Dan Jones: I wouldn’t have a problem if honest Prince Harry made it to the throne
It’s good to be the king, said Mel Brooks, but actually, maybe it’s not. “Is there any one of the Royal Family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so,” said Prince Harry, in an interview published this week. The job, he explained, was not about wish-fulfilment but about “the greater good of the people”.
So forget Brooks dressed as Louis XVI, groping courtiers and pinching grapes from their hats. Duty, Harry suggested, not self-indulgence, is the cornerstone of royalty. As he and Prince William work to modernise the House of Windsor brand, that is their core message.
Harry’s interview, which also touched on his short- and long-term discomfort over the way his mother’s death was handled two decades ago, was admirably candid, clearsighted, honest and mature. He is apparently fond of the expression “a leopard can change its spots”: a Just So Story euphemism for “a prince who once went to a fancy-dress party dressed as a Nazi can actually grow up to be a decent bloke”.
Nevertheless, as is always the case when anyone is honest about the monarchy, it was impossible to ignore the paradoxes the institution presents.
The clearest of them is that right now the people seem to be far more in favour of monarchy than the royals themselves. The crown may weigh heavy on the head but the Great British Public doesn’t want to hear about it. Whatever the merits of popular democracy, surveys routinely show our overwhelming support for a head of state chosen on the basis of Protestantism and proximity of relationship to Sophia, Electress of Hanover.
Two years ago YouGov found that only nine per cent of Britons believe the monarchy is bad for Britain. For context, 41 per cent of us believe that it is bad to put pineapple on a pizza.
During the general election campaign even Jeremy Corbyn abandoned his life-long republicanism to concede that getting rid of the monarchy was a battle he was no longer actively fighting. Well, leadership and political constitution are emotional matters as much as they are rational ones, which I suppose is why Corbyn has done so well lately. But that is another matter.
My personal hunch is that, whatever we tell pollsters, the British people are actually not much bothered about the monarchy per se. What matters to them is the royals. The conceptual distinction between king and crown was first crystallised here during the later Middle Ages, and it remains as important today as it did then.
Princes Harry and William have seen through experience, some of it bitter and painful, that when it comes to the crown in the 21st century, the whole gig is a likeability contest.
Unlike the oil-and-gas princelings of the Gulf States, for whom monarchy is underpinned by the price of the barrel and royal blood is little more than a licence to coat your Ferrari in gold lacquer and park it on the pavement outside Harrods, William and Harry are charged with demonstrating that there is a continuing use and a purpose for the archaic institution into which they have been born.
If they do it well, the British crown may still mean something 100 years from now. Fail, and the game is up.
So credit where it is due: Harry in particular has been smashing it lately, devoting himself to meaningful, charitable work on issues such as veterans’ welfare and mental health.
Even as he laments the unasked-for burden of royalty, and pines for normality — “if I were king I would still do my own shopping,” he says, meaning Waitrose, I think, not Harvey Nicks — he does so with a folksy bonhomie most politicians can only dream of summoning.
Fifth in line to the throne, only a disaster will make him king. But you would not complain if it had to be Prince Hal.
Winter is the last thing that has been coming during this hot and sticky week but the penultimate series of Game of Thrones is on its way all the same. That rumble you may have felt on Wednesday was the internet reacting as a trailer emerged for season seven, in which things seem to be getting spicier than ever. Dragons, swords, wolf-pelts and ice-zombies are all present and correct, as big, bad and nasty as ever.
As usual with GOT trailers, this one teases rather than dumping plot, but from what I could work out there seems to be talk of sometime enemies banding together for a titanic struggle ahead of them.
So like everyone else, Westeros is contemplating coalition politics, although I think that even the despicable house of Lannister (of whom Cersei played by Lena Headey is a proud member), would draw the line at going into business with the DUP. The new series starts on July 17 — and already it feels like a very long time to wait.
Source: standard co uk
Tags: Throne, Prince Harry, Trailers