Why I'm getting incensed by these royal celebrations

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The Independent Online

I have grown to love this country and I would not now willingly leave it, but I do thank the gods I wasn't born and brought up here.

I have grown to love this country and I would not now willingly leave it, but I do thank the gods I wasn't born and brought up here.

Deference for the higher orders and hereditary privilege was not pumped into me from birth. (East African Asians were racist against blacks but they were driven entrepreneurs, socially mobile and agile, and scornful of the iniquitous caste system which kept people in their places for all of their lifetimes.) So I could easily resist what Roy Hattersley calls "the vulgar extravagance of obsequies" which followed the death of the Queen Mother.

I am also increasingly incensed by the Jubilee celebrations. Thus far I have binned two invitations from Buckingham Palace: one for the media, attended by hundreds of journalists for, I am sure, all sorts of cunning reasons, and another for "people of different faiths".

I hope these are the last of the beautifully embossed invites with their endless instructions on what to wear, what to say, what to do, when to come and when to go. I am probably committing treason telling you this, but who cares.

I must confess that, until recently, I have been a hypocrite about this. I did go to the palace last year to exchange 18 words with the monarch in the gold and white ballroom as she handed over an MBE (and no, I was not overcome with fumes of love and allegiance). She was civil and kind enough not to mention my book Who Do We Think We Are? which features her on the cover, turned provocatively mixed race. Why did I accept it? Because it made my old mum delirious and because I am worth it.

I was also at a glam dinner hosted by Prince Charles for a charity I advise. Exquisite food and wine were consumed, a portrait of Charles I stared arrogantly down at us and the prince and his lady performed their dull rituals.

These acts of self-betrayal were perhaps easier to perform and felt less serious then. The country seemed to be growing up – after Diana, Fergie, Camilla, Philip and other associated scandals, royalty seemed properly diminished.

How wrong I was. It only took some dexterous PR orchestrated by the royals and the whole country has succumbed to the lure again. It is deeply embarrassing to observe millions of natives maniacally abasing themselves in acts of idolatry you would more readily associate with old African kingdoms and horrible Middle Eastern potentates. And all this for one of the nation's most dysfunctional, greedy and unattractive families.

No "outsider" marrying in has survived, with the exception of Prince Philip who seems to do so by indulging in pleasant distractions. The Jubilee has not stopped pictures appearing in the tabloids of him with a friend who happens to be young, blonde and female. His son's mistress swans about, no longer despised for the marriage which she wrecked.

The funeral of the Queen Mother in April was described by some drooler as an event which was "fit for the last Empress of India". Yet, if one is to believe Lord Wyatt's diaries, she didn't rate foreigners and thought apartheid was a fine system. And now, disgracefully, they have let it be known that no death duties will be paid on the millions she left behind.

I don't deny Charles does good through the Prince's Trust and his respect for other religions – but for all the money he gets, this is the least we can expect. And he knows that, through such acts of generosity towards grateful "ethnics", he adds numbers to his struggling popularity figures. The Queen too is making the right wooing noises (hence the special parties) and for the same reasons. And black and Asian devotees (there are many) will rush to support them.

Little do they realise that they are only aiding and abetting their own marginalisation, that they are helping to reinstate values inimical to equality and that they are encouraging those in the establishment who want to pull the nation back to that glorious past when England was white, in charge and deferential.

Just watch Channel 4's superb Edwardian House this week when they tackle the Raj, race and class and you will understand what that world was. Observe then the real attitudes of the occupants, above and below the stairs, and you will find that old world still tenderly cradled in people's hearts.

The bulldog is back with the crown on his head. It is reclaiming the land from modernity, from all the buzz and interchange and mongrelisation which had become our identifiers. And too many already are rushing out to embrace it.

Heritage (those pretty falsehoods proclaimed by all nations who are nervous about the changing world) is once again being seen as the only way of narrating who we are as a nation. The British Tourist Authority, obedient subject that it is, has launched a campaign showing us as a happy nation of Morris-dancing, tea-drinking royalists. And conservative Mr Blair is on hand to endorse this abject set of images.

It all reminds me of the poet WH Auden's poignant question, which he asked in 1932: "What do you think about England, this country of ours where nobody is well?" This is truly disturbing – the infantilism, the psychosis which will not release our nationals to pursue a freer, more audacious future.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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