Royal revenge: 'We had to draw the line somewhere'

The Queen doesn't like him, so he wasn't invited. But the snub to Tony Blair makes a nonsense of claims that Friday's wedding has modernised a fundamentally Conservative institution

Of course it was a snub. The Royal Family wouldn't be so vulgar as to do it in the open, so there was a cover story, but it was a snub.

The cover story, which had the technical advantage of being true, was that protocol allowed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to be left off the guest list. But it was a flying buttress of piffle.

If you care to follow me, I can explain the intricacies of precedent that sustain this nonsense. You do not need to immerse yourself in the angels and pinheads, because they are beside the point, but if you stay with it there is a kind of Catch-22 charm to the idiocy of it all.

The wedding was not a state occasion because it didn't involve the monarch herself or the heir to the throne, which makes it different from the one in 1981, which did. For a state occasion, the angels on a pinhead say that former prime ministers may be invited, as they were 30 years ago. For a non-state occasion, they get the gold-edged card only if they are Knights of the Garter or the Thistle, personally appointed by the Queen. And Tony Blair and Gordon Brown aren't, although that only rephrases the snub question in a different form, namely "why not?", as there are currently two vacancies in the Order of the Garter.

Anyway, they're not knights of either order, so it had "simply not crossed Prince William's mind" and – give a gong to the anonymous spin-courtier who thought up this gem – "we have had to draw the line somewhere".

So where, Sir, shall we draw it? Who can doubt that, when the protocol wallah presented the draft list to the Prince and his grandmother, Blair and Brown's names were not on it? The wallah, or one of the spin-courtiers, may then have murmured that some of the newspapers might notice that two former Labour prime ministers weren't invited but that Baroness Thatcher and John Major were. And then what? Did the Prince leap up and say, "Bugger protocol, they were the people's prime ministers, they'll have to come"? We think not. Apparently, he and Kate could "break with tradition" to issue a message in the order of service thanking people for their good wishes, but not to invite Blair and Brown.

Nor, on this occasion, is my judgement clouded by my opinion that Blair was, on balance, quite a good prime minister (we'll come to Brown in a moment). It was the Daily Mail that first reported this gap in the guest list, last weekend, and The Sunday Telegraph that first took offence, before the Mail returned to it, carrying a remarkable leading article on Wednesday, saying, "This paper never held a torch for Tony Blair." Which is true in the sense that it never held a torch for Myra Hindley either. But it described the decision not to invite the former prime ministers as "a shabby, divisive and deeply unwise step for the monarchy".

So it was a snub. But why? The former PM and his wife are "completely mystified", the IoS can reveal. Well, we can guess. For all the nonsense about how this wedding symbolised the "modernisation" of the Royal Family, the establishment is alive, well and fighting back. It regarded Blair, with Brown his appendage, as a mortal threat to Conservative home counties civilisation as it knows it.

With the disclaimers that apply to mere speculation, the specific reasons why the Royal Family might be happy to allow protocol to exclude Blair and Brown include:

1. The Windsors cannot forgive Blair for helping to save them from the nation's dangerously angry mood after the death of Princess Diana. This is stinking ingratitude and deeply unfair, but it is how the vindictive classes work.

2. Blair's memoir. In it, he boasted about saving the monarchy while typically recognising that this might stoke resentment: "The Palace had asked me to read a lesson [at Diana's funeral]. It was a mark of how pivotal my role had been through the week, but I also knew it would lead to a charge of 'muscling in'. Indeed, throughout, we were walking a tightrope, thinner and more frayed by the day, between organising everything to go well and 'cashing in' or exploiting." Worse, he quoted liberally from the Queen. This is against the rules that are designed to avoid letting "light in on the magic" and which she guards jealously. Serious danger of a Victorian sense of humour failure.

3. Blair's book also includes an account of a conversation with Prince William, aged 15, in the days after Diana's death. He was "grieving but angry", and Blair provides a cost-benefit analysis on his behalf: "For all the sense of duty, the prison walls of hereditary tradition must have seemed too high a price to pay."

4. Brown's cancellation of the replacement for Britannia, the royal yacht.

5. Labour's spiteful (as the Royal Family sees it) ban on hunting. (That Blair was personally opposed to a ban presumably cuts little mustard.)

6. Cherie's reluctance to curtsy, or to conceal her republican tendencies.

7. Blair's expulsion of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

8. Blair made the Queen sing "Auld Lang Syne" in the Dome at the millennium. And then wrote a funny account of it in his memoir.

Who, then, should take responsibility for the lack of an invitation? William may have taken offence at Blair's conduct in 1997, or at the words in his book, but that the Royal Family corporately, led by the Queen, "held no torch" for him, seems the most likely reason. They are not exactly Labour – a lack of sympathy that may well be shared by the Middleton family. Yet it seems that the animosity was also personal with regard to Blair. It is hard to imagine that the Queen would have been fond of Brown. For example, during a visit to the London School of Economics in November 2008, she said of the financial crash: "Why did nobody notice it?" Even if she had been, he could hardly have been invited and Blair not.

David Cameron should share some of the blame. He surely should have intervened to advise the Royal Family that it was engaged on a foolish and dangerous course. But he and the Royal Family seem to share a blind spot, in that they fail to see that their unthinking Conservatism will be perceived as spite.

Cameron showed his true colours in a radio interview 12 days ago when he, apparently casually, spiked Brown's chances of the job of head of the International Monetary Fund. For all the Conservative leader's attempts to modernise his party, and for all the admiring commentary about William and Kate presenting a modern face of the monarchy, both institutions remain deeply Conservative.

It was noticeable to the normal television viewer, but not presumably to those who saw the lists in advance, that there were many Conservative politicians at the abbey, including George Osborne, William Hague, Theresa May, Kenneth Clarke, Sir John Major and Lord Hurd. But only one Liberal Democrat, Nick Clegg, and two Labour politicians, Ed Miliband and Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales.

For Cameron and the Royal Family, so-called modernisation is a tactic, a way of using the enemy's weapons to roll back the advance of New Labour. Their vision of "ordinary" Britain is a trestle-table, Berkshire golf-club version, and Tony Blair symbolises everything that they hate and fear. As David Starkey wrote last week: "A national monarchy has become a home counties one; the symbol, not of the nation, but of comfortable Britain."

Additional research by Charlie Cooper

Guest-list talking points – the celebrity inclusions and controversial omissions

Why were they there?

David Beckham

The LA Galaxy star Beckham and William, as president of the FA, became friends when they were closely involved as ambassadors of England's failed 2018 World Cup bid. David and wife Victoria arrived early at the wedding, but he mistakenly wore his OBE on his right lapel.



Sir Elton John

A good friend of Prince William's mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. The last time he was at Westminster Abbey he performed an emotional rendition of 'Candle in the Wind' at her funeral in 1997. Attending with his partner David Furnish, the emotional Elton had tears in his eyes during the service.



Rowan Atkinson

The actor and comedian is a close friend of Prince Charles. The Blackadder and Mr Bean star also appeared at the comedy gala We Are Most Amused in 2008 a special show to celebrate the Prince's 60th birthday. Atkinson took a pew alongside Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Ben Fogle.



Guy Ritchie

The film director who made the cult 1990s film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but is still best known as Madonna's former husband, was listed in the invitations as "a friend of Prince William and Kate Middleton". The Prince's spokesman declined to offer an explanation on how the three knew each other.



Joss Stone

The soul singer, from Devon, was reported to have become close to William when she performed at a memorial concert in 2007, which marked the 10th anniversary of Diana's death. The friendship is reported to have blossomed after the concert, although this was dismissed as rumour at the time.

Why weren't they there?

Gordon Brown

The wedding was not a state occasion and did not involve the Queen herself, so former prime ministers were invited only if they were Knights of the Garter or the Thistle. Mr Brown and Mr Blair are not, although there are currently two vacancies in the Order of the Garter.



Tony Blair

St James's Palace said there was "no protocol reason" to invite Mr Blair or Mr Brown, and disputed the comparison with the Prince of Wales's wedding to Diana, when former prime ministers were invited. A spokesman said that because it was a private wedding, the couple were entitled to invite whoever they wanted.



Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York

The Duchess has endured a disastrous 12 months, in which she tried to sell access to Prince Andrew for £27,000 in a newspaper sting, while reportedly struggling debts of £5m. Fergie said she "never expected" to be invited, adding that should would have missed the ceremony in any case because of "private plans overseas".



Paul Burrell

Diana's former butler sold his story in his book The Way We Were: Remembering Diana and in so doing became an occasional entertainment celebrity. He was formerly the Queen's footman and describes himself as a "noted authority on all things regal".



Lily Allen

The former singer turned fashionista tweeted her outrage at not being invited despite performing at the Concert for Diana in 2007. "Why does bloody Joss Stone get an invite and not moi? I sang at the Diana concert too!" she wrote.

Andrew McCorkell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick