IF you are not much of a royalist, this is a weekend to suppress your feelings.
But it is fair to wonder if Prince Philip’s own “no-fuss, no-nonsense” approach to life seems out of kilter with the intense coverage greeting his death.
Yesterday, all the BBC TV channels were swept clear of anything deemed unsuitable – and that was everything, MasterChef final and all, while the corporation’s radio stations spoke with one solemn voice.
ITV tidied away the usual programmes too, leaving Channel 4 to run long tributes, before returning to normal with Gogglebox (a proportionate decision, surely).
The BBC, in particular, will never please everyone. Any perceived slight will be magnified, making bosses nervous and inclined to defensive over-compensation, hence the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling tributes yesterday.
The relentless coverage prompted many viewers to complain, and the BBC kindly provided a page for their discontent. This in turn sent the stirrers of Defund the BBC off to Twitter for a whiny tantrum: “Disgraceful! The anti-British BBC has set up a form to encourage complaints about the volume of coverage of Prince Philips death.”
In this age of culture wars and dummies spat across rooms, that one deserves a statue all of its own. The BBC covers Prince Philip’s death with slavish, unstinting devotion – and for its efforts is accused of being “anti-British”.
Boris Johnson, meanwhile, stood accused of being anti-comb.
Bumbling out into Downing Street to make the expected statement, the prime minister was his usual dishevelled self, hair arranged like a mutant dandelion.
Here is your reminder that he does this on purpose, thinking it makes him a character, so we shouldn’t fall for it. Even when he is saying what the moment demands, that messy hair turns attention back onto himself.
After a short while listening to Radio 4, the coverage was all too much for me. Thank heavens the BBC hadn’t switched off the iPlayer, as it did with BBC Four, where an on-screen announcement sent viewers back to the news and that royal Groundhog Day of solemnly repeating headlines.
Today’s newspapers are filled with Prince Philip, as is hardly surprising. Take your pick depending on stamina. The Sun looks more sombre than usual, although its main headline dips into sentimentality: “We’re all weeping with you, Ma’am.”
Too saccharinely presumptive for my tastes. The Guardian is better, a full-page black-and-white photograph with the simple, factual headline: “Prince Philip, 1921-2021.”
Its coverage runs to 13 pages, one comment piece and a leader article. A puny effort next to the Daily Mail’s “Historic 144-page issue”. Historic or histrionic, you decide. The Daily Telegraph goes down the same road as the Guardian, only with a full page colour photograph.
Some commentary is deep-fried in hypocrisy. And, yes, we are looking at you, Piers Morgan in the Daily Mail. Thanks to Tim Walker on Twitter for putting Morgan’s fulsome tribute next to an earlier Philip-bashing column, as seen here…
There is no right way to do national grief but the assumption that everyone is upset seems foolish and inaccurate. Yet surely we can agree that Philip’s death, although unsurprising, is personally devastating for the Queen. That is the one important part of this story, and it’s a private weight of grief gathered at the end of a long marriage, not a public spilling of tears by those who didn’t know the man they are crying about.
Personally, I like to think of Prince Philip throwing something at a celestial TV screen, shouting: “Where’s Gardeners’ World – what have they done with Monty! This is a damn disgrace. Get me a fountain pen. I am writing a letter to the director general of the BBC. Dear pipsqueak…”
Philip certainly gave history a run for its money. Not bad for a discredited Balkan prince of no particular merit or distinction. Lest you think me unkind, that was how Prince Philip once described himself.