If you tune into any UK news media today, you cannot avoid the breathtaking news that the Duke of Edinburgh has retired from public life. Tributes to the 96 year-old are flooding in, and I am literally choking on a sea of superlatives and gushing praise. How many foreign trips he took. How many speeches he made. How many times he appeared in public. What a rock solid support he was for the Queen. And on and on. Oh, and on…
All of this exceedingly comfortable and well rewarded ‘hard work’ was for ‘our benefit’, apparently. Walking around behind your wife with your hands in your pockets, waving to a crowd from the interior of a Rolls-Royce, and muttering to film stars as you attend a premiere. It’s a miracle he lasted this long, with such arduous travails. Fighting to stay awake during boring banquets, and speeches in foreign languages might well be considered to be the ‘pit face’ in some circles. But not in mine.
In a country where basic living benefits are being withheld from the poor and the sick, and a huge percentage of the population are struggling to live on the minimum wage, and no-hours contracts, celebrating the idle life of this overpaid hanger-on is bordering on the obscene. While we are at it, let’s gloss over his racist remarks about ‘Chinky-eyes’, and ‘Darkies’ too. After all, he was only being amusing, and he’s married to the Queen.
To say he is retiring is a classic misnomer. You cannot retire from a job that was never a job. How can you retire from shooting wild birds, riding around in coaches, travelling from one luxury home to another, or cruising around on your sumptuous yacht? The man has not done a day’s work since he walked out of Westminster Abbey with the Queen on his arm, in 1947.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I am not a Royalist.
On an average day in the UK, approximately 2000 babies are born. I had to look that up, and it’s a lot more than I would have guessed. So yesterday, those 2000 babies entered this world unnoticed, except by their immediate family, and attendant medical staff. This is how it is every day, and how it should be. There was an exception though. A member of the Royal Family gave birth to her second child. A one-day old baby who is now currently fifth in line to the throne of Great Britain. If you watched any news at all, or read a newspaper, or perhaps an Internet news feed, you couldn’t have missed this event. The BBC, funded by the public with licence fee payment, sent a team of reporters and camera crews to report on the event, live from the pavement outside the hospital. They stood for hours, speculating on the child’s gender, what name it might be given, and how well the mother would recover. Then they repeated the coverage once again, as soon as the baby emerged with its parents.
They also interviewed the crowds outside, some of whom had been waiting there for fourteen days, camped on the pavement, using the toilet facilities and snack bars in the main hospital building. FOURTEEN DAYS! Their loyalty and devotion was suitably rewarded, when they were presented with cakes and pastries, courtesy of the proud parents. They gushed in interviews with reporters, gasped in wonder at the new arrival, and swooned with delight when the family group emerged. I don’t recognise these people as being from the same country as me. Living in the place where I live, and having experienced life in modern Britain, as I have. When the sole purpose of their lives is to wait outside a building for the birth of a member of the Royal Family, I start to think that there is a lot more wrong with this country than I ever believed possible.
Specialist Royal commentators were wheeled in by the media, to give their privileged insights into everything, from how much rest the mother will need, to how soon the grandparents will leave it before visiting. They made a great deal of how ‘ordinary’ this couple is. ‘Just like any other young couple, proud parents’, said one. Except that hardly any other couples have the protection of personal armed bodyguards around the clock. They don’t get to collect their baby in a car that costs £75,000 – and not get a parking ticket – before deciding whether to return to their luxury home on a private estate in Central London, or instead choose their other luxury home, on a private estate in Norfolk. The proud father will soon be flying a helicopter for the East of England Air Ambulance, so it made sense to go to Norfolk. Of course it did.
Just the kind of decision made by every ordinary Dad whose baby was born yesterday.
When I was younger, this appalling sycophancy and downright lying made me angry, and I was full of hate for these parasitic royals. People said it was not ‘their fault’, and that they ‘didn’t ask for the job’. So what stops them walking away, having some self-respect, and living that ‘normal life’ that all their supporters claim that they live? Let them sort out childcare when they are both at work, struggle to save the deposit on a two-bedroom house in the suburbs, and worry about job cuts, redundancies, and no-hours contracts, like so many of the parents of the other 1999 children born on Saturday. Now I am old, I don’t have the energy to hate anymore. I just feel drained by it all.
Perhaps adoration of the royals is an escape. A fantasy of belonging that allows you to forget the humdrum, and makes you feel a part of something that is a centuries-old sham. I don’t know, because I have never felt it. All I see is another snout in the trough, someone else for the public to finance; one more cuckoo in an ever-growing nest.