The British are said to be resentful of success and comfortable
with failure. It is scarcely surprising then that ostentation was
never a quality that was admired or emulated. Discretion about
wealth and worldly successful was the order of the day.
This old-fashioned restraint is dwindling, and it can sometimes seem that ostentation is the guiding principle of the modern world - the bigger the bank balance, the more flamboyant the toys, the showier the bling-bling, the more column inches. There are whole industries of publicists, PR execs, agents, managers and spokespeople who live to show off; whole rafts of the media whose sole aim in life is to report such ostentation; and whole sections of society who enjoy nothing more than reading all about the yachts, the parties, the million-dollar-necklaces.
Despite this new interest in the trappings of material wealth, there is a strong feeling in British society that ostentation is vulgar. The wealthy aristocrat, secure in his stately home and thousands of acres, who wears ancient tweeds and drives a battered land rover, is a British cliche. There is an underlying suspicion that being flash with the cash is a terrible give-away; what it reveals is that the cash is a newly-acquired novelty, not a birthright.