Monday 16 September 2019

Gerard O'Regan: 'Windsor family legacy might rely on royals telling gossip fiends to 'naff off''

'Queen Elizabeth’s primary concern remains the risk of long-term damage to the brand.' Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
'Queen Elizabeth’s primary concern remains the risk of long-term damage to the brand.' Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Gerard O'Regan

It's hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the Queen of England this festive season. She's seen out the highs and lows of many a Christmas, during a long, long life. But now, in the far side of her golden years, a new round of family hassles stalks what should be the serenity of old age.

If we are to believe the gossip columns, warring daughter-in-laws are causing a ripple or two in her extended family. Nothing especially unusual in such a squabble. The problem is when it is fought out in the full glare of the world's media.

Queen Elizabeth is like the ageing chief executive of an enduring family business. Succession stakes are always a worry. How will things work out when she departs for that great royal household in the sky?

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She has plenty of examples of how wayward members of her clan can mess things up for the world's most enduring regal institution. One thing must be especially perplexing for this 92-year-old woman. The decision to allow her grandsons to marry "commoners" has not put to bed a propensity to wash dirty linen in public.

And so the tittle-tattle machine tells us another generation of royals is in embroiled in familial shenanigans. Reports have it that HRH has been knocking heads together, so to speak. The latest problem allegedly started when Prince William suggested his younger brother Harry was making a mistake marrying Meghan Markle.

William plumped for "a sound, sensible English woman" if we are to believe those who profess to know such things. Kate Middleton's parents are also judged to have in abundance a quality much prized by the queen's inner circle. They are discreet.

In layman's terms, this means they raise nary a whisper, should anybody from the dreaded media be in earshot.

Unfortunately for those who call the shots in Buckingham Palace, the same cannot be said for Meghan's father and sister. They both have "legacy issues" with the way things used to be within the Markle family.

And so every now and then they sound off in public, with the suspicion they may be getting more than a few dollars to espouse their views. It all filters back to London, fuelling suspicion among those who denigrate Prince Harry's wife as "not being of the right stock" to embrace the royal way of doing things.

Sisters-in-law can indeed have a fraught and competitive relationship. But we were told things were so tense between Meghan and Kate it could have scuppered the royal family's annual Christmas getaway in Scotland.

If indeed the queen had a word with all concerned - demanding at least an outward show of good cheer for the cameras - it seems to have worked. In public both women, and their respective husbands, were all sweetness and light.

The more cynical may wonder if it was a case of style over substance. Are there really seething resentments which will take on a life of their own in the years ahead? No wonder the House of Windsor continues to be the world's number one soap opera.

For the queen, such a scenario is something of a nightmare. Born and raised in an era when "duty superseded personal happiness", she maintains a rigid stoicism and silence when it comes to family squabbles. But now it's a different age and she realises there is much she simply cannot control.

Her primary concern remains the risk of long-term damage to the brand. She is fully aware the royal family survives thanks to an indefinable indulgence, wrought by the flimsiness of public opinion. The House of Windsor is safe for a long time to come. But she knows the unthinkable cannot be discounted. Other seemingly impregnable royal households eventually self-destructed.

Her New Year's wish list must surely include the hope Meghan, Kate and the latest round of royals no longer provide fodder for the gossip fiends.

Perhaps, they just might learn a thing or two from Princess Anne. The queen's daughter has had a productive and fulfilling life, indulging her love of working with horses. There has been little spurious stuff about her personal affairs in the public domain.

That could be because she has a tendency to tell prying reporters, "naff off". This, seemingly, is the aristocratic way of saying "f*** off".

Irish Independent

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