In the 341 years since King Charles II appointed John Dryden as his Poet Laureate, the title has passed along an uninterrupted line of men – some very gifted, but too many of them mediocrities, whose only talent was to pay homage to the self-important. In Carol Ann Duffy we now have a Poet Laureate who, as well as being the first woman in the post, and of Scottish working-class stock, has a wonderful way of puncturing egos.
There is, for instance, the five-line poem she wrote expressing how Mrs Icarus must have felt as her husband flew too close to the sun: "I'm not the first or the last to stand on a hillock, watching the man she married prove to the world he's a total, utter, absolute Grade A pillock." This is the person whose assumed task it will be to produce verses for such occasions as the anticipated wedding of Prince William. And she says she will do it, as and when the muse grabs. The office may be an anachronism, but what a delight her tenure could turn out to be.