And this just in: nice guy from dysfunctional German family to marry nice girl from functional English family.
No, I’m not a killjoy, I’m not miserable, I’m not unpatriotic, and I’m not a hypocrite for happily taking an extra day off work.
To the extent you can genuinely wish a couple who you have never met and in all probability never will meet all the best, I genuinely wish William and Kate all the best, but I refuse to allow myself to get whipped up into a frenzied mish-mash of Dad’s Army, ’Allo ’Allo, and bunting.
Probably because I love a flutter myself, part of me quite likes the idea that a ruthlessly simple lottery of genetics and marriage determines our Head of State. It’s like trying to make your fortune from the roulette wheel by employing a blindfolded chimp to place your bets with his left hand while getting him to type Hamlet with his right: pure, dumb luck. It’s incredible that, against all these odds, something resembling a stable society is produced, although Edward VIII’s flirtation with the Third Reich shows what a high-stakes gamble our entire democracy can boil down to.
I generally don’t have strong feelings about the Monarchy until I actually start thinking about it. It’s at times like a royal wedding, when you see your fellow serfs take leave of their senses and take a disproportionate interest in the lives of two otherwise completely normal members of their species that I think you’re entitled to take just a moment to reflect on what the hell is happening around you, without being marched off to the Tower.
Deep down I suspect most people know the whole institution of the Monarchy is crazy, whatever the arguments are for its existence (did I just hear someone say “tourism”?), but for some reason people file it in the “too difficult” drawer and just accept it. Or, as Ricky Fitts tells Lester Burnham in American Beauty: never underestimate the power of denial.
And there’s absolutely no denying just how screwed up this whole farce is. Our Head of State is determined by just one thing: who their parents are. And to think, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are getting their strap-ons in a twist over the nepotistic rights and wrongs of internships. Never mind the Big Society, Dave, what about the Big Picture?
Our Head of State must be a Christian, but not a Roman Catholic, because that would mean they’re loyal ultimately to the Pope. (Surely Christians in general would be loyal ultimately to God, though? Maybe the mistrust of Catholics is on the basis that the Pope exists? Interesting thought.)
Is that a constitutional structure of which we can be proud, as a nation? Is that a constitutional structure which is compatible with the concepts of democracy, dignity and equality? Is that a constitutional structure which inspires the younger generation, or even the older generation, for that matter?
As befits a farcical institution there has recently been an appropriately farcical discussion on the rules of succession. You see, if William and Kate were to produce a girl, and then a boy, the boy would become our Head of State even though the girl was born first, and commentators have described this rule as an “anachronism”. As opposed to the institution of Monarchy itself, then, which is entirely relevant and modern, presumably?
Amending the rules of succession, we are told, is no simple five-minute job (Ooh, gonna cost yer, luv…), as our sovereign is also the head of state of a number of other countries, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and various other foreign fields where grown men routinely wear dresses, and what we do here has constitutional implications for them, too, you understand. But I think the problem is far simpler than that: try to replace one wonky brick and the whole house of Windsor comes crashing down, and all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t put it together again.
Tinkering with our constitution is like tinkering with a magnificent flying machine which is made out of orange peel and frozen bananas, which is held together with just the right combination of dog shit and raw chicken, which runs on stale Fry’s Peppermint Creams and Maldon sea salt, and for which there is no instruction manual. Would you believe it, the thing works, it actually works! No-one knows why, and no-one’s sure what will happen if you start playing around with it. Just leave it alone, DON’T TOUCH IT, and walk away, slowly. And remember to curtsy.
We have a bizarre constitution but for whatever reason it seems to work reasonably well, give or take. Our country is remarkably stable and our Head of State “sort of” stays out of politics, which creates lazy, hazy inertia in terms of constitutional change.
Plus, the Japs and the Americans absolutely love those royals. Just think about the tourism argument carefully, though. Public beheadings in Saudi football stadia don’t half get the crowds in, but are turnstile receipts a good justification for something? Ok, the analogy might be a crude one but just because one eccentric family is popular with tourists, it doesn’t follow that the head of that family should automatically be our Head of State.
How about we compromise and keep the royal family purely as a tourist attraction? Rather than having to live for one tenth of one millennium to get a poxy letter which you probably won’t be able to see or hold yourself because you’re too old or too fucked or too mad, and which will probably land on a piss-stained carpet anyway, how about being able to pay to actually meet them? Hang on, you can already do that.
Oh yes, the Monarchy is a bit of fun but there are lots of things in life that are fun, which aren’t necessarily right. Class A drugs, extra-marital sex and casual violence against traffic wardens spring to mind, for example. The Monarchy, that ultimate family business, summarises our curious island rather nicely: funny (ha ha and strange); eccentric; just about works but could be improved; snobbish.
I hope William and Kate do produce a girl and then a boy because I think that will maintain some pressure to change the rules of succession, and even if the rules don’t actually change, the debate doesn’t come around that often and it’s a healthy one to have. There might even be some pleasant offshoot changes/discussions, such as putting a few of the freeloaders out of their misery. Maybe it will get people thinking about our Head of State’s constitutional role as Head of the Church, and the privileged status of Christianity (and by default, any religion), and give us the chance to routinely use a word in normal pub conversation that is heard scandalously rarely: antidisestablishmentarianism (and not forgetting its even more neglected cousins: antidisestablishmentarianist and antidisestablishmentarian).
As for the wedding itself, I admit I’ll be watching it (there will probably be fuck all else on, anyway, and it looks like it will be raining) but I’m more interested in the spectacle that people and the media are making of themselves, rather than the spectacle itself. Well that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
Some might say that the royal wedding provides some light relief from reality, and there’s probably some mileage in that argument, assuming you believe the over-enthusiastic embracing of fairytales, feudal systems and theocracies is an intelligent response and effective antidote to global economic meltdown and a large powder keg in the Middle East waiting for one, small spark.
Oh, God save the Queen.