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Live that fantasy: Linda Burgess on the royals
Wellington author Linda Burgess bids farewell to Harry, Meghan, and the whole stinking Windsor lot.
I’ve been mocked, even gently bullied, for a simple sentence in my book Someone’s Wife. “When Prince Charles and I were about 15, I discovered that with his bashful eyes, and his hand slipped into the pocket of his tweed jacket, he was unsettlingly sexy.”
Sometimes the bullying hasn’t even been gentle. Women my age speak to me in italics: “How could you think even for a moment that Charles was sexy?”
And yet Charles, with his aroma of shy entitlement, his occasional appearance in ermine, his air of fragile virginity about to be lost to some older Lady, probably chosen by his father, really did have a certain erotic appeal. And because they were an ongoing narrative with storylines as persistent and reliable as those in Coronation Street, I kept watching the royal family long after I had the remotest pelvic twinge for his young highness.
I’ve been left with a certain level of expertise. I can tell you who’s currently the baddie and the goodie, who’s almost never seen, and why not. I can almost tell you the order of birth. If either of the foremost royal reporters, Katie Nicholl (she’s the one with glossy brown hair and the guileless friendly face) or Ingrid Seward (the editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine has been around from when she was young and dewy) turn up on the screen, I pay attention.
But something changed. My need to fill empty time with royal watching abruptly ended. It could be because this time Andrew really does appear to be not only stupid and arrogant, but dangerous. It could be that with the election of Boris, that posh, mendacious fop, that dickhead really, Britain’s gloss, that has held me in its thrall for far too long, has faded.
This feeling of disenchantment has crept outwards. A few episodes in, I was bored by The Crown. I made assumptions that it’d be a well-written script and that I would come to accept the excellent Olivia Colman as Queen if I tried a little harder. So it came as a blow that when I started to pay proper attention I concluded that the families in The Sopranos or The Americans are actually a hell of a lot more interesting than the Windsors.
When they were here late last year, I glimpsed Charles and Camilla in full hongi on screen, faking it, smiles on their lips and boredom in their eyes, and realised I was over them. It’s mad. They’re mad. They are one box of paua shell buttons away from being pearly king and queen. Any moment he’ll call Camilla Old Dutch and break into one of those dances in which hands moving deftly over knees make the dancer look like they can swap their legs around. And she’ll respond with a flirty squint over her shoulder and a knees up. What are they thinking of? What are we thinking of, paying up large for them to come for a holiday here?
But what will become of my down time, if Katie Nicholl, always on the verge of a weep it seems, exists for no other reason than to define vapidity? If the sight of Ingrid Seward’s excessive hair doesn’t grab my attention and make me push un-mute? What will I do to fill the vacuum, now that photos of William, Kate and family look increasingly like an ad for a rip-off Christmas lunch that you buy in advance monthly payments? Now that they’ve given George the most unforgiveable hairstyle?
And then. And then. Just as I was dismissing the whole sorry bunch, they took on minimalising as if Marie Kondo was whispering to them from the closet. “Shocked Britain” was very naïve if they thought Harry and Meghan took voluntary redundancy – Charles had already slipped them the note beginning “I’m afraid We have to let you go.” When I was a child that balcony that the royals wave from used to have at least 100 people on it: various surviving Romanovs, widowed Great Great Aunts in choker pearls, Hapsburgs, Mountbattens, displaced Greeks, mad third cousins, all cluttered up the place. Ninety-five of them were unrecognisable; interchangeable. After waving for a bit, they went back to their free apartments, chucked the medals and tiaras on the bed and hit the sherry. Charles and William are over that inclusiveness. You have to be on the shortlist to earn your place. If you don’t need it, dump it.
Noting with bitterness the fact that the bed is double and not king-sized, Meghan and Harry will have cuddled down in her Mum’s spare room, Archie in one of those folding cots at the end of their bed. Meghan comes from the real world: she knows The Firm wants them gone. Knowing it’s best to get in first she will have spelled out how Harry’s unwoke family have ice in their veins and don’t give a stuff about them. That now the pair of them are a brand, they can be stinking rich without having to be bored to death. That freezing fucking palace. Those fucking candid documentaries.
And because they haven’t been married long, Harry will feel really bad about it all.
My interest is briefly piqued; I’d be lying if I denied doing a bit of googling on the subject. But I do not have it in my heart to feel sorry for them. I don’t feel sorry for any of them actually. Though perhaps just a little bit for that sweet-faced increasingly anxious looking little prig, Kate-who-knew-how-to-wait, who was brought up knowing how to pack the perfect picnic, how many balloons you need for a party. For some reason when I look at her, I think of two things: Marianne Faithfull’s “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” goes on permanent replay in my head. Then there’s the Stockholm Syndrome. Like Patty Hearst, the perfect wife of a dutiful prince who has no options, has learnt that the only way to survive is to smile and to wave and to learn to love her jailers.
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