Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Firm

(Published in Business Standard on July 27, 2013)

I was ten years old when Charles and Di got married. Shortly thereafter, I watched her cradle the new-born Prince William in her arms. So I got quite misty watching William and Kate holding their son in front of the same hospital, with Kate wearing a dress much like the one Diana had worn.

I’ve finally worked out why people like me, who think that Prime Ministers should walk or drive themselves to work and sit at round tables that erase hierarchy, can still get mushy about the royals. It’s because royalty is about as relevant to today’s world as a whalebone corset, so it’s an interesting oddity. Also I don’t have to pay for its upkeep. Royalty is a favourite old story, a story that is fascinating for being so completely out of touch.

And yet it keeps, with every generation, a certain contemporariness. Keeping tabs on what the British royals are up to is a lot like keeping tabs on Grey’s Anatomy when you’re not a doctor—it’s a glimpse into a small, specialised world, and the storylines of the characters can be compelling. I’m a sucker for love stories born of dark and twisty places. I’m also a sucker for love stories that might just rise above the dark and twisty places.

William and Kate are not only thoroughly modern royals—insofar as it is possible to be modern when you divide your time between palaces and pay dutiful visits to the colonies—they are also a likeable story. Kate is doing for Will what Diana did for Charles—grafting upon the cactus of the House of Windsor some blossoms of good looks and a likeable common touch (like not trying to hide her mountainous post-baby belly). William went and toyed with our emotions by getting thin on top (best Twitter remark during the royal labour: “Prince William’s heir is falling out”), but he’s still a very charming, presentable chap. I have a softer spot for the strapping, red-haired, often inappropriately behaved Prince Harry, but then I have a long history of poor judgement.

Anyway, they’re a nice young couple and one wishes them the best, so one forgives them for being royals. Plus, I quite like the Queen, who at her fluffiest makes Van Damme and Schwarzenegger look like sissies, and has the kind of dark and twisty humour it takes to call one’s extended family ‘The Firm’. Wouldn’t want to meet that old gal in a dark alley. I think she’s composed mostly of titanium.

That the world enjoys soap operas is clear in the insane royal baby-watching that happens every time a Princess gives birth. The Huffington Post got it right in a story headlined ‘Breaking News: Woman gives birth to Baby’. The story goes as follows:

“A married woman of childbearing age has given birth to a baby boy.
The event followed nine months of pregnancy.
"Both mother and baby are doing well," a spokesman for the woman said.
It is now expected that the baby will grow up.”

Will and Kate are allegedly trying to be as normal a couple as one can in the circumstances. It stands to reason that they’d want, as they claim, to give their sprog as normal an upbringing as possible in the circumstances. Luckily kids are completely oblivious to anything except being kids up until a certain age. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can expect a large dose of normality on those inevitable occasions when little George Alexander Louis is being a royal pain in the ass.

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