Royals are 'stuck in a class and time warp'

Head of Labour think-tank says Prince William should have gone to state school in order to better represent British people
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The Independent Online

The royal family must modernise or be effectively abolished through "public indif- ference", the head of a Labour think-tank warns today.

As Prince William celebrates his 21st birthday, the general secretary of the Fabian Society, Michael Jacobs, claims there is a "growing gap" between the monarchy and the British people.

"The people have changed and it hasn't," he writes in The Independent on Sunday. "Britain today is a diverse multi-national, multi-cultural, multi- faith (and no-faith) society with devolved government and sceptical (not to say cynical) democratic attitudes.

"The monarchy remains what it always has been - defined by class (aristocratic), religion (Church of England), race (white), territoriality (English, specifically southern English) and culture (corgis and horses)."

Mr Jacobs suggests the young prince should reject following the example of his mother in trying to become a celebrity to connect with people. He should have gone to state school, played football, made friends with black people in order to represent the British populace. The Fabian Society publishes its report on the Commission on the Future of the Monarchy next month. It will challenge the royal family's "cultural conservatism" and the Government's "constitutional conservatism" in failing to strip the monarchy of its ancient constitutional powers.

"We discovered last week that when Tony Blair believes that constitutional change is right he is prepared to act boldly," Mr Jacobs writes. "The Lord Chancellor's office actually has an older unbroken lineage than the monarchy. But there is unfortunately no evidence that he sees reform of the office of Britain's head of state as a similar modernising priority."

Mr Jacobs warns the monarchy against trying to connect with the people through celebrity, branding the attempt to do so by Diana, Princess of Wales a "disaster". "Few individuals survive it [celebrity]; no institution can, let alone one whose chief virtue is its stability and historical majesty."

He urges instead that they should be "representative" or at least achieve "existential representation" like the monarchies in the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden where the royal families "are seen as representing the kind of country which the people feel they are or would like to be".

"The British royal family has still not learned this lesson," Mr Jacobs writes. "The people the royals meet, the organisations they support, the public events they attend, the staff they employ, could all be drawn from a much wider cross section of British life.

"Yet what in fact do we see? William and Harry are sent to Eton and they are encouraged to play polo. If the princes had been sent to state schools (why not?), if they played football, if they had any black friends, they might begin to look a little more like a monarchy for the modern age."

'Stories about me not wanting to be King are wrong'

By Robin Stummer

"It's my duty" - such was Prince William's double-edged answer to the question of whether he would be happy to accede to the throne after his father.

Ending a week of unprecedented media access to the prince before last night's "Out of Africa" 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle, the second in line to the throne concluded his first in-depth interview with some frank observations.

"All these questions about do you want to be King?" he told the Press Association. "It's not a question of wanting to be, it's something I was born into and it's my duty. Wanting is not the right word. But those stories about me not wanting to be King are all wrong."

William, who is almost certainly starting his 22nd year today in the close company of pain-killers and Alka-Seltzer, was equally frank about the monarchy.

"The monarchy is something that needs to be there," he said. "I just feel it's very, very important. It's a form of stability and I hope to be able to continue that."

Speaking of the Queen, William was nothing other than an adoring, dutiful grandson. "She's a huge role model for me," he said. "She's incredible."

For one night only, the houses of Windsor and Spencer are believed to have been reunited, amid the canapés and hired pith helmets. With his uncle, Earl Spencer, and William's aunts Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale all invited, it was the first time the factions had met en masse since their falling out at the time of Princess Diana's death, nearly six years ago.

Prince William was keen to keep the party a small, intimate affair - a mere 300 friends including some of the longest, most luxuriant names in the world - revellers included Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, Natalie Hicks-Lobbecke and Davina Duckworth-Chad. Plain old Bill Windsor must have felt distinctly down market.

Not invited was Sarah, Duchess of York, though her daughters Beatrice and Eugenie were there.

The prince said he pitied women linked to him by the media. "There's a lot of speculation about every single girl I'm with," he said, "and it actually does quite irritate me after a while, more so because it's a complete pain for the girls."

Though William insisted that he should be in full control of his own party, the detail was left to Michael Fawcett, Prince Charles's former valet. But the choice of music was just William's. Shakarimba, a six-piece marimba band from Botswana, were flown in to perform for the grandchildren of the people who until 1966 ran their country, then Bechuanaland. William fell in love with their music while on a trip there four years ago.