Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Where’s a butt of Malmsey when you need one?

Given the latest volley of toys being thrown out of the pram in Montecito, perhaps this is a good time to remember that disgruntled younger siblings are something of an occupational hazard for England’s monarchy and that, thanks in part to Margaret Beaufort, they have thus been clearly provided for within the establishment for centuries.

I am far from being a paid-up monarchist, but I am all in favour of an institution that forestalls the possibility of President Blair (and First Lady Cherie). If we are to have a figurehead at the top of the tree, then far better for it to be someone reared in the expectation of a lifetime of public service rather than habitually motivated by self-aggrandisement.

British royal protocol, like the strict behavioural code of the Samurai, performs a vital function in bypassing the personal and separating the rank from its holder, preserving the peace on an official level and in public whatever the personal feelings of those involved. When it broke down, in less enlightened times, at least, the result was frequently bloodshed  - enough to incentivise subsequent generations to stick to the script as laid out in detail by the mother of Henry VII.

This, of course, was the problem with Meghan Markle. Her stated frame of reference - fairy tales, Disney films and ‘Medieval Times’ fancy-dress themed entertainments - implies a complete failure to grasp the real-life significance of the titles and roles of the royal family or the time-honoured rules governing precedence and behaviour and, by all accounts, she wasn’t exactly open to instruction.  

It is even possible that, ignorant of the rules governing royal succession and coming from a country with no history or tradition of primogeniture, she initially misunderstood the phrase ‘in line to the throne’ to mean that Harry had a realistic expectation of becoming king after - or instead of - William. (It is worth noting that, while an English dictionary defines ‘in line for’ as ‘in a position to receive’, a US one has it as ‘likely to receive’.) Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - or cheated of a perceived entitlement.

One could argue that the foundations for the current fracas were laid by Diana’s naive insistence on Harry always being treated in the same way as his older brother and by his own lack of insight or understanding of the role and duties assigned to him but, whatever the root cause, the answer is never going to be walking out on the family and setting up, in effect, a rival court, complete with queen, courtiers and hangers-on.

It certainly didn’t ensure a happy outcome for George, Duke of Clarence, habitual drunkard, serial whiner to anyone who would listen and ultimately found guilty of ‘unnatural, loathly treasons’ against his older brother.


  1. I'm not a paid-up monarchist either, but as you say, it forestalls the possibility of President Blair. I find that's enough reason to support it, in that I can't think of anything better.

    I'm sure you are right about Meghan misunderstanding what monarchy is about, yet Harry must surely have known she misunderstood almost everything. He may be more of a toad than we imagine, may be attracted to what he hopes will be the life of a rich celebrity and cares about little else.

    1. Following a suggestion, I read a couple of transcripts of early interviews with the couple (rather than watch them); when you see it in print, it’s clear just how much she controls the conversation as she repeatedly interrupts or talks over him.

      I suspect that Harry’s perception of his own life and family has by now been warped beyond recognition (or redemption).

    2. I fear you're right. There's no coming back from this for him.

    3. Unless, of course, he appears in the media a few years hence complaining that Netflix/his ghost writer twisted his words to drive a wedge between him and his beloved family and he never really meant any of it.


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