Lese Majeste

Dear Cato,

I do very much take your point about the seriousness of the present times and thus the need to give this due weight in our commentaries. However, perhaps there is still a place for gallows humour ? I believe it may be eminently necessary given the current world situation and, on a less than global scale, the present froth and lather whipped up by the tabloid press over the Meghan and Harry imbroglio here in the UK !

Stepping back, I do wonder what makes ardent monarchists tick ? There seems to be among them an almost mystical, blind and unquestioning faith in the institution of the monarchy. This was evidenced by a very dear friend – who passed away about three years ago – who spent much of his life serving the aristocracy as a gamekeeper; latterly on an estate where we lived next door to him in a rented cottage for a few years. Apart from his all round goodness and fun as a human being, one of his claims to fame was having taught Prince Charles to shoot (or, at least, having tried to !)

His view on the monarchy, nay, on all the aristocracy, was that we ordinary mortals could not fathom their ways but should merely shake our heads at their antics and eccentricities. History and tradition was enough for Bob; in spite of my best endeavours, he had an unshaken belief in the unbroken line of succession spreading back to an ethereal past peopled by men and women of true distinction and wisdom. I did try my best to point out that this this almost ubermensch analysis tended to ignore a multitude of acts down the years (fratricide, regicide, invasion, illegitimate accession, coup d`etat) that rendered the purity of the line somewhat questionable. As far as he was concerned, it was still “the rich man at his castle, the poor man at his gate”.

I say all this in light of the current hysteria sweeping the United Kingdom – a dubious title given the current state of affairs – concerning Meghan and Harry. In my humble opinion, the Royal Family has for many years remained an overblown, overstaffed and increasingly marginalised institution. Rarely has the Monarchy made changes unless they have been forced upon it; thus in the wake of Diana`s death a more empathetic and human face began to be shown, albeit somewhat reluctantly. Perhaps now, with Meghan and Harry, we begin to see another sea change. For my part, I say good luck to them. We are really the last of the European royal households to try to adopt a more contemporary and relevant role. The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Andorra and Belgium have all transitioned reasonably well to a functioning constitutional democracy without the vast entourages that currently accompany the House of Windsor.

I see Harry and Meghan as a decent couple, no better, and certainly no worse than the rest of us, trying to carve out a life for themselves in what are actually quite difficult circumstances. I am certain that the extent of the media coverage is not fully appreciated across the pond. The tabloid press over here is absolutely vile. It is relentless, it is invasive, it assumes a sense of ownership over the lives of those it chooses to headline which it has absolutely no right to do and it presumes to set a national agenda which is frankly completely at odds with the true everyday cares and concerns of the vast majority of the population. The royal couple are seen as a commodity and there are truly disgusting racist and biased overtones to much of the commentary accompanying the media coverage.

I would rather see a considerably slimmed down and modernised monarchy and one that does not attract such a centre stage for our attention. In the meantime, I say, good on you Harry, you won`t be the first buttoned up man saved by the intervention of a good (that is to say, sassy) woman.



Into the New Decade

My Dear Plato:

I realise that you wished to include humour in our correspondence, yet the recent actions of the so-called “President” of this Republic must surely preclude any such levity. Through his reckless action, he has sown the seeds of war which I rather suspect will produce a harvest of violence that will not soon recede in memory. One thinks of past rationalisations such as the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam or the weapons of mass destruction supposedly in Iraq, and the doubts begin to arise when told of “imminent attacks” planned by the late Iranian general recently “taken out” by the “flawless” drone attack.

One should remember that the last time the United States assassinated a similar figure was in 1943 when P-38 war planes intercepted Admiral Yamamoto during an inspection tour in the Pacific. Of course the difference between that action (somewhat questionable in itself) and the current killing is that we were then in a declared war with the Empire of Japan. Clearly such is not the case (as yet) with Iran. Questions of international legality thus arise, accompanied of course with other concerns such as morality, Constitutional protocol, or simply the stupidity of such impulsive behavior accompanied with apparently so little concern for consequences.

If ever there was convincing evidence that the current occupant of the Office of President is unfit to hold that position, this latest decision on his part shines forth in any court of reason. My namesake of over two millennia ago struggled to see the Republic of Rome maintained in the face of rising dictatorship. We in this country have at least a chance to succeed where he ultimately failed. We can still vote. It may well be that in the future (assuming we have one), historians will look back at 2020 as the crucial year in determining whether democracy would survive in this land of such promise.

No, my dear Plato, as we enter yet another dark tunnel of conflict and human suffering, it is clear that any attempt at humour would be in the same league of taste as that conveyed the President in so many of his mindless tweets. I do of course wish you and any who grant us the courtesy of reading this brief missive, the very best in the New Year with the sincerest wish that the commonality of the human condition will cause reflection and good will to triumph over the forces of fear and animosity.