VICE for Royals

We Reviewed 'Tatler', the Poshest Magazine On Earth

Every month we look at the magazine written by and for the direct descendants of the Duke of Wellington.
December 12, 2018, 9:45am
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Photos by the author

Why write an entire column about Tatler every month? Rather than answer that question directly, come with me on a magical journey through… page one. The Masthead. The bit where they list the names of everyone who works there. The bit before the bit where any proper content even happens.

As your eye scans down that list, from Poppy to Amelia to Olivia to Flora to Tish to Jasper to Annabelle to Eugenie to Harriet to Lydie to Mimi, it's obvious the Tatler masthead is a tinging tone poem to a universe few of us glimpse.

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And it’'s obvious that even as media's general insolvency grows more desperate by the day, Tatler will be the last magazine left on the newsstands because these people don't need the money. You could pay everyone here £22,000 a year and they’d forget to collect their cheques half the time.

Let's run the numbers:

Francescas: Two.
Franciscas: One.
Granddaughters of a former Prime Minister: One. Rebecca Douglas Home.
Granddaughters of a Foreign Secretary: One. Francesca Carrington, of Lord Carrington fame.
Related to the wife of the next King: Louisa Parker Bowles.
Blood relative to two of the wealthiest dynasties in the world: A one Nicky Hilton Rothschild.
Names so rah PG Wodehouse would reject them as "a bit too on-the-nose"? You don’t mean Muffie Sproat? Or Teddy Wolstenholme?
Direct descendants of the Duke Of Wellington: Probably several when you think about it, but let’s concentrate on the niece of the present 9th Duke, Eleanor Wellesley.

It's incredible. Every time you have a hunch – every time a name gives you a vague twinge of wait-a-minute-are-they-maybe-related to – and you go look, every single time Google tells you: yes, this is the great god-niece of the fourth spermatozoa of the fifth Earl of Marlborough’s pony.

Even the Contributing Fashion Editors are: Noel Gallagher’s daughter and the 38th in line to the throne. The twin aristocracies – blood and celebrity – united in contributing chiffon-heavy fashion stories: a constitutional settlement the nation should copy.

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Tatler is the most extraordinary confection on the British newsstand. It makes the Daily Sport look like an Observer photo essay on child burn wards. It's from another planet. Planet Chelsea. It does not shirk from its strangeness. It smiles, reassuringly – with all the class an education that costs as much as a house can bring – at the 20,000 people in Britain who fancy they might need a Mont Blanc fountain pen someday, telling them they are normal, telling them their desires are completely valid, their whims monetisable.

Why write an entire column about Tatler? Because it is the only publication written by an entirely different species, at once gormlessly po-faced and cliqueishly jokey. It's not a magazine so much as a complete psychological framework. As such, it has certain regular elements.

A FEATURE ON SOMEONE SO POSH NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF THEM

Take Eddy, Lord Downpatrick, future Duke of Kent, great-something grandson of King George V (1910-25), the Queen's something-cousin, something-removed. He’s so posh he’s the brother of someone who works for Tatler – Lady Amelia Windsor.

Eddy, a buff beardie laird, has a five-page spread in this month’s edition, where he talks with a combination of humility and hubris familiar to Tatler watchers. The gentry boggle at the arbitrary nature of their own luck. They’re as dumbfounded as you are, it's no one’s fault. But that doesn’t mean that all the freedom they’re afforded doesn’t contort their ordinary dreams into cringey shapes. Here’s Eddy discussing his ideas for his own line of T-shirts and jackets.

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Eddy-with-a-Y is your mate who listens to three Timothy Ferris podcasts and decides his ticket to entrepreneurial gold is to make slogan T-shirts. Difference being that your mate’s idea is discreetly dropped after six weeks and a £300 liquidity crisis, whereas Lord Downpatrick, 29, has been gifted a vast canvas of cash on which to paint his equally banal dreams. They happen. Whether or not they merit it. And maybe they work, because they happen; or maybe they don’t, and Eddy moves on to the next basic bitch idea. But you only really have to be lucky once.

One of the key facets of being Tatler levels of rich is having a career making stuff that no one wants but you and your mates. Economically, you could say they're extreme Keynesians: supply creates its own demand, and the supply of interior designers, private T-shirt labels, boujie health restaurants and bottled water brands will inherently lead to full employment of all.

A NOD TO THE INTENSELY HIERARCHICAL NATURE OF POSHLAND

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To further illustrate the parallel economics, here is Tatler’s occasional running almost-gag: Socialite Top Trumps. Rich women being compared. Meet Rosie Uniacke, socialite (Wealth 7, Rung Of The Ladder 8, Fashion Factor 5, Determination 6, Philanthropy 4). Rosie is an interior designer.

But so is Bodil Blain (Wealth 4, Rung Of The Ladder 5, Fashion Factor 4, Determination 5, Philanthropy 4). What can we conclude except that they must all decorate each other’s houses, one long human centipede of poufs and draped silk. Each pays the other £200,000 – and bam, that’s how the rich stay rich. Marx was right. It’s a protectionist trading empire.

A THINKPIECE ON WHAT IT IS TO BE POSH

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It's obvious, in this trend-piece feature on "The New WAGs" (they don't drink, they do yoga; you know: like everyone in 2018) that Annie Kilner is about to be sent a hundred deckle-edged double-embossed ivory-white business cards. On day-release into Poshland, the girlfriend of Man City's Kyle Walker displays that alternative school of interior design favoured by ex-glamour models: make everything purple and put a fucking huge drinks cabinet in.

THE BIT WHERE IT'S JUST PHOTOS OF PEOPLE YOU MIGHT KNOW IN REAL LIFE IF YOU'RE ACTUALLY THAT POSH

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We’re into Tatler’s famed Bystander section. Parties. See and be seen. Have you been seen this month? Well try a bit harder.

One day, Lord Hugo Manners will be playing Jeremy Irons playing Claus von Bulow in a postmodern remake of Reversal of Fortune. Until then, he will have to content himself with attending his sister’s 21st.

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"Eliza Manners – never the shy retiring type", the copy starts. Before describing how Eliza, "and her boyfriend Thor Winkler von Stiernhelm", led guests to Dadabells. Dadabells is not, I am saddened to report, a Dadaist reimagining of Annabel’s, where they play cut-ups of the Abdication Speech instead of music and everyone sits on giant purple clitorii instead of chairs. It’s a cigar bar. "Everyone stayed over – one chap got so lost on his way to bed that he slept in a corridor, propped against a wall."

Pleboid translation: some Sloanes had a piss-up. Someone got shitfaced. Life goes on.

But when you have Tatler, you have an unwavering Boswell to your Dr Johnson, rendering significance to every burp at Claridge's, every yawn in the front row of a Holland Park fashion fundraiser.

Would that we could all have so splendid a chronicler of our own class's foibles.

@gavhaynes