assassinations happen, as do air accidents. People do behave in the flawed manner of a Teddy Kennedy. Yet a series of random disasters is not the narrative of a dynasty. Something poetic seems to be required: a sense of the preordained, of a mythical rise and fall, of a tension between the individual and the entity to which they belong, which is so much bigger than the sum of its parts.
That tension was exemplified on the face of the young Queen Elizabeth II when she stared, devoid of all overt expression, as the ritual of her coronation was enacted upon and around her. She had no choice, no say in the matter. To the onlooker, she was a symbol of power who also seemed powerless. With the Windsor dynasty, the ambition of its ancestors has reached an etiolated point; which is probably the real reason why it survives, in an age whose theoretical passion for equality is inimical to the whole concept.
So is it actually possible, today, to create a true new dynasty? Almost certainly the Trumps would consider themselves one. And why not? They represent three generations of enormously rich and pre-eminent people, indeed they resemble nothing so much as characters from Dynasty (perhaps it was Trump’s rise to the presidency that gave television executives the idea of the reboot). Trump Tower is merely a flashier version of the monoliths erected by those earlier American plutocrats. Vulgarity does not prevent a person from forging a dynasty; some of the founding members of older dynasties would have been viewed as vulgarians in their time.
One has a sense, all the same, that there should be a bit more to it than that. The Trumps cannot qualify simply because they have billions of dollars and their foremost member pulled off a wild aim at the Oval Office. The inheritance within a dynasty is complicated. What counts – surely – is that it should not be all about the dynasts themselves. Something more must be handed down: whether that be the philanthropic impulse, or the belief in duty, or a patronage of the arts, born of true love rather than the urge to self-promote as a sponsor. Perhaps, in the end, what makes a dynasty is in the eye of its beholders. It is they who recognise that here is a worthy narrative.
And paradoxically, however little any of this seems to relate to the modern world, the interest in dynasties does not die. Nor does the urge to make them, even in the social-media age. What, after all, is a series of Instagrammed images of celebrity children, as offered by a family brand like the Beckhams, if not a dynasty in contemporary guise? The symbolism of the Beckhams using Buckingham Palace as a sixth-birthday-party venue for their daughter Harper was immense, and not just because of the ambitions that it implied. It also showed their hosts, the Windsors, up to their reinvention tricks again, deploying their survival skills, marketing the quality that is essential to any true dynasty and that – for now – they still possess: mystique.