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Deborah Orr: Privates on parade

THESE DAYS, all sensible public figures want to keep their private lives private. But the royals are compelled to make a far more generous dispensation. Royal births, deaths and marriages are our business as well as theirs. It is by these crude mechanisms that our heads of state are selected. But how vulgarly in step with only the crassest aspects of the modern sensibility such metaphorical display of the bloodied sheets really is.

Nowadays you can tell a celebrity apart from a celebrated person by the way the former court publicity by going on chat shows and talking about themselves instead of their work, turning up at parties, appearing on reality telly, pressing interviews on the celebrity press, employing spin doctors or even just calling up gossip writers to spill their guts about their private lives.

It's not just that royals are now snapped with celebrities such as Geri Halliwell (left). The trouble is that quite a number of the activities undertaken by the narcissistic- personality-disordered creatures who populate Heat are identical to the displays that must be undertaken by the Royal Family. Somehow, something that is supposed to define tradition, dignity and pomp instead more resembles the desperate antics of a superannuated Spice Girl.