As Elizabeth II understood so well, the whole royal circus can only carry on with the consent of the people - GulfToday

As Elizabeth II understood so well, the whole royal circus can only carry on with the consent of the people

Sean O'Grady


Associate Editor of the Independent.


Queen Elizabeth II.

Even the coronation has failed to stem the flow of rumours about splits, schisms and sabotage. Or, rather, this looming event, with its global audience of 100 million, seems only to have heightened the tensions, and provoked more skirmishes between the combatants. What might have been a great moment of unity for the family, as well as for our fracturing United Kingdom and stressed Commonwealth of Nations, is turning into another source of grievance and resentment. So, what do we have this week? A new book by the royal commentator Robert Jobson that claims the Princess of Wales, still known to many as Kate Middleton, feels a lasting “resentment” towards Meghan Markle, aka Duchess of Sussex, because of her, Kate, not being permitted to be with the Queen in her final hours. It does seem a bit macabre, even by the contemporary standard of royal rows, but there we are. The story goes that Charles, dithering between alienating Meghan or Kate, ended up annoying the pair of them instead – a pattern that seems to be becoming a habit. Allegedly, when members of the royal family travelled to Scotland to visit the Queen before her passing, Charles ordered Harry and Wiliam’s wives not to attend: “Privately, [Charles] wanted to say Meghan was not welcome but he couldn’t say that to Harry so he personally intervened and asked Kate to stay back so that it was fairer on Meghan”. Meghan “desperately” wanted to be in Scotland. Hence the resentment.

Then, there are the reports that Queen Camilla has let it be known via a friend that she’s hurt by the characterisation of her as the “villain” in Prince Harry’s ill-advised (but entertaining) memoir, Spare.In Harry’s view, not only was Camilla famously the “third person” in his parents’ marriage, but she was responsible for various bits of press gossip about him which he found unhelpful – and worse.

And, of course, we all recall the Oprah interview and its aftermath, not to mention the Netflix documentary and its claims that Harry and William brawled (and are now on non-speaking terms), the Prince Andrew problem and all the rest of it.

It’s all the more remarkable because the original War of the Windsors, or at least the original frontline, between Charles and Diana, seems to have come to an end. In 1997, after the tragic death of Diana, Camilla Parker-Bowles (as she was then) was the most hated woman in Britain – and was virtually in hiding. Her emergence as Duchess, Queen Consort – and shortly crowned Queen – has been one of the more successful PR campaigns ever launched by Charles. Even a few years ago, devotees of the cult of Diana would have protested loudly the ascendancy of Camilla, or “the Rottweiler” as Diana supposedly termed her. Now, Diana seems to have finally faded away. Aside from the moving references to her and her spirit in Harry’s autobiography, there’s little talk of what might have been, had Charles and Diana’s marriage survived. But in place of all that strife, we now have multiple new bin fires breaking out all over the House of Windsor. Some, if not all, it must be said, seem like the utmost indulgence to hard-pressed Britons worried how to pay the rent.

There are wrangles about these royal “cottages” (in reality, grand country homes) that were once allocated to Andrew and Harry. About the tiara Meghan might or might not have worn. About costumes and precedence. About money. About duties. About bad tempers and personal behaviour. It just goes on and on and on, with each generation generating fresh grudges and grievances, and prosecuting them through friendly media channels. The impression, which may be unfair, is that these fortunate, privileged people living their comfortable lives (in material terms at any rate) are increasingly self-indulgent, self-obsessed and growing out of touch with the people they purport to serve. This is going to erode the value of the institution as something that unites the nation, rather than inviting it to takes sides in what resembles a posh soap opera. As Elizabeth II understood so well, the whole royal circus can only carry on with the consent of the people, and that is something too readily taken for granted. Sadly, the king’s coronation seems to be making that point most powerfully, but for all the wrong reasons. If the House of Windsor cannot unite itself, how can it command the unified allegiance of a people?

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