Our monarchy has a lot in common with Game of Thrones

Who would want to be born into the make-believe of the royal family?

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The Queen and Prince Philip visited the set of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland today. This is marvellous. Not that I know anything about Game of Thrones. Except that it is written by someone who has plagiarised JRR Tolkien’s initials, George RR Martin. I fear I must have fallen victim to the prejudice described by Terry Pratchett: “Put in one lousy dragon and they call you a fantasy writer.”

So I have no idea how far the similarities between Prince Harry and Jon Snow go. I thought Snow was a cyclist with a taste for flamboyant ties, but apparently he is also young warrior from the north in the Seven Kingdoms. Chases after wild girls. Often naked. Apparently. The only time I have seen any GoT the coarseness of the dialogue seemed a little distant from the hygienic image of our own royal family, but then I remembered that eavesdropped conversation between Prince Charles and Camilla many years ago.

When the Queen and her husband cross the line from the fantasy world they inhabit to the one created by an American that inhabits the minds of so many of their countrypeople it makes you think. It makes me think about the hold of the dynastic principle on the imagination. It makes me wonder about the durability of family names in large democracies: the Bushes and the Clintons in America; the Gandhis in India. Mind you, Hillary hasn’t got it yet and Rahul blew it last month.

The thing about British politics is that, fascinating as the House of Commons Library document on MPs related to other MPs might be, what is most striking about it is how few of them actually are. Even so, it is useful to know for quiz nights that Alison Seabeck, the Labour MP, is both the daughter of Michael Ward, Labour MP 1974-79, and the wife of Nick Raynsford, another Labour MP, and that David Cameron is great-grandson of Sir William Mount, Conservative MP for Newbury 1900-06 and 1910-22.

There was a similar moment a few days ago when the royal family crossed over into another world. A ComRes opinion poll for The Independent on Sunday asked people if they had a favourable or unfavourable view of a mixed list of royalty and politicians. That produced what was on reflection an unsurprising finding, that Prince William, with a clean record like Tony Blair’s in 1997, is more popular than the Queen. Both of them are a lot more popular than Charles, which might wind up the “skip a generation” crowd again. But even Charles is more popular than any politician on the list, just beating Boris Johnson, the most princely of the commoners.

The idea of skipping a generation, though, is a category error, which might explain why it has never really caught on. Charles may be unpopular with the Diana side-takers, but the point about the hereditary principle is that you either choose your head of state by genetic buggins’ turn or you need something else with a bit of democratic legitimacy. You cannot just miss one of the line on grounds of opinion polls. True, the hereditary principle has been applied flexibly in the past. In 1688 we decided “the answer was an orange”, according to Sellar and Yeatman, but that was a national emergency posed by the succession of a papist. Papism isn’t what it was. We even tolerate crypto-Catholics as prime minister these days. Liking Charles almost as little as we like Boris is not really the same kind of thing.

I am not a royalist. I could tolerate the silliness if it were just an arbitrary way of choosing a figurehead. But it is not a cost-free option. It is a form of institutionalised abuse to bring up a child in such a strange, Game of Thrones world: when I saw the photos of George I could only feel very, very sorry for him.

 

They think it's all over...

Nor am I an association football person, so I follow most of the World Cup from the doorway, if you know what I mean. The only sport I like watching is American football, which means that I am currently wrestling with my conscience about the evidence, now incontrovertible, that brain damage is intrinsic to the game, or rather to the helmet-to-helmet collisions. I have to decide by 4 September, when the new season begins, whether I will be watching again. I think they should wear taekwondo foam helmets, but they aren’t going to do that, just as I think they should abolish the babyish second-service rule in tennis, and they aren’t going to do that either.  

Anyway, I was interested to see a chart in The Economist of all the goals in all the World Cups since 1930, minute by minute through the 90 minutes. The distribution varies randomly, except that there is a slight but definite rising trend, with more goals scored in the second half, and more towards the end of the second half. What does it prove? Never give up until the final whistle.

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