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The Crown? No thanks. Give me Ivan the Terrible any time.

November 19, 2020

I take the same attitude towards Britain’s royal family as the Victorians did towards children: that they should be seen but not heard, except possibly at Christmas.

Hard to achieve, really, in an era of “I speak therefore I am”, in which satisfying the public expectation of narcissistic self-expression and emotional incontinence are enough to unhinge even the most stolid member of a family not known for their imagination and intelligence.

Watching the Queen twenty-five years ago, bullied by the politicians into making an address to the petal-strewing nation after the death of a women whose antics clearly horrified her was a case in point.

I’m afraid that much as I love Olivia Coleman, I’m profoundly uninterested in The Crown, and I really couldn’t give a fig about the current kerfuffle over an interview with Princess Diana from twenty-five years ago. After all, was this the first time there were three people in a royal marriage? Edward VII might have had the answer to that one.

What I want from the royal family is this.

They should be dull but worthy. They should do the necessary when it comes to knighting people, opening buildings and inspecting the troops. They should refrain from talking politics, because God knows we have enough idiot politicians without idiot royals sounding off as well.

They should continue with their silly little rituals and absurd protocols if they wish to, and get rid of them if they so desire as well. They should be aware that being royal may once have been a divine right or a sacred obligation, but nowadays it’s a job.

The job description is pretty tough. If you’ve got the top job, you have to meet Donald Trump, suffer weekly meetings with a blatherous prime minister and commune with no end of worthy nonentities when all you want to do is pat the noses of your horses and put your feet up at the palace.

Worse still if you’re on the fringes, required to toe the line but not given much in the way of responsibility. Small wonder then that you marry a TV star and abscond to Los Angeles so that you can live a life of endless self-expression.

But if you keep your nose clean, avoid Jeffrey Epstein and remain aware that your slightest indiscretion will be noticed, leaked, circulated, subjected to a woke-test and turned into an internet meme, there are compensations. Big country estates, plenty of birds to shoot, horses to ride and countries to visit. Plus you get to call yourself HRH, which is a passport to deference and doors opened where they might otherwise be closed. And you get to dress up in fancy uniforms, holding the ranks of Field Marshal, Admiral and Air Marshal simultaneously.

I sometimes wonder what our senior royals might have done with their lives if they hadn’t been senior royals. The Queen might have excelled as the owner of a stud farm. Prince Charles I imagine as the much-loved but occasionally eccentric headmaster of a minor public school, where his homilies would have inspired future civil servants, and much sniggering behind his back. Princess Anne would have made an excellent prison governor – firm but fair. Prince Andrew? Easy. After a middling naval career, he would have ended up as the secretary of a posh golf club, until a scandal involving a lady member caused him to retire.

As for Prince Philip, I fancy him as a Himalayan explorer who pissed off his Sherpas so much that they accidentally dropped him down a crevasse.

Not that I think of them that much, unless I’m forced to do so by some TV producers who look to make a buck by dredging up muck.

I actually think that the Queen has done a superb job of being the Queen over the past seventy-odd years. She certainly doesn’t deserve to be portrayed as a sour old matriarch in a fictional account masquerading as fact. And the rest of them, by and large, have done their best to play their parts. Like all of us who try and do a good job, they deserve some slack, because, like us, they’re fallible humans.

Would I prefer that we get rid of them? Not really. A country without royals has to invent their equivalent. The standards expected of royals are rarely met by elites in other countries, let alone by those that still have royalty. Would I prefer to live in countries where the likes of Donald Trump are temporary kings, or where Vladimir Putin struts around the palaces of the Tsars?

And should we end up replacing Her Majesty with a figurehead president, it would be more likely that we would end up with someone like Nigel Farage than David Attenborough. Far better to let the Queen & Co bumble on, drawing in the tourists with their chocolate-box ceremonies and well-meaning patronage.

As subjects of entertainment, give me historical kings, queens, emperors and dictators any day. We can safely lie about them. Unfortunately, the current lot aren’t allowed to be interesting, and it’s hard to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear of bland mediocrity, let alone an endless TV series.

From → Film, History, Politics, Social, UK

  1. This was a treat. With great trepidation we watched one episode last night and it’s as dreadful as you say.

  2. We’re not tempted to watch it as it hasn’t been foisted on us yet in France, a country which adores British Royalty, probably because they feel guilty about having chopped the heads off theirs.

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