“This is not what monarchs do,” explained Col. Putin, commenting on some unflattering comparisons drawn by HRH in a private conversation.
As a great champion of the good colonel, I don’t question for a second his qualifications to teach our royals how to speak and behave.
Admittedly, he himself hasn’t yet assumed the Russian throne. But his admirers, such as me and Peter Hitchens, will probably agree that this is a mere formality.
Col. Putin has been the de facto tsar of all Russias for 14 years now, and Charles is still only heir to the throne. He’s thus in a learning mode, and who better than an old hand at monarchy to give him a lesson or two?
The first lesson is in history. Russian papers are kindly reminding, verbally and pictorially, our trainee monarch of the Nazi tar in his own family barrel.
Every day Russian readers are regaled with the photos of that other Prince of Wales, soon to become Edward VIII, Mrs Simpson by his side, having friendly chats with Hitler. For good measure the papers also run pictures of that well-known Nazi Prince Harry, sporting a swastika armband at a fancy-dress party.
Watch who you compare to Hitler, you effete inbred Nazis, seems to be the message. Those stones you throw may come back and shatter your own glass houses.
Hoping that the history lesson has been heard, read, marked, learned and inwardly digested, it’s now time for a lesson in language, class.
Of course, before people take lessons on board, they have to make sure that the teacher is properly qualified. For example, we’d happily learn how to play football from Stephen Gerrard but perhaps not how to speak English. Conversely, we’d be happy to hear what Cicero would have to say on speaking Latin, but not on how to play a long, diagonal pass.
And what better way to establish a man’s lexical competence than to point out some dazzling jewels from his own rhetorical collection? So here’s a brief collage of some such gems by Col. Putin.
All these lessons in proper royal speak were delivered in public statements, and I know you’ll agree with me that these provide the best insight into the speaker’s mastery of language.
To put Col. Putin’s remarks into their proper context, I’ve taken the liberty of adding some parenthetic comments. I hope they won’t spoil your pleasure.
“If you want to become an Islamic radical for real, to the point of getting circumcised, I invite you to Moscow… I’ll tell them to do the surgery so that nothing will grow back.” [At a press conference, responding to a question on Russian brutality in Chechnya.]
“We’ll pursue terrorists everywhere… – if we catch’em in the toilet, we’ll whack’em in the shithouse.” [A nice turn of phrase, wouldn’t you say?]
“We’re planning to expand trade with the Ukraine if she stops snatching our gas.” [It sounds ruder in the original Russian.]
“The collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” [Tell that to the 60 million victims, Vlad.]
“If we chew our own snot for years, we won’t change anything.” [Elegantly put.]
“If you have no money… – you can’t buy anything at a shop: neither a cannon nor a missile nor medicines. [So that’s where those Russo-Ukrainian thugs got their rockets? We wondered.]
“Of course I’m an absolute, pure democrat. But you know what the trouble is? More than trouble, a real tragedy? That I’m the only one like that, there simply are no others in the world.” [Has Peter Hitchens been moonlighting as Putin’s speechwriter?]
“I’ve seen some papers to that effect – it’s all claptrap. They dug bogies out of their noses and smeared them all over the papers.” [So that’s how a royal ought to respond to rumours about his own wealth.]
“We’ll hang him [President Saakashvili] by the balls.” [Formulating the strategic objectives of Russia’s 2008 attack on Georgia.]
“It still takes months to start your own business. You have to bribe all sorts of people: firemen, paramedics, gynaecologists.” [But not government officials, God forbid. One gets the urge to investigate Moscow’s gynaecological mafia.]
“Everyone should hoe his own plot, like St Francis, wham-bam, every day.” [St Francis wasn’t primarily known for his agricultural exploits, but we know what you mean, Vlad.]
“They can’t blackmail our state. If necessary, we’ll destroy the blackmail tools.” [A proper response to sanctions – Iranian ayatollahs, take note.]
“He raped ten women! I never expected that from him! He surprised us all! We all envy him!” [At a meeting with Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert, in reference to the charges against President Moshe Katsav who was later sentenced to seven years in prison.]
“I used to be a common Leningrad thug.” [You don’t say. Surely not? Fine, fine, we believe you.]
There we go then. This mini-thesaurus establishes Col. Putin’s teaching qualifications. I do hope Prince Charles is suitably impressed, humbled and grateful.