As a society rag, of course Tatler loves a wedding, and this month they lift the rock on society's most important match of the month. Let the bells toll – a Marquess has married!
A WEDDING SO POSH IT'S AT A WORLD HERITAGE SITE OWNED BY THE GROOM, PAGE 74
It's a classic of its kind, this piece. You see, not everything in Tatlerland is a jowly alien culture that requires a deep-decoding. Sometimes it's just a great one-liner, one that sits somewhere between Chelsea Peretti and Chris Morris.
The bride, Camilla Thorp, knows that the true benchmark of a wedding dress is outshining Blenheim palace – one of England's great stately homes, an endless cream cake of 187 rooms threaded by Vanbrugh's Palladian pillars and cascading colonnades, and owned by the Marquess' family. Fair enough; I apply a similar barometer to my haircut and the Sydney Opera House.
The Marquess, George, is one of the Churchill-Spencers, the next Duke of Marlborough, who stands to inherit a £183 million fortune – a million for each room in his home. Sweetly, he's married his childhood sweetheart and now works as an "aviation broker" – one down from "aviary cleaner" on the school careers list.
But the fairytale life of a Marquess is not always a happy one. Sadly, the father of the groom – the present Duke – was a tabloid staple in the 1990s. James Spencer-Churchill went to prison for forging prescriptions and was later jailed for six months after a road rage incident. Unfortunately, a bit of road rage isn't even close to the Duke’s greatest shaming.
In 2009, he appeared, voluntarily, in a BBC Television documentary, Famous, Rich and Homeless. The title was Ronseal: famous people spending three nights roughing it, with nothing but a sleeping bag. James, however, refused to "sleep rough". On the first night he claimed he'd slept in the car park of a five-star hotel, but his sleeping bag was discovered curiously unopened. On the second night, he simply demanded to be put up in a hotel, then refused to do anything more, despite assuring the producers he'd sleep rough on the third night.
It might be worth mentioning that this man is related to Sir Winston Churchill. Clearly, this is a family whose nobility oscillates in tandem with Britain's own triumphs – having slid down the scale from "Famous Hitler Fighter" to "Sleeping Bag Fraudster" in 70-odd years.
Tatler tells us that the Duke gave his own speech:
"He announced that perhaps he hadn't been the best father, but was making up for it in recent years – and he said how proud he was of both of us."
Which is very sweet, but pretty emo for a society wedding.
GET ON THE U-BOAT, PAGE 40
Unlike wedding guest lists, Tatler is not simply a walled garden for debilitatingly posh people; the magazine is keen to point out that class doesn't come from your blood, it's in your taste. Nancy Mitford – commonly known as "the Mitford sister who liked Hitler the least" – formalised that thought in 1954, with her article on "U and Non-U". Based on a paper by an academic sociologist, Mitford's rundown of acceptable and unacceptable parts of posh taste was originally meant as a kind of gag. But in an age struggling to define class, it stuck anyway.
"Toilet", Mitford said, is a prole word – non-U – whereas "lavatory" is posh, and therefore U.
"Sick" – non-U. "Ill" – totally U. And so on.
Sixty-five years later, Tatler have done an update, revealing that cortados are finally out, while fried eggs are back, back, back, baby.
To which I'd like to add:
New U: BASE jumping.
Non-U: Pitt The Younger.
New U: Marionettes.
Non-U: Gastric bands.
New U: Luggage tags.
Non-U: Smiling at your mum.
New U: Corned beef.
Non-U: The smegma that collects behind the frenulum of the penis.
Taken as a whole, as a manifesto, I rather like Tatler's new dictums. The North, being faithful, audiobooks, Sodastream, having a job and eating bread? Sign me the fuck up.
Conversely: three day weddings in Burma, cryogenic freezing and iPads? Get the fuck out. I’m U now, Tatler. I'm in your country house, eating your elderflower preserve, wearing your Aquascutum, using your lavatory.
FEIS KONTROL: LONDON EDITION, PAGE 96
Of course, there are always the interlopers who don't fit the U / Non-U mould. One of the key problems in Tatlerland in this decade has been how to keep on exalting the aristocracy, while also acknowledging that New Money increasingly dwarfs it. The 106th-richest man in Russia is worth a billion dollars; the Marquess' £187 million is chump change if your Panamanian shell company owns parts of Gazprom.
After all, the terrifying truth unspoken beneath the glassy surface of posh is that money has no class. Secretly, they know that anyone who can afford to pay the drinks bill at Annabel’s is allowed in. Encouraged, even.
You might think the aristocratic 0.1 percent are out of touch with modern Britain, but truly, they have their own migration crisis to deal with. In the countryside, the migrant rage is over the Poles, but for the Tatler crowd, it's the Russians they’re worried about: coming over here, inflating the prices of Jasper Johns originals at Sothebys.
Reconciling this new reality is something Tatler comes to terms with by degrees. Which is why it’s got a big splash on the second-gen Russians – the ones who've grown up here, with a little help from daddy’s no-questions-asked Tier 1 Visa.
Accordingly, the attitude of this next generation is at once gauche and savvy. These young Russians understand that there is a new international language of money, of which the English class system is now only a sub-dialect. A delectable one, yes – venerable, even – but not definitive.
The Russians know what it is to lose your entire aristocracy in a hail of Mr Lenin's bullets. No one can be posh. They can only be rich. That means they are both beguiled and unimpressed by the British upper classes. The Brits, for their part, have taken the same phlegmatic approach that has characterised mass migration lower down the food chain: build a new story.
"We are witnessing the assimilation of another layer in the puff pastry of the British upper crust," coos writer Francesca Carington. "They’ve graduated from the glittery red Ferrari outside Harrods… but haven't quite made it to the bracket of owning half a county but reusing cling film."
In that vein, Phillipp Gazmanov seems a typically hybridised second gen Russian. He likes rugby ("a gentleman’s game") and shoots clay pigeons. But his other hobbies are: "mixed martial arts, wrestling and shooting machine guns". He’s basically Joe Rogan acting as a seance medium for Jacob Rees-Mogg.
That uneasy duality is streaked through them. Vlad even has two sets of friends: one English, one Russian. "You can't mix them, they just don’t." Each set has its own taste: "Russians prefer rap music songs that we know. My English crowd prefer techno."
But being the incomers, the arrivistes, as yet unaware of the cooing noises you’re supposed to make about Bonobo at Bestival, doesn’t mean you can’t still put your hosts straight on their own cultural gaffes, as and when. Take Anna, 21 years old, who is only too happy to put her British hosts straight on their foibles:
It takes 120 chinchillas – a grey bulbous Andean rodent, like a nerdy guinea pig – to make a single chinchilla coat, a dense weave of skinned proto-hamsters, practically its own thumbprint of shredded animal.
Knowing you can't fake that: New U.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.