenda would struggle with balancing the Exchequer.

But still. They share a name, they both came to the throne young, and both have presided over an era of massive change. To mark the event the BBC and a panel of rather self-important people have compiled a list of 'New Elizabethans', those subjects who've done the most to change the world in the course of her reign.

And nowhere could the differences be more apparent. Liz One had Shakespeare, Drake, Cecil, Inigo Jones and Bess of Hardwick. Liz Two has got Simon Cowell and a lady who wrote a cookery book.

A glance down the Beeb's list produces a couple of 'fair enough's - McCartney and Lennon are on there, Tim Berners-Lee, Princess Di - but then anyone with a brain would splutter: "BILLY CONNOLLY? ARE YOU PULLING MY CHAIN? Germaine Greer? GOLDIE? What in the name of..."

So to save myself an embolism here is my alternative list of modern Elizabethans - the people who've really changed the world since 1952.

* Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi - for proving cancer isn't that bad.

* Prince Andrew - who's shown a little really can go a long way. About 250 times around the world, by my last count.

* Ridley Scott - for Thelma & Louise alone, never mind the rest of it.

* Cliff Richard - just for not going away. Man's like a persistent, elderly spaniel.

* Richard Dawkins - for spearheading the humanist movement in the face of frothing opposition and despite the fact blasphemy was against the law until 2008.

* Prince Philip - for making racism endearing.

* Liz Jones - for making the slow-motion car crash of her life public property and turning a massive profit out of it. Bess of Hardwick would be WELL JEL (I know I am).

* Jimmy Savile - come on, he raised £40million for charity! Forget the tracksuit, no-one else has managed that.

* Richard Branson - for being the most offensively annoying prat the nation ever produced. He's like a deluded court jester who thinks he's in charge.

* Beatrice Shilling - Men designed the Spitfire but it took a woman to tell them where they'd gone wrong. The Rolls Royce engines would stall in a dive but engineer Beatrice found the flaw and fixed it. That move won us the Battle of Britain but she's virtually unknown. She also raced motorbikes and wouldn't marry her husband until he'd lapped the circuit at 100mph. What a dame!

* Barbara Cartland - sorry, she sold twice as many books as JK Rowling.

* Herchel Smith - a researcher at the University of Manchester who found a cheap way of producing hormones, leading to the contraceptive pill and, oh yes, female emancipation from their own ovaries.
* Michael Buerk - it was his reports from the famine in Ethiopia which inspired Bob Geldof and led to Live Aid, and thus the modern global definition of overseas development aid.

* Andy Coulson - for being one of the few journalists who's probably going to bring down a government, even if it is by accident.
* Spike Milligan - for everything.

And you know what makes them New Elizabethans?

They're all going to be talked about a lot flippin' longer than Barbara Bloody Windsor.

Not an Elizabethan.


Soap said...

I'd say Tim Berners-Lee is a bit more than just 'fair enough', the guy has effectively changed the world more than almost anyone else in history, and the best part, he doesn't even make a big deal of it!
As for the rest of the list, as you said there are a few people who really do deserve to be on that (for better or worse, as it said) but what the hell has Goldie ever actually done?

Amanda Kendal said...

How about Alan Turning and, for a real queen, Quentin Crisp?

Anonymous said...

Um Shilling's modification to carburettors on the RR Merlin engine wasn't installed until after the Battle of Britain and was only a temporary fit until they pressure carburettors to the engine. None the less it was a useful modification, but it did NOT come into use until after the Battle of Britain.

The pilots had their own fix which was to roll over inverted then dive keeping positive G on in the first part of the dive.

What about a 'man' such as Tommy Flowers? Never heard of him Fleetstreetfox? He designed AND BUILT the first programmable computer Colossus that was used at Blechley Park, think about it, the ability to design and build a computer using thousands of valves. Oh and he used his own money to do it with. Everyone remembers Alan Turing but no one remembers Flowers.

Sorry but Ms Shilling doesn't even rate.

davemcwish said...

Just for clarification Foxy, which Goldie are we talking about, the "musician & artist" or the stalwart of Blue Peter shows in the early 1980's ?

Ewan Mitchell said...

surly anybody alive (including Babs Windsor) during QE2's reign is, by default, an Elizabethan? Not necessarily a good one, but one never the less.

Foxy said...

TBH the BBC hasn't specified... surely one of them's dead, though?

And is Jim Naughtie really going to do a R4 profile of a man with gold teeth?

Anonymous said...

Can we count those who lived in the New Elizabethan age, but their main achievements were several years before it? For example, Churchill, Elizabeth 2's first PM has rightly not been considered a great New Elizabethan as most of his achievements were way before then. Therefore, while great, those whose main achievements were during WW2, should not be included as it finished seven years before QE2's reign began. Sorry about that!

bonetired said...

Frederick Sanger ... Bet you have never heard of him but has has won TWO Nobel Prizes!

davemcwish said...

or a Blue Peter pet...? Being dead doesn't exclude you from the list.

I also think you're being a trifle unfair on Liz #2. Many many centuries ago, the English monarchs had real power and chose to exercise it with varying degrees of success. These days, the only power Brenda has is turning all the lights on in Buck House and seeing how fast the leccy meter can spin round. She knows that although consitiutionally she has considerable powers she knows that she can't really exercise them; as soon as she does it'll be the death knell for the monarchy and we'll end up with President Whoever with their own private 747 jet etc etc.

I also disagree with Princess Di being on any list unless it's a warning to be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous said...

I did wonder this too and asked a similar question earlier this afternoon on Twitter. If it is the canine co-star of the academically heavy children's TV classic, then he is far more deserving of a place than the gold-toothed "gangsta", dead or not.

Buddha B'der said...

Anyone whose master says "What a lovely pair of knockers" live on Children's TV gets my vote.

Ztarfizh said...

Would it be churlish to point out that it was a public vote, and that the BBC didn't just pick 'em. You're a media person, so guess you knew that anyway. You could have voted - maybe then the list would be more to your taste.

Jess said...

I don't know if Billy Connolly was revolutionary, as such, but he certainly helped shaped the direction of comedy. The man is an entertainment legend and if that were the criteria I'd say fair enough. Also Rowling > Cartland, but then I am of the Harry Potter generation (is that a thing?) and say first-hand what those books did to kids' reading habits. QEI's lot have totally got us beat though, haven't they.

Foxy said...

Yes, they made a big song and dance about it didn't they? A TV show in which everyone was encouraged to vote, Tom Jones banging on about Elvis every five minutes, the whole nation whittling the list down... oh.

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