I suspect like many Rusters over the past week, I have taken the news of the Queen’s death last Thursday – and watched all the resulting consequences, including the carefully-rehearsed-down-to-the-last-detail administrative and ancient (and some not so ancient) preparations, traditions, rituals, swearing in of the new King, public order implications and (of course) the “as live” blanket wall-to-wall newspaper, radio, television and internet coverage in the run up to Monday’s state funeral – with a wide variety (and often changing) degree of personal interest veering along the entire spectrum from proud fascination right through to “C’mon, chaps – give us a break!” …
As I type I cannot pin down the moment, but at some point last weekend I “disconnected” from any focused and/or obsessive desire to spend hours at a time watching the national reaction to the Queen’s passing.
There’s only so much anyone can take of watching/listening to BBC and other media journalists presenters filling tens of hours of airtime with either “vox pop” interviews of people queueing outside grand public places all over the United Kingdom and/or an endless succession of studio guests ranging from Palace flunkies who once swept the Royal carpets forty-four years ago to senior diplomats, celebrities, supposed “royal experts”, historians and innumerable Uncle Tom Cobleys who seem desperate to share “their” reactions and/or instances when they met one of the Royals or even the Queen herself.
All that said, at times over the last few days I have found myself reflecting upon the entirety of 20th Century British history post the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. The issue of whether the concept of monarchy is still worth its salt in the modern world has been a constant source of discussion over the last 125 years and it will remain ever thus.
To an extent the “Windsors” (as they were eventually re-styled) moved with the times – alternatively arguably “staved off the otherwise inevitable” if you will – by abandoning any previous notion that they embodied a Divine Right to rule their “subjects” and re-inventing themselves as the epitome of a solid (and stolid) British middle class family embodying everything fair, reasonable, righteous, logical, dignified and “sound” – an image that was sold with considerable success right around the globe and still to this day allows Britain to exert a far greater influence upon world affairs than it actually deserves/justifies.
The one aspect that occasionally jars with me is the exaggerated respect afforded to even the most junior members of the extended Royal (and perhaps not so royal) family.
It seems to me that “our betters” ought to be judged not by their DNA and/or hereditary closeness to previous monarchs but by how they act and perform in their lives.
In days of long-ago yore, most often kingdoms and nations the world over tended to be ruled and dominated by those who fought and excelled at war and battle – “the strongest” always became top dog … unless and until another similar came along and defeated them.
Not so these days, at least in the United Kingdom.
Even allowing for those who err or make a Horlicks of something in their lives – and everyone deserves a second chance, of course – there are individuals in our Royal Family not only down through history but even today who have exhibited questionable behaviour and attitudes and who – had they not been “royal” – would have been middle class nonentities in any other life.
Frankly, in this category I would place Prince Andrew and his sometime wife Fergie; Prince Edward, who flunked out of the Royal Marines and infamously came up with the idea for the embarrassing It’s A Royal Knockout television show disaster; and – of course – Harry and Meghan.
For all the gossip, controversy and etiquette issues involved in deciding whether Princes Andrew and Harry should be allowed to take part in any Royal parade – still less wear military uniforms and/or medals if they do so – the fact is they remain (and will do so for a long time hence) glaring embarrassments to both the Royal Family and the nation.
Lastly, a word about Prince Harry and the book that he’s written with the aid of a ghost writer which was originally going to be published this autumn … then this was changed and it was going to be delayed to next year … but now – if media stories are to be believed – he is now insisting that it’s published before Christmas.
No doubt it’s going to be controversial, fascinating and spare nobody – well, few. With something like this coming down the track, I’m slightly surprised that Harry’s been allowed back into the UK at all.