It has long been known that the endurance of constitutional monarchy at the head of the British legislative system rests on the sacred principle of never, ever, ever pissing about with Royal Ascot and and never before has it been more gravely tested.
Not once in the broad sweep of sixty-five long years of British history has Her Majesty the Queen come close to compromising the fundamental constitutional tenet of political neutrality of the monarchy, but tell her she might not make it in time for the Jersey Stakes at half two and do not, frankly, be surprised if the response you get is: “Whatever you say, but one will not be wearing one’s crown on one’s head, one will be wearing a massive EU flag-hat instead.”
Was it an accident, this nakedly pro-Brussels bonnet? One suspects we will never know the truth, but given one commenter on the Daily Mail website was sufficiently enraged to describe the Queen herself as a “left liberal luvvie traitor!!!” we probably do not need to.
How peculiar it must have been, for that peculiar band of around nine individuals across the entire country, who voted to leave the European Union over grave concerns over “sovereignty”, to see the return on their democratic investment, there on their television screens, in the form of the sovereign herself, wearing not the sovereign crown but a whacking great big blue hat decked out with a full circumference of bright yellow buttons.
It was the palace, after all, that had insisted on a “dress-down” “low-key” state opening, placing severe restrictions on the numbers of Maltravers Herald Extraordinaries and Rouge Dragon Pursuivants who usually accompany the big hat made of diamonds on its customary journey from one palace to another, or its wearer on her customary journey from a third palace to the second.
That there were large number of empty seats in the Upper Chamber was unfortunate, given the House of Lords has approximately six times as many members as actual seats, but the Queen wasn’t the only one with a diary clash. We can only assume, on the hottest June day since 1976, not to mention the #DayofRage protests, a number of noble lords decided they had more enjoyable things to do, be it repose at their leisure at their country seats, or more likely, don their V for Vendetta masks and smash up the local HSBC.
One such chap who had no such luck was Prince Charles. Not only was it dress down day but bring your child to work day, with the nation’s favourite perma-heir enlisted to replace his unwell father, and looking never more like an angry nine year old, dragged into daddy’s accountancy firm for the day while everyone else is out in the sunshine playing Pokémon Go.
It is customary, on such occasions, for the members of Her Majesty’s press corps to look down upon the Upper House from the gallery, searching for the old familiar faces, then divert to Wikipedia to reacquaint oneself with the weird and wonderful tales of venality, greed, corruption and criminality that have propelled so many of its members to their elevated realm at the head of British society, but there was simply no time this time.
Her Majesty was over and done in scarcely five minutes. The dementia tax gone, the return of grammar schools gone, the free vote on fox hunting vanished, the free school meals axe left unwielded. All that remained was the vague outline of a Brexit that, in the blazing heat, had gone from hard to decidedly mushy.
The Queen was out the door in a flash, and off putting the Royal into Royal Ascot with a full half an hour to spare before the first race, the EU blue hat exchanged for another in EU yellow.
The history books offer no precedent for an ageing, powerless leader, deciding finally to send out coded messages to the people via daring headwear choices, but it is 2017, the single worst thing to happen since 2016 – so anything is possible. We can only hope there is more to come.
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