Friday 19 July 2019

'Up the Royals'... the British Royals, who so annoy us

You don't have to be anti-monarchy to be a republican, because it's not our monarchy, writes Willie Kealy

THE WORLD WATCHED ON: As the next generation of royalty made its bow. The Duchess of Cambridge with Princess Charlotte and Prince William. The shawl the new-born baby wore became a multi-million pound must-have overnight
THE WORLD WATCHED ON: As the next generation of royalty made its bow. The Duchess of Cambridge with Princess Charlotte and Prince William. The shawl the new-born baby wore became a multi-million pound must-have overnight

Willie Kealy

We don't really have anything against royals… just British Royals. Kings or Queens from the Netherlands or Spain or Greece or Eastern Europe - even descendants of the Tsar wouldn't raise a ripple with their doings. But the carry-on of the Windsors of London just seems to get us going - and not in a good way.

When Queen Elizabeth visited Dublin and Cork we spent months afterwards congratulating ourselves on how well behaved we were and how this was yet another significant step to harmonious relations between our two islands. At this rate of progress the islands will have joined up again before we reach actual normality.

So when the most recent royal baby was born to William and Kate, of course we had to pretend that it was a thing of nothing to us.

Because we are republicans. And somehow that's supposed to mean we have to be anti-monarchy, even if it's not our monarchy.

The benefits to the British of the monarchy are obvious - one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world for a start. They come from Japan where they have their own emperor who doesn't attract anything like the same attention (maybe losing the War was a factor) or America - the greatest republic on the planet. Why don't the Americans who also had to fight the British for their freedom, hate British royalty? (I know, our la hasn't yet tiochfaidhed). They come just to stand outside Buckingham Palace and gawk. Last week, they even queued up in their thousands to take selfies outside the hospital where the new Princess Charlotte had just been born.

Yes, we have tourists who come to see the Ring of Kerry in the Kingdom or the Boyne Valley in Royal Meath, but it's nothing in comparison. And I don't think there's a crowd problem outside the Aras as visitors try to get a glimpse of Michael D.

Throughout the ages, the British people have had ample opportunity to get rid of the monarchy but never did in any permanent way - when they did remove them, they quickly brought them back.

The Royals can be extremely useful on trade missions abroad. Our ministers are dragged around the world by Irish companies because they open doors. The Queen of Britain opens a lot more doors. Her family and extended family help too. And they may not have succeeded in getting the World Cup, but a royal presence was most useful in procuring the Olympics.

At home too, they can boost consumer confidence - that shawl baby Charlotte wore on her first public exposition, became a multi-million pound must-have overnight. I know if Pippa O'Connor appears in a sack, something similar happens here, but it's not quite the same.

You might think there are, perhaps, too many royals, but look at the amount of work our president has to do with such a relatively small population - opening men's sheds and attending ICA functions, plus greeting visiting groups at his official home. Queen Elizabeth couldn't possibly cater to the similar demands of her much bigger population and the peoples of the Commonwealth.

Yes, there is always the odd character - like Prince Andrew, for example. But if a royal family cannot live by that old motto that every household can afford one gentleman, who can?

The British have been lucky with their current royal family ­- the Queen has given them steadfast service since the wartime Blitz of London - her father did so before her, till ill health ended his life prematurely. But there was always enough scandal to keep them interesting too - her uncle and Mrs Simpson, for example; and more recently, the whole Diana saga. Prince Philip keeps everyone amused with his verbal gaffes, and Harry's escapades are tremendous tabloid fodder.

But as the Diana story proved, there is the tragic side too. And Princess Margaret's drink-sodden life can't have been much fun, after she was told she couldn't marry the man she loved because he was divorced. Charles, an intelligent man as his treatises on the environment, for example, show, is an intelligent man who had to wait for years to finally marry the woman he loved - Camilla.

Now he must wait to be king. But not everyone is champing at the bit for the top job. There are oodles of "minor" royals who know they will never come near succeeding the Queen, as well as those who could be said, in racing parlance, to be "placed." Take Harry, for example. His reaction to the birth of Charlotte moving him one more place away from succession - was to laugh and say: "Great."

So, what's the alternative? A UK republic with President Blair maybe. I don't think so. The British know what side their bread is buttered on. So we must simmer on, getting het up if someone Irish is offered a British honour. If the French offered membership of the Legion of Honour or the Americans were giving a Congressional Medal to an Irish man or woman, we'd cheer. We'd even have some meas for a papal knighthood. Remember "Count" John McCormack. What's our equivalent? The People of the Year awards. Not quite the same ring to it, is there? Or maybe membership of Aosdana.

We had our own tradition of royalty for centuries, but it died out. Yes I know past British royalty had a good hand in that, but at the foundation of the State there were still descendants with royal Irish blood around, who could have been harnessed into something more exciting than An Tostal or the Eucharistic Congress.

How well-off would we be today if we still had an Ard Ri in a Castle at Tara to provide authentic Irish pageantry? But we let it go. And you cannot invent tradition.

Sunday Independent

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