England is looking forward into the new century while trying to forget many of the developments of the previous 100 years. That period witnessed the fall of the empire, the loss of the trading base and the nation's inability to adjust to a diminished role in the modern world - from colonial empire to member of the EC. But while the Family may have taken a right Royal battering, many of the other august institutions at the cornerstone of British life have muddled their way through with a stiff upper lip and a strong sense of protocol.
The notion of England as a gentle, fabled land freeze-framed sometime in the 1930s, when community life revolved around the post office, the country pub and the local vicarage. The country is now better known for vibrant cities with great nightlife and attractions, contrasted with green and pleasant countryside and national parks. After five years of Tony Blair's Labour government, 'new' Britain is a country with a fresh and cuddly Royal family and an alternative aristocracy of media stars like Victoria and David Beckham to capture the ire and adoration of the masses. Still, a country that gives a wig-wearing ex-junkie balladeer a knighthood must be doing something right.