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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms