Isn't the Constable of Dover Castle marvellous?

'If you are tempted to coo and slobber over this ridiculous pageant, get a grip. You need help'
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The Independent Online

"I'm very touched," said the Queen Mother after Betty Boothroyd's obsequious tribute to her. Why? Why was she touched? Compliments are worthless unless they're voluntary, and Betty could hardly have said: "Let's face it ma'am, you've been bloody useless. To think that you're still going while Jimi Hendrix died in his thirties, there's no justice. Anyway, many happy returns."

"I'm very touched," said the Queen Mother after Betty Boothroyd's obsequious tribute to her. Why? Why was she touched? Compliments are worthless unless they're voluntary, and Betty could hardly have said: "Let's face it ma'am, you've been bloody useless. To think that you're still going while Jimi Hendrix died in his thirties, there's no justice. Anyway, many happy returns."

It's mad. It's like that nutcase TV tribute on Sunday night in which a series of aristocrats grovelled about her beauty, her charm, her elegance and so on. I expected these viscounts to start waxing that she was the finest car mechanic in London, and once took 6 for 29 against the West Indies. This programme was clearly the result of the first tentative steps towards democracy in North Korea. As the regime edges towards normality, producers and directors at North Korean television have been asked to make programmes that mildly allude to gentle criticism of their leaders. Trained in the art of subservience, they were unable to make the leap, so they were taken on by the BBC to make documentaries about the Queen Mother instead.

What I want answered is, what has she done? Just name me one thing, if she's so bloody fantastic. Think about it and you will come up with her one single achievement, for which she's been showered with a lifetime of opulence. The clue is in the title. That's right, she's the mother of the Queen. She had a baby, which is an achievement, but the bit that makes her unique is the baby was destined to be queen. The Queen's upbringing played no part in her ability to become Queen. It's not like being Wimbledon champion. You never see the Queen climbing over racks of seating to hug her Mum, and say: "If it wasn't for my family's encouragement I'd never have achieved this success."

Some people do try to come up with other talents. Typical was the one revealed by Trevor McDonald, who described how magnificent she was in his first meeting with her, at the Badminton Horse Trials. Apparently, the Queen and Nelson Mandela wanted to leave, but the Queen said: "I'm afraid we have to wait - Mummy is in animated conversation." Well isn't she marvellous. She can talk. Only someone as glorious as the Queen Mother has the grace and wisdom to carry out such a noble art as that of talking. The rest of us go through life never uttering a word, but not her, the cunning fox. See, she's worth every penny.

Others point out that she always looks splendid in her wonderful array of hats. Well of course she does, she's worthy about a hundred million trillion quid, she's not likely to turn up at Ascot in a bobble hat with "Derby County" on the front.

Her supporters cite her comment that during the war she could "look the East End in the eye". Which, to be fair, was true. Although as she was reportedly a strong supporter of appeasement, what most people seem to have missed is that she meant the East End of Berlin.

Most of us chuckle at the absurd titles awarded to themselves by despots from Africa or Eastern Europe. But Idi Amin and Enver Hoxha would have been delighted with the Queen Mother's tally of phoney honours. There's "Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St John of Jerusalem", "Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports", and she's even a "Constable of Dover Castle". Does she have to do anything for that? Maybe once a year she has to wander around Dover Castle and threaten to clip kids around the ear if they don't keep away from that drawbridge.

As if this weren't nearly enough, we're now in the middle of an official "isn't-she-marvellous" month, which appears to be as unavoidable as it is irrational. Yesterday's pageant, which was supposed to portray her 100 glorious years, included a section celebrating the suffragettes. Someone's been misinformed here. The suffragettes dived under racehorses, the Queen Mother just owns the things. If she saw film of the suicidal protest at the Grand National, she'd probably shriek: "Oh what a shame! He was half-a-length clear before that awful woman got in the way." And there was a sequence designed to "re-enact the punk-rock era". Though that era was at its most animated when the Sex Pistols released "God Save the Queen" as a mark of contempt for the Silver Jubilee.

So if you're tempted to coo and slobber over these ridiculous events, get a grip. You are in need of help. She's not radiant or glorious and you don't know her, so leave it alone. Otherwise you might end up like the champion nutcase of the week, poet laureate Andrew Motion, with his awful fawning poem, which begins: "My dream of your birthday is more like a wedding." What a pity, as I'm sure she would have appreciated something more homely, like: "Poor Diana, such a loss, but then you never gave a toss."

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