This morning in UK (less so elsewhere in the world, I have to say) all the talk is of a royal fledgling leaving the nest – not just leaving it, but migrating to Canada; and I like to think of him flying with the wild geese, but I know better. The announcement that the staff of Frogmore Cottage, the Sussex’s UK home, are to be laid off confirms Harry’s intention to desert.
A stranger Royal has thrust a gaffing hook into the tightly-knit throng of the British regal family and pulled, an action not so damaging in itself, yet catastrophic in as much as it raises the ‘Royal Issue’ once again.
There is, our media declares nebulously, ‘enormous respect’ for The Queen. There should be. She has reigned for 67 years and she is 92 years old – she still works, if in a somewhat less strenuous role, and remains arbiter for a burgeoning family: some would say she acts as a constraint upon change that is waiting in the wings. The burning question is relevance.
Increasingly of late I find myself comparing the royal estates to the Vatican, each offering safe haven to a privileged few who are immured to the realities around them: poverty, social strife, political oppression, and so on.
When our present Queen finally has to give ground, her successor in the ‘male line’ will be well into his 70s. Charles is a businessman, of a sort, certainly prudent in financial affairs. The remit for contemporising his ever larger family will be a tough one, however, because for a lot of years the chicken has been free to run around with scant consideration for its head.
Does a twenty-first century Britain need a monarchy? ‘They bring a lot of money into the country’ is the constantly conjured counter to this Yes, and they spend it as well. Should the Commonwealth of Nations, if it has any meaning, find an entity as a trading relationship, unfettered by the stately pomp of a Queen as its head? In an age of meticulous media scrutiny, the Royals’ capacity for finding unfortunate bedfellows, while not a recent trait, is more exposed. A constant dribble of scandals may be titillating, but as tourist dollars go, they are less effective in that respect than the Kardashians.
The tourist dollar is, one supposes, the bottom line; until one asks exactly what it is the tourist comes to see? If they travel in expectation of setting eyes on a Royal, they are doomed to disappointment, so is it the ceremonial, the sense of history, the buildings – none of which actually need a Royal as a focal point?
We could keep the ceremonies, the parades, if you like. We could keep and maintain the buildings; Buckingham Place, Sandringham, Balmoral, and we could open them to the public as never before. But we could release the assets of the Crown Estates. 1,960,000 acres of agricultural land and forest, large chunks of extremely valuable urban property, much of it in London, Ascot racecourse, Windsor Great Park – at last valuation these things together were said to be worth £14.1 billion.
Okay, I’m not a Royalist – never have been; but even I can see that a Royal line has kept UK on an even keel while all around us are listing heavily and blaming it on us. It’s a function that has served us well for hundreds of years, and now it is very possibly time for it to step aside, or alter to a more progressive role. I am a nationalist, passionate about my heritage and, like most of we British, resentful of those who accept our money then patronise us or dismiss us as archaic and quaint. For this reason I lament the schism that is developing in the ruling class, because at least when they were united we knew where to throw the eggs.
NB: It was interesting to me that the Queen, in her last reference to the Royal runaways, referred to ‘Harry and Meghan’, not the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. So, will they be allowed to keep their titles? If they are forced to become commoners on Vancouver Island, that will at least diminish the millions they might anticipate earning on the ‘personal appearance’ circuit.
Imagine how their popularity would suffer if their media hosts were deprived of the opportunity to interview them wearing their coronets and crowns…