Mugs

Queen90mug

FREE COMMEMORATIVE TEATOWEL FOR EVERY READER!

God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble Queen. The national anthem has its two primary wishes, assuming you believe that a supreme being, more supreme than a ruling monarch, played a hand in her long life of nobility. The British monarch, Elizabeth II according to the list of numerical monarchs stretching back to Alfred the Great who reigned between the years 871 and 899 at a time when Greatness was more enshrined and objective, is 90 years old today. That’s a good age. She should be applauded for reaching 90 and to apparently be in such good shape, both physically and mentally.

I feel pleased for anyone who makes it past 70 without succumbing to debilitating disease or the need to be hooked up to machines. Queen Elizabeth II seems not to be an evil person. She likes horses and dogs, so she can’t be all bad. Some would say she has “given” her life, or much of it, to her subjects, which is us. But it’s not a job she applied for. She was promoted from within the family firm, and given little choice in the matter. I would be gracious enough to say that she adapted well to her duties. I would also argue that it’s a lot easier to get to 90 if you don’t have to worry about anything. Few of us, her subjects, get to live a life that is all laid out for us by other people, where we don’t have to squeeze our own toothpaste out of its tube if we don’t feel like it, and are essentially on holiday all year round, in the sense that we are often abroad, and in transit, but without the faff of having to book, or wait around. It must be nice not to have to worry about money. I would guess that money worries are the number one cause of stress – and stress-related illness – in our society. To literally never have to worry about where the next penny is coming from is most people’s idea of a good life. The Queen has lived that life for 90 years.

Queen90b

On the occasion of her 90th birthday, the BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell (or “poor old Nicholas Witchell”, to give him his full title) interviewed her second eldest grandson, Prince Harry’s brother William, who is second in line to the throne. Witchell did so with the usual, required deference of commoners in the presence of the royals, and asked Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, what “sort of king” he thought he would be. If I had been called upon to ask Prince William this question, I fear I would have been unable not to burst into maniacal laughter at the very thought of asking a 33-year-old man about becoming “a king.” I watch Game Of Thrones, and I am captivated by the complex issues of succession in its interlocking kingdoms, a world of kings, princes, princesses and masters of coin. I am captivated because it is fiction. There are, by my finger-count, 42 monarchies in the real world, the one that we live in, in the 21st century, although quite a lot of them are “ruled” by the same royal family, our one. That’s because there was once a British Empire, “ruled” by Queen Victoria for the most part. Queen Elizabeth is, excuse my maths, the great, great, great granddaughter of Queen Victoria. This is all she had to be, to get the job of a lifetime, for a lifetime.

Queen90d

All of this bothers me. I live on a small island, which once commanded a huge chunk of the globe through the might of its trading power and the modernity of its arms. By the time I was born, less than ten years after Elizabeth was crowned Queen, this Empire was pretty much done. The flag had been lowered in most of its former colonies as independence started to seem like a better and more modern option. I saw Hong Kong handed back on the news. There are still some dependencies and protectorates dotted around; they’re the ones that keep getting namechecked in news stories about tax evasion. And Australia and New Zealand. At least Australia’s citizens had a vote on whether or not to keep the Queen in 1999, when around 55% of them said yes, and 45% said no. You kind of have to abide by this. I have never been able to vote on the same matter, and I doubt I ever will. I have to abide by that. But I don’t have to like it.

Victoria Wood, a talented woman loved by millions who had the same first name as the Queen’s great, great, great grandmother (I think), died yesterday after a short battle with cancer. She was 62. This would be a tragedy for anyone, but it’s one that touched those of us who’d never met Victoria Wood but saw her on the television, and merited headline news. The Queen has already lived 28 years longer than her, possibly because she never had to squeeze her own toothpaste out of its tube or run to a departure lounge. Today’s national newspapers found themselves with a dilemma. Because Victoria Wood, who got where she did through sheer force of talent and will, and possibly sacrifice, was clearly beloved, the non-republican newspapers had to squeeze their carefully planned Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations into half a front page or less to accommodate the inconvenient death of an adored public figure.

This adjustment was its own testament to the popularity of one woman, versus the perceived popularity of another (although few tabloids can resist a “battle” with cancer). We witnessed a rare ray of commonsense amid what feels like hysteria about a person’s birthday – or one of their birthdays. The Queen’s ability to procreate, and for her children to procreate, and for their children to procreate, is presented as an achievement almost magical in its exceptionalism. Look at the apparently left-leaning Daily Mirror‘s front cover and try to keep your dinner down.

MirrorQueen90th21Apri16

The queen is known as “Gan Gan” to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This might be sweet within the family, in private, but it feels over-familiar and inappropriate out in the public glare. By definition it infantalises us all, her subjects. The Daily Mirror can’t call her “Gan Gan”. Off with their heads, I say.

All of this shows how far we haven’t come as a nation. The death of Princes Diana, the Queen’s daughter-in-law, was supposed to change things forever. But it changed very little, except our national aversion to expressing our feelings or having a cry in public, which is seemingly a thing of the past. Queens, princesses, princes and masters of coin ought too to be things of the past. In my humble opinion. (That final qualification was for anyone on social media who thinks that opinions have to be declared, for fear of those opinions being read as objective, legislative fact, even if they are typed next to a small picture of your head and your name.)

Off with my head.

 

 

 

It’s a royal knockers-out

Pardon the deliberately lowered tone of the headline, but we must dip a toe here into the murky depths of tabloid intrusion and a very British obsession with bared flesh. Kate Middleton, an attractive if thin Berkshire woman of 30 whose official title is Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge – or has been since she married, with her eyes wide open, Prince William, His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus, in April 2011 – is currently on holiday. It is a working holiday, in the sense that she didn’t choose it, or plan it, and while on it, much of her time is being spent doing things she wouldn’t normally choose to do, while being photographed doing it. This is the life she chose.

Although her role in life is now predominantly played out in public, by her own choice, and much of what she does during the day is arranged specifically to be seen by the public, she is, like anybody entitled to private time. Of course she is. What she does in private is nobody’s business, unless it is against the law, at which point her qualification to represent this blighted nation before the rest of the world would be called into question. To my knowledge, she has not broken the law, and seems, if anything, quite nice.

However, last week, during some private time before embarking upon her current, paid, working holiday of Southeast Asia, she relaxed at the private chateau of Viscount Linley – which is his whole title – son of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon. (Linley’s daughter was a bridesmaid at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011.)

The royal couple called it a “second honeymoon”, according to the press, who must have been fed this information. And why not? The Chateau D’Autet in Provence, is set “amid 640 acres of ­lavender fields and woodland”. The temperature while they were there reached 31C (88F). Perfect weather for sunbathing, like normal people do.

During a spot of sunbathing, among friends and family, it seems that Kate took off her bikini top. We know this because a man photographed her in this state of undress with a long lens. As far as I know, he is not the first photographer to use a long lens. Again, as far as I can tell (as I haven’t seen the photos, other than on photos of the cover of Closer on the newsstands, which are on the internet), Kate went topless outside, on the verandah or balcony of Linley’s chateau. Now, outside on private property may be private on paper, but if you are outside, in the world, that privacy is harder to apply in actuality. The result of this confusion: scandal. And the second example of illicitly-documented young, royal nudity in two months.

In August, Prince Harry – sorry, His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales – took his clothes off in a hotel room in Las Vegas, during a game of what was reported as “strip billiards” and, seemingly, unsupervised. (One imagines the young royals are usually chaperoned for most of the time.) Photos of this nakedness were published in this country in the Sun, and the paper seemed to get away with it. He was naked in private, behind closed doors, but, unfortunately, among a bunch of other people who did not necessarily respect that privacy. Frankly, you take your kit off in a hotel room with other people in it, especially when phones are cameras, and you run the risk of photos being published. This, presumably, is why Clarence House didn’t attempt to sue anybody after the fact.

With Kate, it’s different, apparently. The French version of Closer magazine splashed the pictures (“Oh My God,” it squealed, in the international language of exclamation) and the magazine is being sued. The Irish edition of the Daily Star has also reprinted them, with an Italian magazine, Chi, threatening to do the same now. (Richard Desmond, the notoriously prurient and censorious owner of Northern & Shell, which publishes the Express and the Star, and co-publishes the Irish Star, has threatened to take his ball home and withdraw his stake after the publication of the snaps.)

So … before I comment on the whole hoo-hah, may I just state the following facts:

  1. I am a republican. I do not believe in the royal family. Which is not to say I do not believe that the current royals are descended from previous royals, or that there is such a thing as royalty, or that the current House Of Windsor goes back to 1917, before which it was called the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. I know that the crowned heads of Europe are all historically sort of interrelated, and that cousins have always been marrying, and that by this complicated series of fluid exchanges does Kate Middleton now get called Her Royal Highness as if perhaps we still live in the 15th century. I also know the powers of the constitutional monarchy are limited. I still firmly believe that by the state funding these decorative ambassadors, who are some of the richest landowners in the country, is wrong. I do not think the royals should be guillotined, merely stripped of their public funding and asked to fend for themselves, like the other aristocrats with all their assets.
  2. The world we live in is a coarse and ugly one, and no matter what the outcomes of the Leveson Inquiry, and the News International criminal prosecutions, it is unlikely that our newspapers will suddenly stop being interested in famous people at any time in the foreseeable future. The celebrity culture is here to stay for as long as it sells papers and advertising. I find it unedifying. But for as long as we all flock to the newsstands and the websites to seek out grubby gossip about people who are only by the smallest margin more famous or richer than ourselves, the papers and the websites will continue to print it, within the bounds of the law.
  3. Exhibitionism is now standard. Where once this country was renowned, and mocked, for being stuffy and sexless and tongue-tied and shy, we now seem to flaunt ourselves and our emotions with abandon. We make more noise. Sometimes this noise is cheering, as heard at the Olympics, and can be good noise. Sometimes it is simply shouting, as heard on trains and buses and in the streets after 11pm in cities, or in the afternoon if the sun’s out. (I passed through Euston station yesterday and a man, with his top off, was slumped at the feet of his friends at an outside table on the piazza, shouting at the world.) I am not John Major, or Mary Whitehouse; I do not wish a return to Victorian values, but my abiding prudishness does seem to make me feel increasingly out of step with modern thinking. This is my problem.

With all this said – and I hope I have painted a depressing enough picture for you! – I will say this: Kate Middleton is an idiot. Why, when she is the wife of the future King of the United Kingdom and the 16 sovereign states of the Commonwealth (gosh, even typing those words makes me feel a bit queasy), would she take her bikini top off when she is outside? It was the daytime. The clue that she was no longer inside, away from prying lenses, was that there was a sky above her. Prying lenses work best when there are no bricks between them and the subject. Paparazzi scum have been plying their trade since the 1960s when the term for their profession was coined in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (in which news photographers harass a visiting film actress, and, in a neat reversal, one of their scrum travels out to photograph a sighting of the Madonna at a church). Fellini said that the word Paparazzo “suggests to me a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging.”

Kate’s husband, William, is the bereaved son of Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales, herself hounded by the paparazzi, who were certainly on her tail when her car crashed in a Parisian tunnel, killing her, in August 1997. If ever a new royal knew what she was getting into, it was Kate Middleton. I am not Kate Middleton. But if I were, the one thing I would make sure I never did, ever, was to take my top off outside. Just in case. (We might remember that no topless shots of her late mother-in-law and arch publicity-manipulator Diana ever came to light, so we have to assume that she never went topless outside.)

It is a tragedy that a 30-year-old married woman cannot take her top off on the balcony of her bridesmaid’s parents’ chateau in Provence without being photographed from a very long distance away by a man who makes his living selling his photographs to magazine and news agencies, but there it is. I feel sorry for her up to a point, as her freedoms, as a holidaymaker in the South of France, have been curtailed in a way that an ordinary woman on a balcony’s freedoms would not be. But then, she is a member of the royal family, and I stopped feeling 100% sorry for her the day she agreed to join this unlikely and surreal firm of interrelated people.

Closer’s editor-in-chief Laurence Pieau described the photos as “beautiful” and claimed that they’d not printed anything degrading: “There’s been an over-reaction to these photos. What we see is a young couple, who just got married, who are very much in love, who are splendid. She’s a real 21st Century princess … a young woman who is topless, the same as you can see on any beach in France or around the world.”

Hey, I’m quaint enough to still be against Page 3. I don’t think women’s breasts should be shown in newspapers which can be seen by children and impressionable teenagers. This is the kind of 1980s woolly liberal I am, and if grown women want to be topless on beaches around children and people they don’t know, that must be their right. And with the internet, you might argue that what’s on the third page of a newspaper doesn’t matter any more. (I think it does.) We all agree that Kate Middleton has not committed a crime. When I first heard that topless pictures of her had been printed, I assumed these were from the days before she was married, from some scummy ex-boyfriend or something. If they had been, I would have had full sympathy for her, as she can’t really have known she was always going to be a “21st Century princess”.

But she slipped up. The world outside the walls of her chateau – a safehouse – is a sleazy one. She should know better. Don’t feed the trolls. The trolls have cameras.

Long to rain over us

Well, thank God that’s all over: the longest Bank Holiday of my life. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee turned out to be a good weekend for publicans, but much less so for republicans. At times during the dampened pageantry, feudal circumstance and flag-waving fever I genuinely felt quite alone. Out of step. Locked out of the love-in. It was an odd feeling. I had no interest in last year’s Royal Wedding, but it only lasted a day and was easily avoided. This loop of God Save The Queen and hip-hip-hoorays ran from Saturday to Tuesday, each day festooned with itinerary highlights and spectacles to ring round in the commemorative Radio Times. Street parties, flypasts, parades, concerts, bonfires, unpaid stewards, rosy-cheeked children, face-painted adults, those plastic Union Jack hats with elastic under the chin, Union Jack bunting unfurled, Union Jack cava uncorked … I saw a woman walking down our street with two flags attached to either side of her head, as if she was a car during the World Cup. I wished the neighbours good weather for their street jamboree – kitchen tables in the road, official roadblock, cars cleared – although I’m afraid they didn’t get it.

I don’t seek outsider status. I never felt that much like a rebel, or an outcast, growing up. Even when I had uncompromising hair in the mid-80s. Voting for Neil Kinnock in 1987 and 1992 felt nominally out of sync with the consensus – an act of rebellion in its own, NME-sponsored way. My views on certain issues have become rather entrenched and extreme in the past ten years, I admit, but we won’t go there. Politically, I was disenfranchised by New Labour and the Iraq war and it felt at the time like a pretty permanent situation. I had no idea just how repulsive a subsequent Tory government might be. But I’m hardly alone in this assessment. If the Spectator is going after Cameron and Osborne, it’s hardly storming the barricades to decry them as remote, self-serving, silver-spoon-fed buffoons.

But the Jubilee? I have been seriously overwhelmed by the apparently universal waves of approbation for the Queen. It’s as if the nation has been drugged and somehow I find myself mysteriously immune. A million people, “subjects”, subjecting themselves to the humiliation and inconvenience of attending a public event in London at a time of heightened security and threatened rain, with no guarantee that they’ll actually see the Queen? I did my level best to avoid the TV coverage, but saw the worst of it on Channel 4 News, which maintained a certain distance, but nonetheless covered all aspects of the festivities. It would be idiotic to deny that hundreds of thousands of people – and not all of them with the commonsense waiver of tourism – had a fantastic time at the boat thing and the pop concert and the Waitrose garden party and what looked a protest march up the Mall but was actually an act of self-kettlement and had no complaint. All those people walking up a pedestrianised road to watch the Royal Family on a balcony on large video screens, erected by the Greater London Assembly and thus paid for by the cash-strapped citizens of the most expensive city in Britain. I did as London Transport advised me to and avoided Central London for four days.

What got into people? I don’t mean to mock or to undermine, I merely ask the question. It’s clear that any shade of republicanism at a time of public holiday and extra drinking is unwelcome. I typed a few incendiary Tweets, but I did not take to the streets to wave a placard. I sincerely believe, as previously stated, that the Royal Family should be privatised for tourism, and that the 86-year-old Queen and the 91-year-old Duke should be allowed a peaceful retirement. Their eldest son, too. By all means call William a “King” but strip him of all constitutional powers (I heard someone on the news last night reminding us that the monarch has important political duties, to open Parliament and to choose Prime Ministers, but this is bollocks, she doesn’t, and shouldn’t anyway, have any democratic leverage) and let him generate tourist money for a PLC. If we replaced the Queen with an elected head of state, one who was re-elected every four or five years, I could live with that. This person might not be able to command a nation to wave OK!-sponsored flags and shout “Long live the Queen” from behind crash barriers to the news cameras, but it would stop this country looking like a museum exhibit. Even in the edited highlights, I grew weary of seeing grown men and women, but mostly men of course, dressed in garters and braid and wearing impractical headgear. Dressing up is fun, but these costumes smack of the Tudors, and The Tudors is a period drama on telly. How embarrassing that people still look like this on state occasions. I am a great fan of the state, but not on days like this.

Which brings me to my final moan. I am not a spoilsport. Ordinary people deserve a day off now and again. This is not about how much money it cost – although you can expect the pre-Jubilee estimates to spiral upwards as the true charges come in – but the simple equation at the heart of it: we, the people, saying “Thanks!” to a woman who had no choice but to take the job in 1952, for not jacking it in, or dying, in the meantime. At least other celebrities who have us gathered in large numbers, cheering and spending our money, give us a bit of themselves. We do not, and cannot, know this woman, or her family. She is, by definition and design, remote. Perhaps she should have our sympathy as well as our respect and admiration. Though her daily life is not enviable, she is considerably richer than even some of David Cameron’s old schoolmates. She likes horses and dogs, we know this much, but spends most of her life waving, travelling and dressing up, and not with her horses and dogs. It’s a waste of a life. And now her husband has caught an infection, which must have royally ruined her weekend, and all because he was made to stand in the rain and cold for four hours on a Saturday while some boats went past.

Meanwhile, the killing joke, unpaid “subjects” from Plymouth, Bath and Bristol who had slept under a bridge and had to change into their steward’s uniforms in the street, worse high-viz jackets so as to stop other “subjects” moving freely about public streets. Good on John Prescott for demanding an investigation in the company that hired them.

When I was an NME-reading idealist, I would have assumed that the musicians I admired would no more play for the Queen than to play Sun City. But on Sunday night, nearly all of them did, or so it seemed. Statues, in my utopian vision, were to be kicked over. Serfdom was a thing of the past. I was knocked back on Twitter for expressing my dismay that Madness would lend their talent and reputation to such an event as the Diamond Jubilee Concert, but I can’t help it. I’ve just always had them down as occupiers of the left field rather than the establishment. What I have discovered is that the battle lines have been moved. It’s now fine to support the monarchy (and by extension our attachment to the long-gone Empire and all its ceremonial trappings and honours), but still be a bit left wing. I mean, we expect those who’ve accepted a knighthood – Cliff, Elton, Macca, Tom – to bow and scrape before the monarch who tapped them on the shoulder with a sword (does she actually do that?), and even excuse the likes of Robbie and Gary, who must be angling for similar royal appointment in the future, but where do Madness fit in? Sir Suggs? Sir Woody? Sir Chas? What about Ed Sheeran? Is he, too, a royalist? (He’s 21, so perhaps he has yet to formulate any political opinions?) As for the comedians, of whom I definitely ask too much, I guess they’re in the noble tradition of Billy Connolly, Spike Milligan and Ben Elton in cosying up to the Royals, and that doing the Jubilee Concert is no worse than doing the Royal Variety Show. But I expect my satirists to stay outside the tent so that they can urinate in, and find the acceptance of orders of the British Empire antagonistic to this important position. Should I stop worrying about all this?

At one end of the scale there’s Melanie Philips in the Mail – a paper whose post-flotilla coverage even outstripped the Telegraph‘s 17 unbroken pages – claiming a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat at the flag-waving multitude on the banks of the Thames; at the other end there’s Owen Jones, a young man prepared to nail his colours to the mast and declare himself a republican on telly. I’m at the Jones end of the spectrum, but it’s lonely out here.

Game of throne

Hey, I celebrated the Queen’s Silver Jubilee along with everybody else in 1977. I was 12 and not yet a republican. The country had three TV channels and most cinemas had one screen. We didn’t have a street party in Winsford Way, because it was a through road, but there was a modest crisps-and-jelly affair for the kids in Jean and Geoff’s back garden, which I seem to remember appreciating, despite being the oldest there and approaching the quagmire of teenage. Mum bought us Jubilee-themed t-shirts – white with a Union Jack “J” on them, I think – and we wore them without protest and certainly without irony. My brother and I rode our bikes round the estate to see which houses had decorations outside. It was quite a few.

I must have been dimly aware of the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen but if so, it is not mentioned in my diary, only the fireworks on telly and the day off school and the lighting of the beacons, also on telly. Perhaps news really did travel more slowly to the provinces in those days. Punk certainly didn’t enter my life until 1979.

As a fully grown adult in 2002, I had to sit through the Queen’s Golden Jubilee as a card-carrying armchair anti-monarchist; by this time I had long come to regard the Monarchy as an outmoded, offensive and defunct proposition. The very idea of a bloodline denoting an income based upon tax and a caste system that actually categorises the majority as “subjects” is surely a relic from another century, and not even the 20th.

We may not be able to stop landowners handing down their wealth to their heirs (well, we could tax them harder like the postwar government did, but unless we’re going to stage an actual revolution – in this heat? – the rich won’t be stripped of their assets any time soon), but we can surely take the Royals off the civil list. No? Even at cut price and by selling off their yacht and putting a gift shop in Buckingham Palace, they still cost the state £32.1 million a year in grants and direct subsidy, and the fawning celebrations for this latest Jubilee are not going to come cheap. Not with all those boats! (Although it’s delightful to know that tourists will have to pay to enter certain public thoroughfares at the weekend. Glad you came?) Actually, in the fine tradition of public events, it’s being mostly funded by private money, but the taxpayer is stumping up for the not-inconsiderable security bill.

The Queen herself has a personal fortune of £310 million, mainly from property, so she doesn’t need to work again. She’s old; let her retire. So is her heir; let him retire too – he’s got plenty of retirementy things to be getting on with. If we’re going to keep this eccentric family as living waxworks for tourism, which is an option, then cut them loose, turn them into a private corporation and let them manage their own finances without state handouts. If they want jobs where they don’t have to pay tax, then they should become the head of the IMF. (Surely the Tories would stand up and cheer the notion of privatising them?)

I think what I’m really against this weekend is not the Queen asking us to celebrate her not-insignificant 60 years on the throne, but the four-day weekend itself. Two bank holidays? Really? (And this was originally a New Labour initiative, I believe.) And there was I thinking the economy was in peril. I’ve just received my weekly email from Transport For London and it basically tells me not to bother going into Central London between Friday and Tuesday. Similar advice will be sent out for the Olympics and the Paralympics, a grotesque carnival of corporate self-interest and cross-promotion whose admirable sporting achievements will struggle to be seen and heard above the din of product placement. (Cheery cartoon posters on the trains warn those of us who live here and whose council tax paid for the Olympics to avoid certain key stations, change our journeys, work from home and generally get ready to have our working lives disrupted for the best part of a month. Other posters ask us to volunteer to clean the streets of London for nothing, and entice us to do so by jokily telling us that it’s like when your Mum comes round your flat except your flat in London and your Mum is the “rest of the world”. This initiative is sponsored by Fabreze and other cleaning brands linked with huge multinational petrochemical corporations, which begs the question: why don’t they put their sponsorship money into paying people without jobs to clean up? I thought that’s what this recovery was all about?)

This is no summer to live in the capital. (And God help you if you are disabled; I saw a report on Channel 4 News which showed a wheelchair user getting on the Piccadilly line at Heathrow and being literally unable to get off the train for the whole line, having to travel all the way back to Heathrow to escape the London Underground. Still, they did rather spring the Olympics on us, didn’t they?)

I admit it: I dislike forced jollity. I’m all for fun, don’t get me wrong, but I like to decide when I’m going to have it. (I’m not much use on New Year’s Eve, either, but I am great at spontaneously getting the beers and rosé in and turning an afternoon into a long night without warning. And not always on my own!) I find it difficult to get worked up about things the Royals have achieved, as they have the biggest head start in Britain. When one of them found a girlfriend willing to sacrifice all vestiges of normality and privacy in return for marrying into his eccentric family a year ago, I was expected to be excited about that. I wasn’t.

If you’re interested, the Guardian did a very informative pictorial spread on the weekend’s festivities, with all the sailing ships and everything. It’s here. (It being a republican paper, it also shows you how much the Queen costs.) I’m planning on avoiding the whole thing by going to the cinema for four whole days (cool, dark, serves chilled beverages etc.). It will be good practice for the Olympics. If I may risk an athletics allusion, don’t get me started on the Olympics.

(Oh, I’m really looking forward to Euro 2012. I hope those far-right Ukrainians are excited that their Mum ie. the rest of the world, is coming round their flat.)

Queen of everything

Never mind the European debt crisis, or Syrians being shot in the street by their own government, the big news this week is a constitutional change in this country. What has been called “the biggest shakeup in the rules of royal succession in centuries”, ratified by the leaders of the 16 Commonwealth nations where the Queen serves as head of state, means that an elder daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would become Queen if they give birth to, as David Cameron put it, “a little girl”, whereas before, any masculine children born after this “little girl” would have leapfrogged their big sister to the throne, due to institutionalised sexism built in for 400 years. To which the natural response must surely be: WHO GIVES A MONKEY’S? I mean, we’re all feminists, right, but this is equality within a sphere of much more serious inequality.

Pardon my vulgar republicanism, but every time this story ran on TV or radio yesterday, I was engulfed by a wave of NOT GIVING A MONKEY’s. So, bad luck if you’re a “little boy” born to Wills and Kate if they have a “little girl” first; for the last 400 years you’d still have become King, but now you won’t. These sweeping constitutional changes also lift the ban on anyone in the line of succession marrying a Catholic. This is also big news, as Catholics have been well unpopular in the Royal Family for the last 400 years. We don’t burn them any more, but we might as well, eh? Again … WHO GIVES A MONKEY’S?

It might be girl and not a boy who becomes the ruler of the waves, but it will still be … someone who is by accident of birth related to the Queen. Who cares if it’s a man who would be king, or a woman who would be queen? It’s still going to be a Royal! It’s not a fair contest. And as well as “rule” us, he or she is also going to “rule” Australia, even though Australia is, well, another country, and one that’s quite a long way away. (They voted in 1999 to keep her; we’ve never been given that luxury.) The Queen, we are told – a woman lucky enough to become Queen because she didn’t have any brothers but was related to the King – signalled “her approval” of the changes by allowing her private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, to attend the meeting of the leaders of “her realms” in Australia. What language are we talking here? Realms? Succession? And is wealth really common in the Commonwealth? Or does most of it belong to a tiny fraction of people, as it does everywhere else. Common wealth: hmmm, sounds a bit like socialism to me.

If this isn’t the dictionary definition of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, I will be very disappointed. This country is going to the dogs; its welfare state is being systematically dismantled; we are now into three generations of jobless in some cases; the financial institutions that led us into this recession – or these recessions, if there really is a double-dip – continue to trade as if nothing has happened while ordinary people are laid off left, right and centre; meanwhile, we are ruled over (and the Queen, by the way, a sort of souvenir doll for tourists, does not “rule” and if she is not the dictionary definition of power without responsibility, I’ll be very disappointed) by a coterie of moneyed politicans so out-of-touch they make the Thatcher government look well hip and street-smart, not to mention timorous – after all, Thatcher only dismantled industry, transport, education and utilities, even she didn’t dare privatise the NHS. But hey, the Royal Family have had a bit of a think about the unfairness of the system by which they always get in, without election, and live off our money while they glad-hand around the world and expect us to have street parties when they get married. Let me just think … do I give a monkey’s? NO, I DON’T.

The immediate impact of this “royal shake-up” (I can think of a much better royal shake-up, by the way), will place the Princess Royal, the Queen’s daughter, fourth in the line of succession behind the Prince of Wales and his two sons. At the moment the princess is 10th. The Duke of York, who is fourth, will drop to seventh. Hang on … I DON’T GIVE A MONKEY’S!

The change will not affect the position of the monarch as the supreme governor of the Church of England, because Catholics will still be barred from the throne. The Church of England will remain as the established church. WHO CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARES? Legislation will amend laws including the Bill of Rights 1688, the Act of Settlement 1700, the Act of Union with Scotland 1706 and the Coronation Oaths Act 1688, Princess Sophia’s Precedence Act 1711, the Royal Marriages Act 1772, the Union with Ireland Act 1800, the Accession Declaration Act 1910 and the Regency Act 1937. Good. Can we instead just set fire to all these ancient acts – or photocopies of them, if they’re valuable – and help keep the old people warm during the predicted Arctic winter now that they’ve had their heating allowances cut because keeping old people warm: that’s a bit of a fancy luxury, isn’t it?

David Cameron paid tribute to the “60 years of extraordinary public service” by the Queen who opened the Commonwealth summit in Perth on Friday. He announced the creation of a Diamond Jubilee Trust, to be chaired by Sir John Major, to help people in need across the Commonwealth. I can think of a much better way of raising money for that cause, by the way.