Some of us serve a cause, but rarely do we do nothing else. In that sense, royals have much in common with priests: life and service are for them wholly coextensive…
I’m sorry, did I say ‘are’? I meant ‘ought to be’, and perhaps ‘used to be’. Yes, for the older generation of our royal family, living still means serving. The younger generation serve too, the way royals should. But they also want to live, the way the rest of us do.
They want to be regular blokes and lasses, which these days isn’t invariably a term of praise. For, since they’re constantly in the public eye, the kind of regular people they become don’t resemble either royals or priests any longer. They resemble pop stars.
They want to marry for ‘luv’, not dynastic duty. When young, they want to sow their wild oats on the covers of glossy mags. Inside those publications, they want to pour their hearts out in outbursts of tear-jerking vulgarity.
Their hearts are worn on their sleeves and eventually get coated with grime. Shove a camera and a mike in their faces, and they’ll babble on like… well, like 90 per cent of the population would, given the chance.
Monarchy performs a vital function in our society. Like most things in what used to be Christendom, it reflects the formative synthesis of the physical and metaphysical.
The physical, quotidian life of the country is the responsibility of Parliament and the institutions that radiate out of it. The monarchy’s responsibility is to act as a factor of religious, cultural and spiritual continuity – to act, in concert with the Church, as an adhesive gluing together generations past, present and future.
To serve or not to serve isn’t a question for them as it is for us. We may choose to serve or not; they’re born to do so. Some outsiders are co-opted into that service by marriage, in which case – whatever their legal status may be – they undertake to sacrifice their ‘normal’ lives to public good.
It’s mainly for that reason that royalty has traditionally married royalty. The code of royal behaviour is hard to learn unless one has been imbued with it from birth. It’s a big jump for a girl who has for 20-odd years lived a ‘normal’ life to change overnight into acting as a monastically dedicated public servant every minute of her life.
‘Monastic’ doesn’t mean self-denial in the physical luxuries of life. Quite the contrary, the royals can indulge the most refined or Gargantuan of tastes on a scale that’s beyond most of us. But it does mean checking every step, every word against the ancient code of service.
That’s what the two non-royal girls, Diana and Sarah Ferguson, couldn’t get their rather empty heads around when they married Princes Charles and Andrew back in the 80s. That’s why they wounded the monarchy, possibly mortally. And in doing so, they dealt our constitution a mighty blow.
Diana, in line to become queen, was in a position to do the greater damage, and she didn’t let that opportunity go begging. Having moved from Sloane Square to Kensington Palace, she wanted to remain the quintessential Sloanie, living high on the hog, seeking out paparazzi wherever she could find them (while pretending to be bothered by public attention), demanding ‘luv’ from her hubby-wubby, having highly publicised affairs when that wasn’t forthcoming, and venting her vulgar feelings on national TV.
While devoid of intelligence, that manipulative woman was richly blessed with cunning, which she used to insinuate herself into the kind of public adoration that’s normally reserved for tattooed, drugged-up pop stars. “I want to be me!!!” was the message that dripped from every gesture she made, every word she uttered.
A high aristocrat by birth and a petty bourgeois at heart, she complained to all and sundry about her husband’s unfaithfulness – and set out to punish him by emulating Messalina and Catherine the Great. He wasn’t the sole intended target: Diana sought revenge against the whole royal family, who tried to explain to her what the duties of a future queen entail.
That was a clash of dignified tradition and vulgar modernity, and there was only one winner. Modernity won, to the thunderous cheers of the braying herd of Diana’s admirers. They saw her as a mirror reflecting their own pettiness, solipsism and anomie.
They looked at Diana and saw themselves, as they’d wish to be if they had the dosh. That revolting Blair sniffed out the public mood with a bloodhound’s acuity when he described Diana as “the people’s princess”. That’s exactly what she was.
Some of the poison she injected into our venerable institution has been apparently passed on to her sons, who, in the approaching anniversary of their mother’s death, are hogging the media on a scale that would have done her justice.
They’re both desperate to show that, royal or not, they’re regular blokes, who like a pint, a good party and a televised chinwag with Gary Lineker, in which Prince William effortlessly spoke the ex-footballer’s language.
Now the two brothers are appearing in an ITV documentary and a BBC special, where they share with millions of viewers their anguish about losing their mum [sic] at a young age.
I can sympathise with their sorrow. No decent person would fail to feel for two boys orphaned in their childhood by an accident befalling their doting mother. What I can’t sympathise with is the undignified, unbecoming way in which this understandable emotion is being vented.
“She was the best mum in the world,” says one people’s prince, presumably on the basis of a global poll known to him only. And yes, I know that the old-fashioned word ‘mother’ has been ousted from popular discourse by the touchy-feely ‘mum’. But is it too much to expect a royal to talk – not to mention feel – like a royal, not an agony aunt?
“She was extremely good at showing her love, showing what we meant to her, what feelings meant and how important it was to feel.” Fine, we get it. I just wish she hadn’t displayed her ability to feel maternal (and other) love so effusively and publicly.
Then, “20 years on seems like a good time to remind people of the difference that she made, not just to the Royal Family, but also to the world.” Yes, she well-nigh destroyed the Royal Family, and may still do so by delayed action. As to the world, I don’t think it gives much of a damn. It has its own problems.
Sorry about your mum, lads. Now can you please go back to serving us the way you were born to do? A tough job, I know, but someone has to do it.