New Elizabethans we would much rather forget about
In a game attempt to whip up a spirit of patriotism for the Queen's Jubilee, the BBC has drawn up a list of 60 famous people who have 'defined a reign'. Its august panel of judges has come up with a glittering roll-call of 'New Elizabethans'.
Billy Connolly is there and so is David Trimble. Babs Windsor made the cut, along with Alex Salmond and Lord Sainsbury.
The problem is that it is rather difficult to make the past 60 years seem heroic. It is difficult to ignore New Elizabethans who have defined the age, but in an altogether less-comforting way.
1952-62 This period produced several new Elizabethans whom we would prefer to forget.
There were unfunny comics (Tommy Trinder, Harry Worth). Continuity announcers, notably Katie Boyle, were unconvincingly posh. The charts were dominated by bland white versions of songs created by better black singers and groups. In the end, though, the age-defining New Elizabethan of the 1950s would have to be the Persil mum who appeared in TV ads, standing at a sink.
1962-72 In this golden age for Elizabethans that history should forget, the music industry was particularly productive. There was the endlessly annoying Dave Clark Five and the nigglingly derivative Donovan.
In the media, Malcolm Muggeridge, once a good journalist, became a crashing bore on the subject of permissiveness. In the end, though, the nomination must go to the guru to the stars, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - his brain-softening influence on the pop world, his hair and his silly giggle all suggested a fake unworldliness which summed up the Sixties.
1972-82 What Tom Wolfe described as "the Me decade" could supply the complete list of undesirable Elizabethans on its own. The nomination, though, must go to Michael Parkinson, whose introduction of a blokeish, yet simpering form of fame-worship heralded the age of celebrity.
1982-92 A revived fascination in the Royal family was ignited and still glows. Very near the top of the list of Elizabethans we could happily forget must be Prince Andrew, closely followed by Fergie.
The nomination from the Eighties, though, must go to the Old Harrovian chump Mark Thatcher, whose combination of dimness and dodginess epitomised the age.
1992-2002 Now the competition for places is hotting up. Sir Richard Branson, smiling modestly as he hogs any available limelight, is a strong contender and surely there's space for Esther Rantzen. But the authentic voice of the late Nineties - bossy, nannyish and patronising - must claim pride of place. Of the many New Labour nominees, Harriet Harman and Geoff Hoon have the race between them.
2002-12 There's no limit to the list of regrettable Elizabethans from recent years: George Galloway, Carol Vorderman, Jeremy Clarkson, Alan Carr, Frankie Boyle. One figure, in the end, demands to be recognised before all others: Katie Price, brand name Jordan, embodies such a perfect combination of exhibitionism, marketing savvy and lack of any obvious talent that she represents the Elizabethan age more precisely than anyone on the BBC's list.