Tag Archives: Monarchy

Royalty: Isn’t it About Time For a Change at the Top?

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One of the many oddities in the life of our Queen, Elizabeth II, is the fact that she has two birthdays each year – as if one wasn’t enough when you already have rather too many years on your shoulders, weighing you down along with all those cares of state. That’s twice the messing about anyone else has, and there’s Christmas too, although happily there are flunkies by the dozen to lend a hand. But let’s face it, Brenda – as Private Eye magazine almost affectionately refers to her – is now in her 88th year even when you don’t count “Official” birthdays. Most ladies of her considerable wealth would expect to have had their feet up relaxing with the Dorgies for at least the last 27 years, rather than still be loaded with all these ceremonial duties. Is it not time, perhaps, for her to consider genteel retirement, or at least a more consultative and less active role?

Adding to the whole age question is the fact that her likely – though not inevitable – successor, son Charles, will himself reach state retirement age in November this year, and therefore stands the very real chance of becoming entitled to his pension before his pre-destined career has even got off the ground. The poor bloke finds himself in a dilemma uncannily similar to that which faced his illustrious forebear King Edward VII, known to his more intimate acquaintances (prior to his eventual accession) as Bertie the Bounder, due to his notorious predilection for the wilder pleasures of life. Bertie of course did realise his lifelong destiny, and became rather a successful King – entering history as “Edward the Peacemaker” due to his diplomatic efforts on the Continent. Sadly, all these admirable endeavours merely delayed a worldwide conflagration, and a scant four years after his death we were landed with the Great War. But Bertie the Bounder certainly Did His Bit while he was above ground and able to; Charles, who some might think has been a bit of a bounder himself on occasion, must be wondering if his own chance to serve will ever come.

The world nowadays is a very different place to the one which Queen Victoria left in early 1901. At that time, the Monarchy was simply a given – a fact of life along with the Empire over which it presided. The Monarchy and all the trappings thereof seemed in tune with the times, whereas now a lot of that ermine and jewellery has an almost defiant air of anachronism about it, as if the whole institution is saying to us, “Look – we know the Empire is long gone, and that we’re a tad outdated, but it’s just how we are – have you got a better idea?” The transition from a monarch who has been there forever, or so it seems, to a new King on the block (sorry, Charlie, if that’s a phrase which unhappily conjures up the headless spectre of the first King Charles) may well be much harder to manage today than it was when Bertie came to the throne 112 years ago. It may even be that there is a case for the new lad to be eased in to his unaccustomed role by an older and possibly wiser head. This is the argument for the Queen to step down now so that her guidance and counsel should be available to King Charles III, or even to King William V if that’s the way the Royal cookie crumbles.

Of course any suggestion like this, threatening as it does to advocate a departure from The Way Things Have Always Been Done, is likely to be met with a pretty frosty response from the patrician mandarins of the Establishment. They will tend to gaze snootily down a long collective nose and wonder out loud just who on earth this frightful oik IS, mooting such radical and frankly dangerous possibilities. But just because something has always been done a certain way is no reason to continue down that path. Small boys used to be shoved up chimneys to clean them, and they used to drag heavy loads in narrow seams underground in the mines as well. These are old traditions which nobody outside The Cabinet Office much misses. And we used to effect changes in the line of Succession to the Throne by the simple expedient of lopping the incumbent’s head off, or by defeating them in battle – a manifestation of the now unfashionable “Might is Right” syndrome. One such defeated King (Richard III) has only recently been dug out of a Leicester car park having wound up there over five centuries ago in the least dignified manner imaginable, mute testimony to the fact that lèse-majesté is not a new idea. And in any event, it’s not my intention to advocate abolition of the Monarchy – well, not in this article anyway – I just have the feeling that a few fresh ideas wouldn’t go amiss in the corridors of regal power.

One of the other oddities of the Queen’s life – so it has been suggested by various irreverent comedians – is that she thinks the world smells of fresh paint, as wherever she goes there is some industrious decorator a few steps ahead, adroitly wielding his brush and roller lest Her Maj should see a mucky mark and shame be piled on the heads of her civic or diplomatic hosts. Many a true word is spoken in jest – and she really has lived her whole long life, certainly since her maverick Uncle David gave up his Edward VIII crown for an American divorcée, with people trying to make things as brand-spanking glossy and new as possible for her. It’s a cosseted, artificial sort of existence, surrounded by eager sycophants, and let’s face it – you only live once. Shouldn’t our venerable Queen have the chance to savour a bit of real life before her time is up?

Isn’t it finally time for the job to be passed on to a new chap?

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Should ‘Richard Crookback’ – The Vanquished Richard III – Be Welcomed “Home” To Yorkshire?

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The late King Richard’s remains.  Note the pronounced spinal curvature.

The news that ancient remains, discovered under a Leicester car park, have been positively identified as those of King Richard III of England has led, predictably, to a bit of a tiff over where the late King should be re-interred.  There are some calls from traditionalists for the royal bones to find a final resting place at Westminster Abbey, where so many of our rulers are whiling away eternity.  Then again, there are those who argue that Richard’s own desire was to find a resting place at York Minster; and he was indeed the last king of the House of York – but he left no explicit instructions, and the sudden, violent nature of his demise would have made it difficult to be certain of the Royal Prerogative.

The argument for the remains to travel “home” to York may, in any event, be a little dubious, as the identification of the House of York with the geographical area of Yorkshire is less than completely accurate.  Those who see the Wars of the Roses as a battle between factions equivalent to modern-day Lancashire and Yorkshire, are somewhat wide of the mark – the alignments were more upon ancient heraldic lines than any local rivalry.  So estates and houses of the Duchy of York were spread throughout England and the Welsh Marches, rather than being confined to the Broad Acres.

In any event, it has to be said that some of Richard’s alleged activities during his lifetime would not reflect well upon any region claiming him as an Old Boy.  On the death of his older brother, Edward IV in 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector, with responsibility for the 12 year old King Edward V and his younger brother Richard.  However, our potential fellow Tyke acted swiftly to have his late brother’s marriage to the boys’ mother declared invalid, resulting in their illegitimacy – and meaning young Edward was ineligible for the throne.  Richard was subsequently crowned King, and the two young princes were never again seen in public.  Accusations were rife that Richard had fatally disposed of them, thus creating the legend of the Princes in the Tower.

Richard’s reign proved to be short – only two years – and tempestuous.  After suppressing a rebellion led by supporters of the late Edward IV, including the Second Duke of Buckingham who was then executed at Salisbury, Richard was less fortunate when Henry Tudor challenged for the throne, and he eventually became the last English king to die in battle, slain on Bosworth Field in 1485.  Due to the manner of his death, he was afforded only a cursory battlefield burial, and there he remained until he was recently unearthed from beneath that Leicester car park.

So Richard’s place in history owes much to a fairly negative press over the centuries since his death.  The taint of innocent royal blood on his hands has never really gone away, despite many scholarly efforts to discover the fate of the lost princes.  The identification of his remains will do little to solve that particular mystery, though it does now seem clear that Shakespearian references to a withered arm were false, though poor Richard did indeed have a distinct curvature of the spine – but again, not the “hunchback” of popular legend.

It would seem that the late king’s supposed wishes as to his long-term home after his death are unlikely to bear fruit, just as his ambitions in life were doomed to be thwarted, and perhaps that is no bad thing   It seems after all more than likely that he was a fairly unscrupulous sort of chap, and given to the sort of behaviour in his own interests that we’d like to think ill befits a proper Yorkshire lad.

In any event, it would appear that the Ministry of Justice license permitting the excavation to proceed in the first place also provides that the legal partners, Leicester City Council and Leicester University, have the right to choose where Richard will end up; so a reburial with all due ceremony at Leicester Cathedral is set for early next year.

It is not yet known whether any of the present-day Royal Family plan to attend.

Snouts In The Trough – But It’s Time Those Living High On The Hog Picked Up The Tab

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The thing about politicians is – if they’re not talking, or furiously thinking of a way out of their latest web of deceit, or maybe sleeping (a swift forty winks on the backbenches, the ultimate power nap), then they’re most likely at some or other official function, stuffing their faces with the finest of freebie food and drink.

Now, I’m not making a party political point here. I said “politicians”, and I meant the whole unsavoury crew of them, be they high-powered cabinet members, lobby fodder rank-and-file MP’s, or even your humble Joe Bloggs, Mavis Dogood or Tarquin FitzHerbert-Smythe in the local Council chambers. They all have the same basic bodily need for nutrition as us mere mortals. The difference is, they will quite often fill up to the Plimsoll line at the taxpayer’s expense. Is this fair or appropriate in these straitened times?

At a veritable crisis point of global financial meltdown, when our national debt is so high that even Wayne Rooney would need to ask for an extra week or two to pay it off, I find myself wondering: what’s the accumulated value of all the state and civic banquets, dinners, receptions, working lunches and other freebie jamborees that take place every day, all over the country? It must come to a good few bob. We’re not, after all, talking a few limp ham sandwiches, curling up at the edges and accompanied by motley shreds of anaemic lettuce. No, sir. These people do not skimp; they do themselves well, very well indeed. There’s proper, grown-up, posh food on heavily-laden and groaning tables – and it must be highly debatable how much productive thinking is left in those bloated plutocrats, after the desserts have been and gone, and the port, nuts and cigars pass around.

Of course, piling into the scran at the highest levels of power is nothing new. It’s been pretty much de rigueur ever since Henry I wolfed down half-a-dozen too many eels, and expired before he could gasp “surfeit of lampreys”. Kings, Queens, and assorted courtiers and other hangers-on have always been notable for their over-indulgence on rich food and fine wine. It sort of went with the territory in those far-off times, but it strikes a more discordant note these days when essential services – the culmination of the whole process of civilisation and enlightenment since before Henry I – are being cut left, right and centre. And yet still the state and political chomping goes on apace.

It’s only a matter of a couple of weeks since MP’s of all parties were calling for a 32% pay rise, despite their broad consensus that the rest of us should be grinning bravely and tightening our belts. Just what sort of message does that send out, when so much of their weekly calorific intake is provided and paid for, as part of their remit as legislators of our country? And the same applies at least in some degree to our business leaders – no subsidised canteen serving scrummy beans on toast with a poached egg on top for them – it’s Marco-Pierre White catering at the very least, no error – and waiter, send that bill to Accounts, there’s a good chap.

What if – bear with me here – what if MP’s, ponderous boardroom types, and indeed power-brokers everywhere were to embrace a novel concept, and actually pay for some of the scrumptious fare that comes their way so often, and gratis at that?  If this were the general principle, multiplied across all the many thousands of vastly expensive official meals and banquets that take place in this over-stretched nation every week, what would be the saving to the national purse?  I’m struggling to work that out on my fingers and in my head, but it’s a big, big number, make no mistake. It’s not as if the people we’re talking about are exactly impoverished – are they now? And what do the rest of us do when it’s time for lunch at work? Not everyone has even the subsidised canteen; many of us are away down to the high street for a cheese roll, which we’re – quite reasonably – expected to fund out of our own pockets.

It’s about time we all woke up to the fact that, on a grand scale, we’re being made right mugs out of, you and me. Every time there’s a new cost-cutting measure, or another idea for a wage freeze, you can bet your life it’s been hatched over the smoked-salmon canapés and the pâté de foie gras. And what’s more, we’re the simple souls paying for it. Could that money not be used much more productively, elsewhere?

Just think about that, the next time you’re counting the pennies at the end of the month, and wondering whether you can delay the big shop till after the weekend. Then again, that might even act as an appetite suppressant. Just thinking of all those banquets, all that luxury food, and above all, where the bill’s heading – might just actually make you sick.