She has often been drawn to similarly misunderstood creatures, though the relationships never tend to last. Both Sandra Bernhard (no longer a “friend”) and Courtney Love (Does she ever hear from her these days? “No.”) are no longer included in her inner circle. Her current rave is YBA star and GQ columnist Tracey Emin. “She is intelligent and wounded and not afraid to expose herself,” she says. “She is provocative but she has something to say. I can relate to that.” She also has something of a bizarre obsession with Britney Spears, while her ironic sporting of a “Britney” T-shirt caused something of a me-too style epidemic among any celebrity who thought they could get away with it (although Liam has yet to wear a “Robbie” cap-sleeve).
It was generally assumed that because Madonna was so fulsome in her praise for the “Oops” girl that if sarcasm could reach 550°, Britney would shrivel up like a slice of Tamworth rind. But apparently her intentions are honourable. “Why am I fascinated by Britney? I am fascinated with what she represents — pre-pubescent girls having such an influence and importance in our society. I am amazed that someone so young could be so sophisticated and worldly and yet she seems so naive. She has also stated on many occasions that she wants to be just like me so I suppose I feel a bit maternal towards her.”
GQ: Are you webbed-up?
Madonna: Whatdoyouthink? I’m a 21st century girl!
GQ: Is God still with you? How is she?
Madonna: Always was and always will be.
In a 20-year career that has encompassed every female contradiction from suburban sex kitten to lap-dancing virgin there seems little that Madonna could do to reinvent herself apart from, perhaps, find God (which temporarily killed Bob Dylan’s career) or get monumentally fat (which permanently killed Elvis). And although both options are far too obvious, far too rock’n’roll, I bet even Madonna hadn’t anticipated becoming an electrified Penelope Keith.
Gossip still swirls around Madonna like dry ice, the most recent of which concerns her love of all things posh. If you listen closely you’ll hear that apparently Vinnie Jones was lined up to be Guy Ritchie’s best man until Madonna “decided” that he wasn’t posh enough, and so encouraged her husband-to-be to choose Piers Adam of K-Bar fame and Ritchie’s partner Matthew Vaughn instead. Vinnie’s non-appearance was then put down to filming commitments. Not true, obviously, but indicative of the rubbish that people say about the most famous woman in the world.
Madonna’s new obsession with the British aristocracy is, however, manifesting itself in odd ways. She’s taken to shooting, mixing with royalty (who wouldn’t meet Prince Charles if they had the chance?), and frequenting those Sloaney pubs in Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea. She’s enrolled her young daughter Lourdes in an upmarket French school, in honor, she says, of her late mother, Madonna Fortin Ciccone, who was half French Canadian — failing to mention the fact that French tuition is deemed de riguer in w8, WII and all the other tony London postcodes. She is even thinking of putting Lourdes down for Cheltenham Ladies’ College.
Even her accent is beginning to sound like it came from Harrods, and there has been much talk of elocution lessons. Her wedding cake was a miniature grand piano, after all, not a Gaultier bustier. Basically she’s gone from fishnets and gusset-less panties to Barbours and Huskys in a Bowie-esque flash. And it seems to suit her, even if it is ironic that she is rushing to embrace a world that her new husband has apparently tried so hard to turn his back on. And no doubt, as others have suggested, she’ll soon be carrying a furled umbrella, a copy of the Telegraph, slapping people on the back and talking like Terry-Thomas.
Madonna has always tried to escape the confines of the dance floor and climb to more exalted levels, and in her time she’s aspired to be everyone from Barbra Streisand to Frida Kahlo. But, like everyone else in the world who cares about such things, she knows that it is almost impossible to acquire genuine class without appearing to be appallingly nouveau riche. And as becoming appallingly nouveau riche is what most pop stars try to do as soon as they become successful, Madonna has wisely opted for old money, the one thing that new money can’t buy. It’s her Big New Thing: the acquisition of class — not so much nostalgie de la boue as Upstairs, Downstairs. Quiz her about money, though, and this is what she says. “Money buys you a lot of freedom but only if you realize that it’s not an essential ingredient for happiness. It also depends on how you got it. If you earned it then you respect it and you are not foolish with it. It can liberate you. If it was given to you or you have stolen it in some way, it will ultimately paralyse you.”
Whatever, the message, it appears, is getting home. One of the well-wishers outside Domach cathedral on December 21, the night Madonna’s four-month-old son Rocco was baptized, was Donna Marcuardt, a local 35-year-old teacher who couldn’t bear not to see Madonna in the flesh. “She has star quality,” she said. “They use the words ‘the queen of pop’ to describe her and she looked truly regal.”
And it seems she’s got this PG Wodehouse thing down pat. While she still patronizes Dolce & Gabbana, she is now buying her jackets from Holland & Holland and she’s not averse to wearing a tweed Barbour hunting vest and Hunter wellies while swinging a Purdey shotgun. She continues to practice her “posh” British voice, although even Ritchie is now convinced she can do it. It’s the Cockney she’s having trouble with.
“He thinks I’m really good at the posh accent,” she says. “He says, ‘American birds really get the upper-class accent down but nobody can do a good London accent.’ I told him I’ll work on it.”
I wouldn’t count on it if I were you. She’s got far more important things to do.