The most frequent argument I have with my girlfriend is over the monarchy: her passionately against, me vaguely in favour, but provoked into a stronger defence by her attacks. The latest outbreak of our perennial debate started with this amusing but flawed diatribe by Tanya Gold in the Guardian.
As republican rants go, it’s one of the least convincing I’ve read.
I wonder if the title of the article, ‘Prince William and Prince Harry are a gift to republicans’ has been picked by an editor as the most attention-grabbing point, contrary to Gold’s intentions. If it was meant to be her main argument, it reveals its weakness by the fact it only appears in the last paragraph (discounting the summary) of a six paragraph article. Most of what she says in it is pretty unconvincing too.
“Harry is known primarily for inheriting the jocular racism of his grandfather.”
I reckon he’s known primarily for his military service, which most people seem to agree shows him being courageous, down-to-earth, willing to make the same risks and sacrifices as many ordinary citizens of the nation, and determined to make his own way in the world, on his own merits.
“William just seems desperately unhappy, an anxious sacrifice too befuddled by his destiny to grasp its needs or meaning.”
This is a clear case of the author reading her own prejudices into a situation she knows nothing about. How can she possibly know William is desperately unhappy? He’s never appeared in the slightest bit unhappy or uneasy in his public appearances. Every other commentator has talked about how confident and relaxed he is in his place and duties, compared to his father, and how positive it was that he married someone he chose for love, not the catastrophic arranged dynastic pairing of his parents.
A while ago I won a copy of Diana – In The Name Of Love in a raffle at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, and although you could almost see the hipster irony dripping off it, I actually popped it in a DVD player and watched it. Desperate unhappiness can be seen, almost crying out in the awkward public appearances of Charles and Diana, such as the engagement announcement. At the time of Prince William’s engagement to Catherine Middleton, there was much comment on the striking difference between Charles’ infamous “whatever in love means” comment, and the genuine love and happiness apparent in the younger couple.
“We read of… £250,000 dresses”
I presume this is referring to the wedding dress, and aside from the fact that £250,000 is a completely unsubstantiated and officially denied figure, we certainly don’t read of £250,000 dresses, plural. It’s a deliberate journalistic obfuscation to hide the weakness of Gold’s argument. In fact the Duchess of Cambridge is if anything renowned for the thriftiness of her fashion sense, buying high street brands and reusing them on numerous occasions.
“We read of £4,000-a-night hotel suites… This is the wages of unthinking entitlement”
I presume this refers to Harry in Vegas. I don’t know the funding details of that holiday (and nor does Gold), but even if he’d paid for it all himself (though it seems more likely that a suite would be split between the several people staying in it) it’s within the scope of a single young Army officer who wants to splash out before he goes on tour. It’s not the wages of unthinking entitlement, it’s the wages of an Army Captain.
“Last Saturday the princes attended a wedding; an RAF Sea King appeared and circled the castle. (The Ministry of Defence said there was no detour.) This is not forgivable expenditure.”
Again, this isn’t blasé royal opulence; it’s typical forces shenanigans, and with good precedent. On an exercise at Sandhurst, one of the female officer cadets in my company had a pizza delivered by her helicopter pilot boyfriend. And the official statements denying any burden on the taxpayer are in these cases plausible, since pilots have to do regular, and usually pretty boring, training flights to stay current and qualified – giving them plenty of scope to drop off pizza, or buzz a wedding, at no extra cost.
Rather than attacking the near-universally loved Princes, and coming off looking pretty unpleasant in contrast, Gold would have done better focusing on the embarrassment of Charles as King, which she touches on, but which Christopher Hitchens did far more effectively in the same newspaper over a decade ago. But I can hardly criticise her for failing to argue as well as Hitchens. We can all aspire to such heights. Neither of us are ever likely to reach them.