Friday, July 13, 2007

Wigging Out: Will There Always Be an England?

New York Times Blog:
You wear it on your head; it sets you starkly apart from the society around you, though it was originally meant to help you blend in and retain some anonymity; its use is steeped in tradition and symbolism, ancient custom and modern controversy; demands mounted this week that you cast it aside for the good of society.

[What are we talking about? In the Netherlands, it would be the burqa ...and its cousin, the niqab...]

But in Britain, it would be the white wigs that judges and barristers have worn in court for more than three centuries.

Britain’s most senior judge, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, announced on Thursday that, starting Jan. 1, the wigs would no longer be worn in most trial courts; neither would gowns. Ending (at least for now) a long, hot debate over whether and how to modernize and simplify the elaborate standards of formal court dress, Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice, decided to dispense with the wigs and with court robes entirely in all civil and family cases, and to simplify them in criminal court.

Also gone will be the especially elaborate full-bottomed wigs worn on ceremonial occasions; the smaller, cheaper and much less uncomfortable bob wigs that will still be worn in criminal trials will do. And a single, simple robe design will replace the five different sets of formal robes that judges had to maintain for different court sittings and times of year. ...

The Times of London reports that they remain popular with the public, and especially with defendants, who are said to favor being represented by “a proper lawyer with a wig.” And some in the legal profession liked the link with history, as well as the measure of disguise they provided, making barristers and judges who are seen wigged in court harder to recognize unwigged on the street.

And a comment, from e.p. williams:

This is a great shame indeed. It appears that the British legal system will eventually degenerate to the levels of casualness that pervade the American legal system where in some jurisdictions lawyers and judges appear in entirely inappropriate attire, i.e., shirt sleeves without neckties, jackets or proper suits. Robes, wigs, striped pants, starched bat winged collars, waistcoats and other traditional garb heretofore present in the British courts, command the respect of the public for the seriousness and profundity of the law and legal proceeduings and those who practice it. ...

Then again, after the past Supreme Court term, it may be difficult for some of us on this side of the pond to be celebrating "the seriousness and profundity of the law." It will be recalled that the late Chief Justice Rehnquist added some frippery to his costume, mosy commented upon while he was presiding over the Clinton impeachment trial, another monument to the law's "seriousness and profundity." (When they say it's not about the sex, it's about the sex...)

I'll leave the determination of causality to those with more formidable empirical skills.

Addendum:one more comment, too delicious to leave out:

Alas, yet another historic tradition is abandoned in the name of egalitarian “modernization”....

Though one would appear foolish to engage in disputations about the fashion tastes of justices, their abandonment of English national history and tradition, in favor of a classless anarchy of courtoom style, so mirrors the growing Marxist ideological winds now afoot across the British landscape that one would be remiss in failing to recognize the similarities between the two – and the sad ideology that underlies them both.

The assault upon these sartorial symbols of national identity is painful to behold, but such sacrificial pragmatism will not be without its own costs – perhaps later rather than sooner, if history is any judge. God save the Queen.
— Posted by DBroome

1 comment:

Sue said...

Thank you for the nice post.