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The Windsors last throw of the dice

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Peter Conrad writes in The Monthly that, for the Windsor family, "the wedding of the heir’s heir will truly be a critical moment – perhaps a last chance to justify their otiose, expensive existence." Barry Everingham comments.

Far be it for this journal to promote other publications, but we must draw to the attention of our readers to the cover story in the current edition of The Monthly and Peter Conrad’s excellent essay, Falling Stars: The Plight of the Windsors.

Peter Conrad


Conrad, an English teacher at Christ Church, Oxford, has exposed the English first family as a clutch of celebrities out of touch with reality and, in the main, at odds with acceptable norms of behaviour.

Peter Conrad describes, in the first part of his piece, the grovelling obsequiousness that greets the Queen when she makes one of her occasional visits to his Oxford College. For down-to-earth Australians, the pedestal upon which she is placed strikes Conrad as utterly absurd:
...I haven’t often seen her passing by, despite living for more than 40 years in the disunified and kingless United Kingdom. I glimpsed her once at the opera, looking glum. Every so often she visits my Oxford college, causing an obsequious tizz as the areas through which she is due to pass are repainted and arrangements made to sequester a lavatory for her exclusive use, with a hermetically wrapped seat – a throne, as my unmonarchical father would have put it – delivered the day before she arrives and collected the day after. I always manage to be out of town when my colleagues line up to do obeisance and make stilted small talk.

When Kitty Kelley was putting together her awesome tome The Royals, she called me at the behest of veteran royal commentator – the Adelaide-born, New Zealand-raised and London-based (for sixty years) – Gwen Robyns. Kitty, who became a friend, asked me what was destroying the English royals.

Kitty Kelley


The Queen’s children was my reply—Charles, the reluctant heir, Andrew the boorish clone of his even more boorish father and Edward, a prince in search of an identity. Paradoxically, Princess Anne is the one child with balls.

Conrad points to the “cruel demystification” of the Windsors: how can they be taken seriously any longer is the unwritten question.

He points out that this hereditary enterprise depends on breeding and says boys must first be matched with suitable girls. He doesn’t say what most commentators hit upon decades ago—animal breeders would never have mixed up progeny the way the royals have been doing for centuries in a display of calculated in-breeding, which has produced litters of chinless nobodies clothed in ridiculous titles to elevate them above lesser mortals.

What he does underline though is the attempt to renovate the “fuddy duddy charade” by co-opting Diana, whose vendetta against her in-laws and the surge of popular resentment after her death almost destroyed the family.

Here is an illustration of the venom the gorgeous Diana used when the Windsor name was mentioned.

I was invited by the princess to join her and a few others in her New York hotel a few weeks before her death and she reminisced to us as follows: you know, after all I’ve done for that fucking family they could have treated me differently.

Conrad describes Queen Elizabeth’s tenure on the throne as a life sentence and he says she must wonder how long the family firm will survive without her. He quotes biographer Barbara Bradford’s claim that when Diana pleaded for advice about rescuing her marriage, the Queen sighed, "Charles is hopeless”.

And on the forthcoming marriage of William to Kate he asks what many of us have already pondered: will the recruitment of Kate extend the firm’s tenure? Conrad says that the wedding is perhaps the last throw of the dice for the Windsors as they attempt to justify their grandiose lifestyle:
Last November, when David Cameron declared that the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton would be “a momentous occasion” for the loyal nation, I remembered Menzies’ effusion [“I did but see her passing by, but I will love her till I die]. His poetic spasm may have been embarrassing but Cameron’s puffery seemed bogus and hollow, which is why he had to bribe work-shy Britain to rejoice by declaring 29 April a holiday. For the Windsors, however, the wedding of the heir’s heir will truly be a critical moment – perhaps a last chance to justify their otiose, expensive existence.

He continues: the spectacle is fascinating to watch, because it is at once grossly primitive and airily fantastical—a fertility rite but also a conjuring act.

Prince Harry with musicians P. Diddy and Kanye West


William’s stag night is to be organized by Harry—who is reported to ask girls he has his eye on: tell me baby, are you wet? I just want to get you wet, wet!

The next but one king of Australia’s stag night should be without peer.

The removal of the mystique around the royal family, what Conrad calls the “cruel demystification” of the Windsors, has made us see them for who they are—not divine, but rather as very unexceptional people irrationally elevated to a revered status. This April wedding, in almost destitute nation, will be an obscenely expensive affair designed to shore up popular support for an outmoded institution. In a nation disgruntled by severe Government budget cuts, don't be surprised if it has entirely the opposite effect.  
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