Imagine undergoing open heart surgery and, as a result missing your own daughter’s wedding. A horrible thought. Then imagine undergoing open heart surgery, missing your own daughter’s wedding while being demonised by the same public that claim to love her. That is what has happened to Thomas Markle in the run up to the Royal wedding and only because he tried to take advantage of a media environment created for him by no one other than the British public.
I must begin by revealing my own position in the wider debate between republic and monarchy. I am a republican. I despise the institution of the monarchy. Any system of governance which permits a family whose matriarch has a net worth of $550m to ask the British taxpayer for pay for maintenance on one of their many properties is an exemplar of a society which permits the most heinous acts of scrounging and stealing off the state (ironic, eh, Daily Mail readers?). Nor are republicans like me, contrary to what certain publications will have you believe, Queen-hating, Britain-hating communists, hellbent on destroying our way of life. I simply believe that we can strive for a more accountable and more meritocratic executive. I’m not the one who hates the royals. I’m relatively indifferent to the individuals themselves. I’m not the one who buys the papers, waiting expectantly for pictures of newlyborn Royal babies coming out of hospital, or of young princes coming out of school or of the same young princes coming out of nightclubs or of upskirting photos of Kate Middleton, another victim claimed to be loved by the public, or, in perhaps the most famous and most sinister example, harassing England’s very own ‘Queen of Hearts’, Princess Diana, to her death in 1997. These photos and stories were observed by our very own ‘society of the spectacle’. At least when we buy magazines and newspapers featuring intrusive images or stories of Jade Goody, of Kate and Gerry McCann or, more recently, of celebrities such as the Kardashian family, we don’t claim to love them. We don’t claim to devote our undivided loyalty to them. Those that mourned outside Kensington Palace in 1997 were the same ones who ravenously consumed images and stories concerning Diana’s private life. Even now, one cannot escape the almost quotidian speed at which rumours of her life, which ended over twenty years ago, circulate.
I hope that the public will remember, as they gather to remark on how handsome Harry looks or how fantastic the whole occasion has been, that they were the same public who watched him growing up from the safety of a camera lens outside his school, from outside his university and from outside the nightclubs he went to. I hope that the public will remember, when they remark on how beautiful Meghan Markle looks in her wedding dress, that they are the same public whose daily contributions to the tabloid press have funded paparazzi buying the house adjacent to her father’s, making his life unbearable and likely contributing to his current ill health. Most of all, I hope the throngs of baying spectators outside Windsor Castle will remember the homeless of Windsor, who live there all year and who it was suggested were ‘moved on’ ahead of the wedding.
Of course, I believe that any institution, project or individual funded by the general public’s taxes are scrutinised and held accountable. What we do to the royal family, however, is not in the public interest. Pictures of Kate Middleton’s breasts or of Meghan Markle’s extended family are not in the public interest. Yet our insatiable hunger for gossip surrounding their private lives distracts us from what is seriously unjust about monarchy. Perhaps Paul Dacre, given his incredibly sudden interest in the House of Lords’ lack of accountability in recent weeks, might look into another unelected executive. Perhaps he might send a few of the Daily Mail’s vast bank of private investors to look into why the Duchy of Lancaster felt it necessary to store £10m of the Queen’s own wealth in an offshore tax haven, highlighted in the Paradise Papers. Rebecca English, the Mail’s Royal Correspondent, might even publish an opinion piece questioning the contradiction between an apparently secular state in which the Head of State is also the Head of the Church of England.
Where I live, in Edinburgh, it will be 20°C on Saturday afternoon and it looks like it’ll be sunny all over the UK. My advice to those who claim to have a deep, unyielding love for the royals and for Harry and Meghan is this: go to the park, go to the beach, have a barbecue. Don’t bother watching the royal wedding and commenting on how marvelous the whole occasion is. Within the space of a week, a month or a year, you’ll be buying papers filled with bogus rumours about how the very same marriage is on the rocks or about how the pair despise each other and the cycle will begin again.