Thursday. 8/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Queen of hearts

It is an event that, for its obvious inevitability, seems nonetheless unreal. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who has died at the age of 96, has been one of the best-known people on Earth for longer than most people on Earth have been alive. Whether or not you were a British subject, a Commonwealth citizen, an ardent monarchist, a staunch republican or wherever in between, you will probably struggle to recall a time when you did not know who she was or have some idea of what she represented.

Elizabeth II was, by some margin, the longest-serving incumbent head of state (of 15 countries, including the UK, at the time of her passing); she fell narrowly short of outlasting King Louis XIV of France to be remembered as the longest-serving head of state in history. It is the nature of monarchies that the length of a monarch’s reign is decided by chance – an epochal stint on the throne is the birthright of even the most risibly unsuitable heir who is sufficiently spared by fate. But where Elizabeth II was concerned, the UK really was extraordinarily fortunate. Seven decades of unrelenting scrutiny revealed barely a misstep or indiscretion, even if no such praise could be extended to her family.

For the UK in particular, the profound strangeness of this moment is amplified by the role that Elizabeth II played as a fixed point during a period in which her country, in its standing in the world and its character at home, otherwise changed beyond recognition. Her father, King George VI, also answered to the title of Emperor of India; between the birthdates of her first and last prime ministers, Winston Churchill and Liz Truss, passed 101 eventful years.

It’s a weird job: beyond being head of state, supreme governor of the Church of England and commander-in-chief of the UK’s armed forces, the occupant of the throne is more generally obliged to perform as some metaphysical embodiment of the nation. Elizabeth II played this role much as Britain traditionally prefers to see itself: stoical, cheerful, reliable. It’s an idea of the country that’s arguably better attuned to the beginning of her reign than the end of it. But abroad, Elizabeth II was undeniably a very modern diplomat, well aware of the awesome soft power of the British throne, even in places that might have been resistant: her state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, during which she laid a wreath at a memorial to those who died fighting the armies of her ancestors, was a masterclass. A country might not need a monarch but it certainly needs ambassadors – and few countries, if any, have been so ably served by any such emissary as the United Kingdom was by this queen.

Andrew Mueller is Monocle’s contributing editor and host of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle 24, where you can follow our live coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing throughout the day.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / Philippines

Meeting the neighbours

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr rode to electoral victory in the Philippines this May with promises of renewing economic growth; the country suffered mightily during the pandemic, with the loss of tourism pushing millions into poverty. In a bid to start a revival, Marcos Jr returned from his first overseas trip yesterday vowing to bring in fresh investment from abroad. He met his counterparts Halimah Yacob of Singapore and Indonesia’s Joko Widodo (pictured, left, with Marcos Jr) to discuss trade, security and other issues, and said that he negotiated $14bn (€14bn) in investment pledges from the two countries. Singapore and the Philippines also signed a memorandum promising joint development of New Clark City, a planned urban development on the archipelago. Richard Heydarian, lecturer in international affairs at the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines, says that trade between Indonesia and the Philippines has been relatively low in the past, while Marcos Jr reportedly admires Singapore’s “independent” foreign-policy approach. With this in mind, Marcos Jr’s overseas trip may well mark the start of a broader shift.

Image: Maison&Objet

Design / France

Open house

Paris Design Week and its anchor event, the international trade fair Maison & Objet, kicked off yesterday and Monocle is on the ground at this annual celebration of homeware and furniture. Despite consistently offering quality French-focused programming over the years, Maison & Objet worked best before the pandemic when the broader international design community used it as a platform to showcase products to the French and European markets.

This year it seems that there’s a return to that mission: Danish firm Form & Refine, known for quality, minimalist timber furniture, has chosen to exhibit at Maison & Objet for the first time, while top Italian furniture companies Cassina and Unifor threw open their showroom doors to visitors yesterday for opening-night celebrations. The agenda foretells a pre-pandemic level of ambition for the event, which runs until 17 September.

Listen in across Monocle 24 radio and to our dedicated design show Monocle on Design for the latest finds.

Urbanism / USA

Putting down roots

Finding the funds to tackle myriad priorities, from housing to hospitals, transport and parks, is a challenge for city halls across the globe. More often than not, the cash doesn’t align with ambitions to improve residents’ quality of life – but New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, is showing some savvy in this regard. In parts of the city that are lacking in tree-canopy cover and green space, Adams is combining several funds to tackle the issue.

Earlier this summer his team allocated $624m (€622m) to funding the planting of 20,000 new trees, which is now being propped up by a €7.25m (€7.24m) federal government grant to build leafy new greenways through the city’s underserved neighbourhoods. Adams’s move is set to make barren parts of the city look particularly verdant and is a perfect example of city hall considering people’s needs as well as pursuing the desire to attach itself to impressive-sounding projects.

Image: Riccardo Banfi

Cinema / Italy

Now flowing

While the A-listers might have hit the red carpets as part of the Venice Film Festival, one of the quirkiest ways to take in the big screen here is a floating cinema in the middle of the lagoon. In its third year, Floating Cinema: Unknown Waters has been hosting a series of films, videos, performances and art since 25 August in the waters near Giudecca island.

“It wasn’t our idea,” co-founder Paolo Rosso tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s a common notion that we heard talked about so many times: why not get together on the water? We just had the stubbornness to make it happen.” The focus for 2022? The surreal, dreamlike and absurd, which does a pretty good job of summing up the times in which we’re living. The last night of this year’s event is tomorrow, featuring film projections and music from Italy’s DJ Gruff. Plenty to float your boat.

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Recipe edition: Denis Pedron

A seafood recipe by the executive chef of Milan’s Langosteria restaurant group.

Monocle Films / Global

Welcome to the Auberge Monocle

Monocle has so far resisted the temptation to open a hotel – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time thinking about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation, run the bar or design the uniforms. With this in mind, here are the six house rules we’d strictly enforce to keep things civil and serene around the pool, in the lobby and on the balcony.


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