YOU can’t roll a ball at the day’s headlines sometimes without hitting a royal skittle.
Today we have two strikes. Perhaps a royal reporting rule should apply: three strikes and you’re out – no more royal guff for a week.
I used to be very much against the royals, but not anymore. There hasn’t been a conversion on the road to Windsor or anything. No, my attitude now is one big shrug accompanied by that age-old incantation: “Oh, really do we have to?”
Maybe this is a sign of defeat. Perhaps the royals have won by boring me into submission with their relentless dreary shenanigans.
The problem with royal stories is that sometimes they aren’t up to much. Take the headlines today revealing that Prince Charles has been receiving confidential cabinet papers for years, making him “Britain’s best informed lobbyist”, according to an unnamed MP.
Incidentally, should newspapers even quote MPs who don’t have the balls to be named? I think not.
This information comes to us following a Freedom of Information request by Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state. The campaign’s chief executive, Graham Smith, describes the disclosure of cabinet papers to Prince Charles as “quite extraordinary”.
Well, I guess so in constitutional terms.
But here is what I imagine happened: Charles threw a bit of a wobbly decades ago.
“But Mummy it’s not fair – you get to read all the important papers and I’m kept in the dark.”
“Best place for you” – an offside interjection from Prince Philip.
“Believe me, Charles, I barely bother to glance at them. Far too dull. Give me the Daily Telegraph any day.”
“But one day I’ll be king and…”
“Yes, Charles, keep counting those chickens.”
“But I should see them: it’s not fair.”
At this point could be heard the angry rattle of royal brogues retreating down the hall.
“Just stop and listen for once, Charles. If you read those papers, you’ll only go and stick your meddlesome oar in.”
Now it is true that Charles is an interfering twit at times; true as well that he goes nose first into places where he doesn’t belong; true too that his tedious opinions on architecture have probably held the country back a bit.
Charles likes to muck and meddle because he has nothing better to do. Perhaps there is a darker shade of possibility here. Maybe he interferes because he feels that he is entitled to.
The Guardian spent ten years using Freedom of Information legislation to reveal the so-called black spider letters Charles wrote to ministers. An impressive battle for the right to know, which looked less impressive once you discovered that the letters were mostly tedious royal whines.
So is this latest story really a big scandal or just another example of something we probably guessed went on anyway? I suspect Prince Charles sticks the royal nose into national life because he has an ill-defined role and purpose, and has had to invent a ‘job’ for himself.
We should worry much more about the report today that government ministers meet Rupert Murdoch and senior News Corp executives around ten times a year. Now that is properly alarming.
The other royal tale appeared in the Daily Mail on Monday, but caused further comment elsewhere. The Mail had a page one teaser with a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge headlined: “Feeling the Xmas strain, are you Kate?” Turn to page three and Sarah Vine had vomited up a lot of noxious nonsense dressed up as concern…
“Two young children, THREE official functions in a week. AND the Christmas shopping… NO WONDER SHE LOOKS SHATTERED!”
All of this based on a couple of paparazzi shots of the young royal looking a bit washed out.
In his Guardian media column Roy Greenslade described this as “one of the most risible and childish pieces of journalism I’ve ever read, even by the low ‘standards’ of royal reporter. But it was also unnecessarily personal and nasty.”
Okay, Kate willingly signed up for this stuff when she elevated herself to the top tier of national life, so we can only feel so sorry for her. But Greenslade is right: most royal reporting is appalling, lickspittle crawling based on dull supposition.
God only knows why we read the stuff or watch the tedious footage on the TV.