Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Don't worry Kate, there will never be a royal expenses row

The entourage to Canada and the US will be 'humble' with only seven adults accompanying the couple. The national self-delusion is now untreatable

Share
Related Topics

Pictures of Kate Middleton appear daily on the front pages. Last week, she showcased clothes costing £12,000. Didn't she look lovely? She smiled and waved too – such an exhausting job, who would want it? All the aspirational young women lining up to apply to St Andrews where Katie bagged her prince. The university is about to team up with the elite American William and Mary College in Virginia (note the monarchist moniker) to charge £18,000 a year for a joint BA degree. Perhaps the next Mrs Simpson will also come from there – rich North Americans love aristocratic connections and all things royal. And this summer they are in for the biggest treat.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (what do these titles mean? Is a duke higher than a prince? Who bloody cares?) are preparing to visit Canada and the US for their first official overseas tour starting 30 June. Expect a flood of images, nauseating sycophancy, endless smiles and airhead fashionista commentaries. The entourage will be "humble", say loyal watchers, with only seven adults accompanying the couple. So no lackey to put toothpaste on to a toothbrush, something Prince Charles must have. More modest still, no dresser or Lady in Waiting. And the people are lapping it all up, like hungry cats round a cream bowl. The downturn? Economic hard times? Cuts and public sector strikes? All the people need are the diverting accounts of the undeserving rich to get by. Only the really curmudgeonly or perfidious Commies would say otherwise. Those of us who can't stand the circus are made to feel treacherous outsiders – a cold place to be.

After the euphoria of the wedding, the phenomenal success of The King's Speech, the honeyed tributes to rude Prince Philip on his 90th birthday, I feel almost defeated. We republicans are losing the battle. There were moments when it seemed as if the nation was shaking, shuddering with righteous indignation at appalling royal behaviour. That fever went down, and we are back to the status quo.

In our flawed democracy, some are born to lord it over us, even if they are stupid, unattractive (in all senses), immoral, badly behaved, drunk, spoilt, adulterous, callous and irresponsible. Examples can be provided for all of these within the present lot of royals. Going back, the list would get more colourful still, with a long line of serious miscreants and corrupt blue-bloods. The point though is that even if they are perfect, they were handed status and wealth at birth and that is wrong. This Queen certainly deserves respect for her diplomacy and for embodying the transition from the British Empire to post-colonial nationhood. But she heads a morally indefensible institution and can't see the harm that does. This year, just after it was revealed that Prince Andrew, the wastrel "helicopter prince", was flying around doing deals with dodgy dictators, his mum stuck more medals on him and later on their irascible dad too, just a birthday present.

But, alas this country's not for turning. A cunningly managed restoration of popularity has ensured the future of the monarchy. Charles will be King; then William. Kate, the millionaires' daughter, will beget an heir and they will live happily ever after. And the people will happily pay for them. There is never going to be a royals expenses row. They are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, though they cost us millions, including their tax-free allowances and gargantuan security costs. It still isn't enough. In 2010, the Queen tried to get money for palace repairs from a state fund set aside for energy-saving changes to homes and hospitals. "Relative poverty" took on a whole new meaning then, as does the "relative" frugality of the coming Canadian trip.

Defenders of the family say their palaces attract tourists. In India after independence, they got rid of their Maharajahs and Maharanis but retained the opulent residences. Tell me the country gets fewer tourists because they don't have real royals any more. And anyway, only a small part of our tourism industry (one fifth) comes from overseas visitors – the sector as a whole makes up about 9 per cent of GDP. Legoland in Windsor has more visitors by far than Windsor castle. Supporters also exaggerate the effectiveness of British royals. The Queen's remarkable visit to Ireland, her undoubted dignity and moving speech, are given as an example. Was the Irish President Mary McAleese any less dignified or impressive? If they believe that, the national self-delusion is now untreatable.



One Quebec legislator, Amir Khadir, denounced the visit of the "parasites" and the Canadian premier quickly intervened, affirming that his people hold the couple "in very great esteem". That esteem should come only when the couple show they understand what so many of their people are going through. Britain is barely recovering from economic depths it reached last year. More than 100,000 disabled children will no longer receive extra money to help them cope; many families are already living below the poverty line and more will join them as new rules are passed. Kate, meanwhile, wears a gown costing nearly £5,000 to raise money for charity. A fat donation without the costly extravaganza would have done more good and appeared less self-serving.

Why aren't people more angry? They were with expense-claiming MPs who do long hours and put themselves up for tortuous elections. Even in Swaziland, where the King and his many wives rule absolutely, the women of the nation came out in 2008 to demonstrate against the outrageous royal lifestyles. Think about that.

The furious brigade will send off missives about how I have no right to criticise "their" Queen. Let them remember she was my Queen when I was born under the imperial sun. Previously her ancestors declared themselves rulers in India and elsewhere, without popular consent. Here, though, most of the people consent to the most blatant symbol of inequality and celebrate it. Kate has given them more reason and the jubilee next year gives them another boost.

Republicanism may well come to Swaziland one day. But not here. Not ever. Game, set and match to the wasteful Windsors.



y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions