Recently, whilst reading the British comedian Stewart Lee’s latest book titled Content Provider: Selected Short Prose Pieces, 2011-2016, I came across this gem of a section that made me chuckle. The context for the extract is a satirical article written on the subject of the marriage of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton, which took place in April 2011. This was a momentous occasion for the British Royal family and for the country in general. It was also, perhaps, a useful distraction from the ongoing austerity cuts that have so affected the heritage and cultural sectors:
‘First of all, Marlborough College, where Kate Middleton flushed into womanhood, is set in a magical landscape that has been declared a world heritage site, being only five miles from the exact centre of the Avebury stone circle. Perhaps Kate’s growing body absorbed the magical energies of the region. Perhaps it did not. It does not matter. She is from, and she is of, the ancient wetland. The arrangement of the 6,000-year-old circle, and the stone rows, burial chambers and mounds that surround it, is explicitly symbolic, explicitly sexual and explicitly ritualistic, and as such it shares the same transformative agenda as Friday’s Royal wedding.’
‘In Avebury, the West Kennett Avenue, a long row of erotically paired stone, uncoils snake-like from the circle, as if to penetrate nearby Silbury Hill, a fecund thirty-seven-metre-high female belly, which rises from the marsh to meet it. The prince has taken his lowly bride from within this charged landscape, where our ancestors celebrated the union of man and woman in stone and earth, and began the communal processes that forged a nation from their descendants, the broken nation that William the Fisher King must now heal.’ (Lee 2016: 4-5).
This almost hits too close to home. It reminds me of visiting a well-known British Bronze Age site, whilst on a university day trip, and having a relatively famous archaeologist describe the smelting process in terms of human reproduction. This may possibly have been the case in the past, at a certain period, but it was quite something to see described in person. The section also reminds me of the joke prevalent in the archaeology sector that, if a feature or an artefact cannot be defined as having a functional purpose, then you can always chalk it up to either being of symbolic or of ritual value!
Lee, S. 2016. Content Provider: Selected Short prose Pieces, 2011-2016. London: Faber & Faber.