Town & Country (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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.

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