Monday 20 November 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 20/11/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Actress Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in ‘The Crown’

Image: Netflix

Culture / Andrew Mueller

Royal privilege?

Many people reading this will have spent some of their weekend consuming season six of The Crown – Netflix’s sprawling drama chronicling the triumphs and travails of the British royal family in the decades after the Second World War. If you read previews, you might have watched less out of anticipation than schadenfreude, expecting to endure (and possibly enjoy) the most severe indignity visited upon a British monarch since the beheading of Charles I.

While the new series of The Crown is a little silly, it’s not quite as appalling as the advance press suggested. Every so often, a show film, record or book becomes the cultural piñata of the moment, with critics competing to deliver the most spectacular thrashing. The Crown has been unfortunate in this respect. But it does demonstrate a wider point about the hazards of dramatising public figures.

It is inevitable that liberties will be taken. We usually know little of the private conversations of the notable and a drama is not a documentary. Ideally, it illuminates a truth beyond the facts. Henry V probably didn’t rouse his troops on the eve of Agincourt by shouting, “If it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.” Shakespeare was merely pointing out the slenderness of the line that divides the glorious from the vainglorious.

Nevertheless, gratuitous invention is jarring. Ridley Scott’s new epic, Napoleon, has prompted harrumphing by showing the French emperor at the execution of Marie Antoinette (he wasn’t) and his gunners blazing their artillery at the Pyramids (they didn’t). Scott has counselled pedants to “get a life”. He has a point – but so do they.

There is no more enraging scene in cinema than the moment in Darkest Hour in which Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill convenes an impromptu focus group of Londoners on the Tube, to help him decide whether Britain should fight them on the beaches. You already have the fascinating story of a complex figure steeling his nation for war. Why make things up?

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Paris, a city at the crossroads

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / Paris

Driven to distraction

Following her successful ban of e-scooters in September, Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, has set herself up for another quick win. In February, ahead of next summer’s Olympic Games, Hidalgo will ask the car-averse citizens of Paris whether they would like to hike up parking charges for so-called sports utility vehicles (SUVs). Though the move was supported by pedestrian-advocacy groups (such as 60 Million Pedestrians), they are reluctant to forget a €40,955 publicly funded trip to Tahiti that the mayor and her staff took earlier this month.

“In the midst of political turmoil stirred by her local opponents, Hidalgo tries to divert attention with a referendum targeting SUVs’ rich owners – undoubtedly a popular cause,” Christine Ockrent, Paris-based broadcaster and host of the Affaires étrangères podcast, tells The Monocle Minute. If successful, the ruling would apply only to people driving such cars into the centre from outside the French capital’s 20 arrondissements. That caveat would just about guarantee its passing because the people affected are unable to vote. Perhaps, rather than such quick victories, Hidalgo could protect the iconic Bouquinistes, whose bookstalls line the Seine and are under threat of relocation due to security concerns for the Olympics.

Image: Tara Rice

Design / USA

Down to the letter

New York-based foundry Sharp Type is currently hard at work on the world’s first global typeface, Sharp Earth. It will enable disparate language groups – Latin, Arabic, Indic, Japanese, Greek, Thai, English and various indigenous languages – to appear graphically harmonious while remaining legible and true to their origins.

The result will allow people and companies across the globe access to a consistent typeface for their materials and branding, and could even be called upon in international efforts to create a unified front when tackling problems such as climate change or health emergencies. “We live in a fully globalised and digital world, so Sharp Earth represents what it is like to be here right now,” co-founder Lucas Sharp tells Monocle. “If Helvetica was for modernism, and Avenir and Gotham were for postmodernism, then Sharp Earth is for whatever comes next.”

For more on Sharp Type and other unlikely finds from our global network of reporters, buy a copy of the November issue of Monocle, which is out now.

Art / UAE

Bigger picture

Following a year of events, exhibitions and installations across the UAE, the annual Abu Dhabi Art programme will culminate with the 15th edition of the Abu Dhabi Art Fair. Running from this Wednesday to Sunday, the fair will see 92 galleries from more than 30 countries set up at the Manarat Al Saadiyat centre on the capital’s Saadiyat Island. Announcing their presence alongside returning galleries are 37 newcomers, doubling the number of participant exhibitors from the fair’s opening years and demonstrating the event’s growing international prestige.

The outlook remains as global as ever, with artists from Turkey and northern Africa being put in the spotlight by curators including art historian Rachida Triki, gallerist Jade Yesim Turanli and arts journalist Riccarda Mandrini. But the fair is just as focused on highlighting local talent. Acclaimed artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, a recent UAE representative at the Venice Biennale, has been chosen as this year’s visual campaign artist; his designs will inform the fair’s identity. Looking outward, offering expertise of its own, the Abu Dhabi Art Fair grows from strength to strength.

Beyond the Headlines


Second wind

As cargo freighters begin exploring the possibility of traversing the oceans with the help of hi-tech sails, Monocle travels to Copenhagen, where smaller vintage fleets are showing them the way.

Furling the headsails

The ‘Tres Hombres’ sails into Copenhagen with olive oil, wine and rum for the city’s restaurants

Crew members

To read the full article, buy a copy of our latest edition of ‘The Forecast’, which is available now or subscribe to read it here. Log in to your account if you are already a subscriber.

Monocle Radio / The Global Countdown

Norway’s top tracks

Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the most popular tracks in Norway, including the remix of a classic Norwegian children’s song and some Scandi hip-hop.


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