The days immediately preceding, and immediately following the birth on 22.
July, of a baby to a young woman called
Kate Middleton, who is married to William, son of the Prince of Wales,
presented a media spectacle of what by any rational standards can only be described
as drooling, obsequious idiocy. Even the rare exceptions that didn’t completely
take leave of their senses couldn’t resist the temptation to climb onto the
bandwagon of royalist whooping. The rule of primogeniture ensures that
Britain’s hereditary dynastic system will provide kings to reign over us until
the end of the twenty first century. Those who are at ease with, indeed
enthusiastic about retaining a non-elected head of state in perpetuity, can
look forward to King George VII ascending the throne some time during the last
third of the present century, possibly not before 2076. Calculations that his
accession could be as late as this are not entirely unrealistic. The present Queen
is 87 years old and seems to be in rude good health. The Queen’s mother lived
to be 101 and it is perfectly possible that Elisabeth may also see her
centenary, by which time her son and heir, Charles, will be 78.
A combination of favorable genetic inheritance and the best medical attention that private health care can provide could well result in Charles, should he ascend the throne in or around 2026, reigning for 20 years. Of course, not all the Windsors have enjoyed such longevity. The queen’s father, George VI, and her sister Margaret, both died prematurely, but they were chain-smokers – an addiction which both Elisabeth and Charles seem to have avoided. But fans of royalty can rejoice in the expectation that their future unelected, gracious and noble heads of state, may “reign over” them, happily and gloriously, as far into the future as anyone cares to look. The succession could look something like this:
1952 - 2026: Elisabeth II
2026 - 2046: Charles III
2046 - 2076: William V
2076 - 2112: George VII
Of course, this is guess work, but it is reasonable to assume that with steadily improving life expectancy, particularly amongst the higher social strata, Charles, William and George are likely to live well into their nineties if not beyond. That the new royal arrival will inherit the throne sometime is taken for granted by most of the sycophantic monarchist media, so even if expectations of longevity are over-optimistic, it is still assumed that the institution will survive well beyond the middle of the century. Murdoch’s execrable best-selling tabloid The Sun (fatuously re-naming itself The Son for the day on 23. July) drooled: “At 4.24 pm yesterday, an 8lb 6oz baby boy was born at St. Mary’s Hospital, London. To William and Kate, a son. To the nation, our future King. Let the celebrations begin.”
The media ballyhoo surrounding the birth of this baby was predictable and at one level laughable. The spectacle of hordes of hacks, camera crews and gawping onlookers camped for days outside the hospitable, attempting to turn the most ordinary of events into a news story of national and international importance, took vacuous obsession with royal celebrity to unprecedented depths of sheer inanity. At a time of severe austerity at home with the greatest redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest, with bloodletting on the streets of Cairo and millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war, this was the top story on television news channels. When the birth was announced it occupied multiple pages of most daily newspapers. A glimpse of a tiny hand protruding from a shawl was said to be the child’s first royal wave. The nation was said to be rejoicing. But however ridiculous all this may seem, it is also profoundly depressing.
While it is true that claims about national enthusiasm for the monarchy are exaggerated, it is also true that there remains little enthusiasm for republicanism either. This is yet another example of the “bread and circuses” provided over the past three years to manufacture the nation’s consent to their living standards suffering the worst erosion since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The audacity of this palpable design to persuade us that we are all happy to live with growing inequality and hardship so long as we can celebrate a royal wedding, a jubilee and a royal birth, is breathtaking. But it was ever thus. During the “hungry” 1930s the monarchy was promoted shamelessly for the delectation of its loyal subjects: George V’s Jubilee in 1935; his funeral and the accession of Edward VIII in 1936; Edward’s abdication the same year and George VI’s coronation in 1937 – all huge distractions from mass unemployment, hunger marches, the rise of fascism and looming war clouds. It is depressing to think that the media responsible for manufacturing consent expect us to accept that in 50 or 100 years from now it will still be perfectly acceptable to the majority of the population that they have no right to elect their head of state; that an accident of birth which bestows fabulous wealth and privileges will continue to entitle whoever inherits such largesse to “reign over us” and expect us to accept the status of “loyal subjects” rather than citizens of a democratic state. It is depressing that all this is considered perfectly acceptable and that those who complain about it can be written off as killjoys and cranks.
But while, to paraphrase Lincoln, some of the people may be fooled all the time, you can’t fool all the people all the time. Despite the best efforts of the Monarchy’ public relations team and the sycophantic royalist media, there can be no certainty that public opinion will remain forever compliant. Sentiments may change rather sooner than the defenders of hereditary privilege imagine. Unless a constitutional game of leap-frog is enacted whereby the Prince of Wales stands aside for his son, Charles, who is not very popular, is likely to be in his 70s when he becomes king. The knock-on effect will permanently remove the gloss of youth from his putative successors. Should the institution last so long, the throne will be occupied by old men. Prince Charles queered his pitch very badly in the eyes of the many admirers of his former wife, the deceased Diana. Much of the fan club for Kate Middleton and Prince William is made up of Diana’s devotees. Their monarchist sentiments may turn out to be rather shallow when faced with the reality of a King Charles III. The exemption of the Duchy of Cornwall from corporation tax and the rejection by the High Court of an application under the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the content of Charles’s letters to government ministers, has not enhanced his reputation in recent weeks. Such exposure simply confirms what has been clear for decades: far from playing no part in politics, the monarchy is deeply involved and possesses real power which it uses to maintain its pre-eminent position in the constitutional and social class system in Britain.
Against the torrent of royal baby blather that so recently flooded the media, two brilliant exceptions may be mentioned.
The satirical magazine Private Eye, carried just three words in large bold type on its front page on 23. July: WOMAN HAS BABY. Then in tiny type as a footnote: Some other stuff inside.
The writer and former Children’s Poet Laureate, Michael Rosen, wrote this Saturday Poem for The Guardian, published on 27. July:
I don’t mind waiting
I do mind being told I’m waiting
I don’t mind good news
I do mind being told which news is good
I don’t mind being told that people are happy
I do mind being told that I’m happy
I don’t mind that people like a newborn baby
I do mind being told that I like a newborn baby
I don’t mind that people like doing their family tree
I do mind being told that I like their family tree
I don’t mind being rained over
I do mind being reigned over