The news that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is to step down from the throne in April, to give her eldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander, a shot at reigning will come as a relief to the Dutch people. She wasn't a popular queen: she married a German aristocrat who'd been involved in the Hitler Youth movement, and refused to cut back her state allowance of €830,000 (£710,000) as other European royals had done. Nowhere, though, will her abdication be more warmly greeted than at a certain address in London SW1…
The scene: Morning. The Blue Dining Room, Buckingham Palace. Prince Charles is seated at the table, buttering toast and reading the newspapers. The Duke of Edinburgh is helping himself to scrambled eggs and kippers. Admiral Sir Mortimer Blanchard and Field Marshal Rodney "Stinker" Fortescue are in attendance.
Enter HM the Queen.
Prince Charles: Marvellous people the Dutch. Very sound in many areas. Art. Cheese. Windmills. Er, tulips. A very enlightened bunch, historically. We could learn a lot from them.
The Queen: Are there any Cinnamon Grahams?
Admiral Blanchard: All finished, I fear, Ma'am. May I pass you the Oatibix?
Charles: Have you seen the newspapers, Mummy? There's a very interesting piece in The Independent about Queen Bea…
The Queen: One has decided to read nothing in the print media any more, bar Horse & Hind and Arthritis Monthly. Everything else is all rot. Anything I need to know, Stinker here can brief me.
Charles: Queen Beatrix has announced she's, ah, stepping down, Mummy. Of course she is a great age… I mean, 75. It's amazing she's kept at it so long.
The Queen: Stepping dine? In what sense is she stepping dine?
Charles: She is, ah, retiring from her role as head of state. Ceasing to reign. Relinquishing the throne to let her belov...
The Queen: Why must one always have this Waitrose tiger bread? It's like eating one's embroidered pillow.
Charles: ... beloved son become king. He's 45 you know. Quite old really. [Hastily] Not too old, of course. Sufficiently mature, I mean, to take on such a solemn duty.
The Queen: And this Lurpak Spreadable stuff isn't real butter. It's got some kind of oil in it.
Charles (voice trembling): She must love him very much to stand aside and give him the chance to...
The Queen: Mmm. Although this Oxford marmalade always hits the spot.
Charles (tartly): It says in The Independent that her reign was marked by tragedy and family scandal, and it's jolly well time she gave up.
The Queen: Philip? What do you make of this Dutch queen story?
Prince Philip: Never liked 'em. She and her kids always marrying bloody crooks or beastly Nazis. Not a patch on Juliana, any of 'em.
Charles (slyly): Marvellous person, Queen Juliana, wasn't she? Of course she also, ah, retired, didn't she, in 1980, so that Beatrix could take over?
The Queen: The word I think you're groping for, Charles, is abdicate. I say "I think" because it's not a word in one's vocabulary. (Steely) Nor ever will be.
Charles: Oh, Mummy. (Puts head in hands. Blubs)
Prince Philip: Pass the Duchy Originals, there's a good chap.