Britain’s Trembling Stiff Upper Lip

Princess Diana. Pic courtesy of

by Neil Bamforth

The British people have, or more accurately, had for many decades been best known for, if nothing else, their ‘stiff upper lip’. The saying ‘stiff upper lip’ referred to the British ability to remain stoic in adversity. WWII was, possibly, the time when the British stoical stiff upper lip was most to the fore.

The British stiff upper lip was admired across the globe. Sometimes in amazement at quite how much the British could tolerate whilst remaining polite and calm and sometimes in the belief that the British were clearly mad as hatters.

Both perceptions probably held a reasonable degree of truth but it mattered not ultimately.

The British would, at all times, regardless of trials and tragedies, regardless of pain and suffering and regardless of insults and grievous setbacks always remain in the face of all adversity calm and composed and behave like gentlemen. It was acknowledged that British women as well were more than capable of ‘the stiff upper lip’ in times of crisis.

‘The stiff upper lip’ was quintessential to being British.

Then came Princess Diana.

A car crash marriage followed by a temporary car crash life turned into a car crash death and Britain, overnight, lost their ability to hold a stiff upper lip.

Whatever Princess Diana’s legacy may or may not be regarding land mines and AIDS, and it’s a hell of a legacy, another legacy in the eyes of some Brits is the fact that, in the immediate aftermath of her death, we lost the ability to be British and keep our upper lips stiff.

Well, I didn’t and neither did thousands of Brits but, sadly, millions of Brits did lose their stiff upper lip and, frankly, they never found them again. Their upper lips became floppy and remained so.

When Princess Diana died otherwise sane people wailed in the streets. The entire country nearly drowned in tears that make today’s tropical strength rainfall mere specks of water.

Florists became overnight millionaires as many people lost their senses, bought hugely expensive bouquets just so they could throw them at the funeral cortege.

I well remember the morning after Diana died. My wife woke me and said “Diana’s dead”. I said “Oh, right” rolled over and went back to sleep. I probably thought she meant Diana Dors or Diana Rigg. Either way it wasn’t enough to stop me staying in bed a bit longer.

Related: An Englishman Explains ‘How To Take the Mickey Out’ of Someone

For some unfathomable reason much of Britain lost their marbles and with said marbles also lost their stiff upper lip.

Now I would like to point out here that I was a huge fan of Princess Diana. It has to be said that her life became something of a car crash through no fault of her own. An innocent young girl was somewhat conned into an arranged marriage with an older Prince who loved somebody else.

It’s hardly surprising that she came off the rails for a while. The tragedy is all the more poignant in that she seemed to have finally found some happiness again with Dodi Fayed.

Conspiracy theorists suggest she was ‘done away with’ via some arrangement from ‘authority’ be it political or even Royal.

I doubt it very much – but I do acknowledge that there are so many conspiracy theories around about so many things I imagine by the law of averages the odd one may hold at least a grain of truth. This one? Who knows?

Critics felt Diana’s openness and honesty removed some of the mystique surrounding the Royal Family. Perhaps it did but, personally, I think, if anything, it enhanced them. She clearly had a huge heart and an ability to ‘give’ just by smiling at you.

She is sorely missed by all sensible Brits, even republicans to a large extent.

However, tragic as it was, she died in a car crash. By all means feel sad about it. I did. Feel sympathy for her sons in particular. I did and, indeed, still do. But perspective needs to be kept.

Weeping and wailing and the gnashing of teeth and hurling large bouquets at funeral hearses is not the British way – or, until Diana, it wasn’t.

Before Diana shuffled of her mortal coil people occasionally lost an argument with a car or a bus or something and got squashed in the road. Their immediate family and friends were naturally upset and tears were shed. The squashed husband / wife / brother / sister / son / daughter were then duly buried or cremated and the world turned.

Related: How Princess Diana Died or Probably Not

Today, post Diana, everywhere you look there are dead flowers and teddy bears attached to lamp posts marking the spot, or almost the spot, where some husband / wife etc made the mistake of getting run over or crashing their car or whatever it was they did which resulted in them failing to remain alive.

I do ponder whether the loss of the British ability in so many Brits to retain their stiff upper lip anymore is, at least partially, one of the reasons why the world in general seems to be going slightly doolally lately.

Remember Agincourt? Remember Waterloo? Remember Dunkirk? – Well, clearly not personally or you would be immortal by now. The Brits retained their stiff upper lip through WWII doodlebugs blowing the crap out of them for Gods sake (or the deity of your choice)

It’s always the most unlikely way when a momentous change occurs isn’t it?

You could understand Britain losing it’s stiff upper lip after Dunkirk – but we didn’t. You could understand the stiff upper lip wobbling a bit after failing to qualify for two World Cups in the 1970’s but it didn’t.

The stiff upper lip wobbled and melted when a car crash Princess died in a car crash. Un-bloody-believable.

Still, there are Brits who retain the ability to, well, retain their stiff upper lip no matter what the world throws at them. I am proud to say I am one of this dwindling number.

It is a tragedy that Diana died in a tunnel in France. Yes I sympathise with her family. They lost a daughter and a sister and a mother. I acknowledge the tragedy of it all but breaking down and weeping and wailing and spending silly money on flowers to throw at her coffin is un-British.

I genuinely wonder if this is what is really wrong with Britain. Post Diana we have too many wimps living here.

It is not, incidentally, Diana’s fault we have become a nation of wimps. She was just the unwitting catalyst for such odd behaviour.

There are those who believe Britain would be a better place if illegal immigrants were rounded up and shipped out. There are those who believe leaving the EU will make Britain a better place. I doubt it in both cases but, it is my firm belief that Britain would be a better place regardless of illegal immigrants and the EU if we just checked everybody’s upper lip.

If it is firm and stiff in adversity you stay. If it wobbles and melts at the thought of a Princess dying in a car crash, or for any other reason come to that, you’re out.

Anyone found tying flowers or teddy bears to a lamp post should be immediately banished from Britain for ever.

We are becoming a nation of wimps and it has to stop.

A stiff upper lip is as British as Lord Nelson and winning the World Cup in 1966. If you can’t keep it stiff – your lip that is – then you are not really British and you should leave for some country that likes weaklings.

If there’s anything else you can’t keep stiff then I recommend a quick visit to your doctor. As long as it isn’t your lip you can claim to be British.

I know I cried when my neighbour’s dog, Lacey, died but that’s different.






I’d best start packing my bags then.

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Posted by on August 13, 2017. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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12 Responses to Britain’s Trembling Stiff Upper Lip

  1. Bill Formby Reply

    August 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Well written Neil old boy but I will weigh in from across the pond, as they say. I believe Diana was likely a more famous and loved Englishman than either CHurchill or James Bond around the world. There have been few deaths of foreign nobility that have affect the world’s people as she did. She was England’s gift to the world I believe. When someone is elevated to that status, and not that she aspired to it, it was thrust upon her, when they are taken away it sucks away some of the oxygen from the world. Being an American where we don’t have royalty, thank the stars, but if we did I can not imagine the degree of loss that many British people must have felt. I do remember there was a tremendous sense of loss here in the states. There was just something about her that was different. I think perhaps it was that she rose not only above the normal fray but also about the normal level of the royal family to be bigger than life itself. Not everyone is perfect but on a scale of 10 she was surely a 9.999999

    • Neil Bamforth Reply

      August 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      Couldn’t have put it better myself old bean.

      Albeit my upper lip remains stiff????

  2. Brett park Reply

    August 13, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    People shouldn’t be discouraged from expressing their emotions.

    • Neil Bamforth Reply

      August 14, 2017 at 2:34 am

      …except in Britain ????

  3. Rachael Reply

    August 14, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Now Neil this was funny too, but I LOVED DIANA, and have a picture of her in my home. You weren’t too unkind so just remember be nice to America’s princess in the future 🙂

  4. Lyndon Probus Reply

    August 14, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    It’s never good to contain emotions. Human responses to pain, anger, love, and etc. need to be vented in natural ways. A “stiff upper lip” is not a natural way. Sorry there Neil. Was amusing though.

    • Neil Bamforth Reply

      August 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      Well us Brits have a penchant for unnatural behaviour.

      Er….can I rephrase that a bit? 😉

  5. John McGee Reply

    August 15, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I didn’t find this stoicism among the younger people in the UK, but did with the older crew, particularly in and around London.

    • Neil Bamforth Reply

      August 17, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Spot on John. Us old farts have a stiff upper lip. The youngsters weep and wail.

      Oh well. What can one do?

  6. Caroline Taylor Reply

    August 15, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Nope. Don’t agree on this one Neil. Show your emotions, when appropriate. Course you shouldn’t start blubbering in the aisles of the local market, unless you ate a bad grape or something.

    • Neil Bamforth Reply

      August 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      I can only presume I have yet to find my feminine side? 😉

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