As Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall accompanied Her Majesty to the State Opening of Parliament yesterday, a new era of British life was being discreetly ushered in.
The dawn of the new Royal job share. Apparently, Buckingham Palace and Whitehall began conspiring on how to deal with the Queen’s advancing years several months ago. They concluded that Prince Charles – the longest-serving heir apparent in British history – should take a more upfront role.
To make Charles official regent – the effective co-monarch – would require an amendment to the Regency Acts. Yet the general feeling is that Charles will do a great deal more. Obviously, this brainwave wasn’t actioned before the Jubilee celebrations, during which Her Majesty was worked harder than Harry Styles during a global pre-album sales push. Still, it’s comforting that some of the shadowy figures who keep the monarchy afloat noticed that the Queen is an actual mortal, ageing human being.
The Queen is 87 years old and she took 425 face-to-face business meetings in 2012, which was 100 more than in 2011. My father is 10 years younger than her and it takes a six-day pep talk and some bribery to push him into one singular “meeting” in a Toby Carvery and that’s with his own children. He’s happy indoors with his feet up. And the Queen – it has troubled me for a while, because I do like her a great deal – could do with a bit of feet-up time, too.
She is still as sharp as a tack but, by God, she’s done her duty. She’s endured more than 15,000 official engagements and 261 official overseas trips. The poor woman has been dispatched to look fondly at Canada 22 times and Australia 16 times. Send Charles on the foreign trips, let Camilla understand the true joy of moist knee-backs, mild sunstroke and being met off a 28-hour flight by a full 32-person Ka Mate haka.
Oh, the obsequious arse-kissers and the hip-hop Shakespeare performances and all those awful children in wards coughing airborne virus and all the worrying what the hell Philip will say next and fretting that Fergie will try and gatecrash every event, and all that gracious smiling at another gifted set of terrible steak knives. Let Charles take the strain. Pass Charles the DVT socks and the mosquito spray. This is one job share I can get behind.
Actually, it’s the only job share I can get behind because in everyday life job shares, being frank, are ghastly for everyone other than the two people who want to work part-time. “Don’t worry, your house sale is being looked after by two estate agents on job share”. That’s a remark that calms nobody. “Be not afeared,” the doctor’s receptionist might say. “The district nurse will be popping in to see your relative on Wednesday. At least, we think she will – she’s on job share!”
Yet, in the case of the royal household, job-share seems to me like the perfect solution. Indeed it’s the only solution to changing monarchs quietly and subtly while letting us all grow to love Charles a little more. And this is a prince who has never really looked for our love. In fact, Charles, despite being next in line to the throne, is currently being trumped popularity-wise by his ever-so humble son William and “commoner” wife (the largely mute daughter of a party-hat seller).
The survival of the British monarchy rests on a nationwide, en masse, willing state of belief that we’d be in a terrible pickle without them. The Queen, God bless her, has pulled off this trick for years thanks to her restrained emotion, stalwart marriage, adherence to hard work and duty, sense of sacrifice and the pocketfuls of royal pixie dust sprinkled wherever she treads, which can make the stiffest of republicans a bit sniffly. And next along is Charles, whom I’ve never truly believed even wants the job, plus I’m even less certain that us Brits have really forgiven him for marrying a young woman as a brood mare while keeping up a relationship with his mistress.
But then Diana was “nuts”, wasn’t she? Totally paranoid. Except that she was wasn’t paranoid about Camilla – the Duchess of Cornwall – seen yesterday on her way into Parliament. It’s not paranoia, when you’re absolutely right about someone’s intentions.
It’s time for Charles to begin smoothing over all of these bumps and cracks with his part-time job and full-time charm offensive. Because he’s stuck with us and we’re stuck with him, and we’re all going to learn to like it.
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