Yesterday's newspapers featured a groomed and glamorous young couple dressed in identikit cowboy outfits, resplendent in ten gallon hats, "giddy up, pardner" shirts and rootin', tootin' belt clasps.
They rode in a stagecoach, laughed and waved to the crowd, posed for the cameras, the sunlight glinting off their toxically orange hides. Their professionally whitened grins were those of two people deeply in love. With themselves, and with the attention.
This was not some junket for the latest series of The Only Way Is Essex; Katie Price and Peter André haven't reconciled their differences for the sake of their public. These populist cowboys were none other than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose antics all over North America are being followed with a scrutiny normally reserved for Glenn Mulcaire.
The Cambridges' ten day tour of Canada has been demeaning for us and them. It has been little more than an exercise in establishing them as the I'm a Celebrity couple de nos jours, what with their dragonboat racing, landing helicopters on lakes and playing street hockey. And the "enchanted" public have lapped it up, fawning and frothing like serfs with scrofula. Yesterday the royal roadshow moved on to California with a planned Hollywood "meet and greet" the highlight of the itinerary.
Many of us have been bummed out about the fact that the previous decade's uninterest in and contempt for the royals must have been a blip, given the gusto with which the media and common psyche have entered an era of New Royalism. We've all bewailed the return to obsequiously hyperbolic commentary and a fervour redolent of Girl Scouts promising to honour their Queen and country.
So what does the ascendance of Waity Katie Price and Prince André mean for us? Simply this: that we will not be spared a minute from the most minute Royal goings-on from now on. They spawn, we must gasp and murmur; they fart, we'll all genuflect. It would be practically medieval were it not for the obvious inspiration that the royal couple have taken from reality TV culture. Mark my words, Kate and Wills have been studying Heat and OK! as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. And here's what they've learned.
Lesson one: cultivate a will they/won't they romance. We poor saps were so concerned about whether Kate would get her crown or not, we didn't realise they were simply following the same steps as Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.
Lesson two: perpetuate your popularity by asking photographers to stay away, but by lingering in front of them wherever possible. (Rumour has it Victoria Beckham goes through arrivals twice at Heathrow if there aren't enough paps the first time round.)
Lesson three: don cute matching outfits, so even your critics can have fun slating you. Hence, the cowboy look – the press and the public are so savvy these days that it takes more than a baseball cap (William Hague) or denim shirt (Tony Blair) to gain notoriety.
Lesson four: the law of averages means the more time you spend in front of the cameras, the more likely we are to see your knickers. Which was proven on a Canadian airfield when the royal drawers were unveiled.
Wouldn't it be better for all involved if Kate and Wills just closeted themselves in the Welsh cottage they profess to be so fond of?. We're tiring of celebs, and we'll tire of this pair too. Just look what happened to Kerry Katona.