December 7, 2013 6:00 pm

Royalty.  The national silverware.  Kept safe in ornate boxes, often polished, but rarely used.  These days, royals are like clown ballerinas, trumpeted into the sky on thermals of pride and pageantry, and sucked back down at the slightest hint that they are, in fact, simple human beings.  Living lives of frailty and misdemeanour, just like you and me.

The glamour and grandeur of modern royalty is little more than a shop window, and the royals know that to stage-manage the perception, life must be a balancing act of sight and seclusion; we need to see them (or rather, they need to be seen), but they must remain elusive enough so that we keep looking.  This wisp of a concept, expertly woven by courtier craftsmen, is as intricate and masterful as any bejeweled artifact that sits in the Tower.

By making us believe in their worth, by making us covet their life, or, more often than not, simply by making us think that they are a bettbritish royal familyer option than any alternative, the royal family ensures its survival.  And, as we all know, survival is the end game.

The royal family understands this as intrinsically as they draw breath.  It’s the most essential (some might say only essential) thing that they do.  They survive.  Anything that stands in the way can expect to be removed with dead-eyed, sociopathic routine.  Progress in progeny is all that matters, and when Catherine squeezes out the spare heir, the Windsor line will be well on its way to the 22nd century.  Job done.

Today, we see Catherine trot around to waving flags and broad smiles.  All well and good, you might say..?  Well indeed, the newly-minted Duchess is flush like a spring foal, and good luck to her.  The blue boulder on her finger joins the dots of the old and the new; passed from dead mother to newly interned daughter-in-law.  HRH Diana to HRH Catherine.  Neither of royal blood, yet both with titles bestowed, and an incredible weight of expectation on their shoulders.

Diana has become the template, and a sparkling advertisement for the power of modern royal branding.  Thrust into the limelight like some chiffon-clad doe, she became (through sheer force of will, and not necessarily her own) ‘One of the Most Beautiful Women in the WorldTM.

This was nonsense, of course.  She was certainly one of the most photographed, but she was no supermodel.  All that happened was that the world bought into the idea of ‘Diana, the superstar’.  ‘Diana, the royal saviour’.  A commoner charged with dragging the monarchy through the no-man’s-land between 1950’s reverence, and 1980’s ‘who are you, and why should we care..?’

Alas, in the end, we did care.  I say ‘we’, but I actually mean ‘enough whimpering idiots to resurrect the monarchy’.  Even in spite of themselves, (coming so close to blowing it in those few days after the car crash), the sacred power of St. Diana was passed on to William, and now he and Catherine can crack on with the modern-day reformation.  Rebuilding faith in the family.

The only serious question Catherine raises is how high is the new royal highness.  Like Diana, she was a commoner and is now an Royal engagementhonorary HRH.  Royalists and republicans alike should see the problem with this: if HRH can be given and revoked, what good is it in the first place..?

Twelve years ago, Catherine was studying the history of art, now she’s a royal highness, just like Charles, Philip, and the Queen, herself.  Of course, the Queen’s majesty only exists because her uncle chose booty over duty.  Had he not, there would be a markedly different royal warming the throne, and Charles & Co. would be another group of minor and long-forgotten deities rattling around the plush social housing of W8.  Fortuity has little respect for the royal script.

Majesty, itself, is a lofty word and it invokes such high expectations.  It’s surprising how anyone can keep a straight face when addressed in this manner.  One wonders if the preposterousness of royalty is ever discussed by the family.  How is royalty explained to a young royal..?


‘Yes, William..?’

‘Why do people call me, ‘Your Royal Highness’..?’

‘Well, it’s because you are a Prince, as ordained by God, himself.’

‘Oh… so, does that mean ordinary people are less important in the eyes of God..?’

‘Ordinary people are called ‘commoners’.’

‘Oh… so, does that mean that commoners are less important in the eyes of God..?’

‘Commoners put food on our table.  Eat your breakfast…’

Of course, royalty would come as second nature within a very few years, just like walking and talking.  Whether any royal has ever wrestled with the notion is a moot point.  It’s a family business, no more, no less.  Yes, the hours can be long, and your colleagues tiresome, but the perks are out of this world.  Modern royals might wet themselves over their lack of privacy, or a normal life, but it’s a testament to the continuing allure of the job that so few have ever walked away.

People on both sides of the royal issue tend to get excited about the same old arguments: national identity, tourism, parasitism, birthright, etc.  For me, if we can get past idle thoughts of national pride, or supposed boosts to the economy, the only argument that holds any water, on either side, is the simple question of ‘subject, or citizen..?’

If you can answer this question without frothing at the mouth, or getting into some metaphysical contortion about being both at the same time, then the chance are, you’ll answer ‘citizen’ before ‘subject’.  And who could blame you..?  Citizenship is a far more potent, rewarding, and infinitely more deserving symbol of national identity than any family, regardless of how old, wealthy, or (supposedly) worthy they might be.

The only problem is that ‘citizenship’ is a mercurial concept that can’t be dressed in Dior and diamonds, it can’t play polo, and it can’t wow foreign dignitaries or American tourists.  It’s an idea that’s inside all of us, if we’d only bother to look for it.  The French (bless them) havfrench flage as strong a national identity as anyone, and they manage just fine without royalty.  National identity, for them, has moved away from a single family, and has reverted to the people.

For me, I live in hope that one day, the royal family will recede back into society as just another aristocratic bloodline (I’m sure they’d be happier shooting things at Balmoral) but, unfortunately, I fear they will outlive me, and most-probably my son.  2012 was a bumper year for England’s jingo brigade and you can bet your last fiver that the Queen, and all of her clan, cheered the crowds just as they cheered her.  After 60 years on the throne, she knows as acutely as any monarch since Alfred that the power, the glory, and everything that goes with it, is ordained not by God, but by you, me, and every other citizen of the land.

Remember this, fellow countrymen… pride enjoys a good view, and you can stand a lot taller if you stop bowing.

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