I don’t simply mean the kind of disappointment that makes you wake up screaming in the middle of the night and fills you with existential terror. Why did I fail my A level maths twice? What happened to my favourite Slazenger V6 cricket bat that I lent to my friend and he never returned? How the hell do you sell a book of monk cartoons to atheists?
No, I mean I have to deal with the disappointment that people feel once they discover that I simply cannot get excited about any royal happening. Where I see a baby-shaped baby with baby features doing baby things, others see a modern miracle who has the eyes of King George VI. Where I see two rather ordinary people getting married, they see… Well, I don’t know what they see except I suspect if involves unicorns and wood elves. If I could see whatever magic appears before their eyes, I wouldn’t be finding something else to do in a bookshop 20 miles away…
This does, of course, cause me some grief. I have been variously described as ‘miserable’, ‘heartless’, ‘unpatriotic’, as well as a ‘metropolitan liberal’. In truth, I might be all of those (except the last) so let me give you a statistic that might not seem obvious at first meeting me.
Number of royals I’ve seen in my life: 1.
That’s right. I have seen, in the flesh, just one royal and that was Prince Edward. Think about that for a moment. Now wonder why I don’t get excited at the mention of royals.
My one and only royal encounter happened just a few weeks ago and was entirely by accident. Taking a break in Liverpool after spending a morning trying to entice random strangers in Waterstones to pick up my book, I was passing the Bluecoat Gallery when two police motorbikes arrived with blue flashing lights followed a second later by a black Range Rover. Around Liverpool, big black Range Rovers are only ever owned by drug kingpins, top-class footballers, or Wayne Rooney, so I wasn’t immediately impressed. Then the rear doors opened and out popped Prince Edward. So, again, not immediately impressed. He did, however, seem quite friendly, especially when he grinned and began to wave at me.
I didn’t wave back but, then, I hardly know the man…
That last point I think I should underscore. I have a pretty gruff, northern, take-no-nonsense attitude towards life. I don’t respond enthusiastically when strangers approach me in the street and call me ‘mate’ or try to engage me in jovial conversation. It’s none of their business how I’m doing. I don’t buy into chirpy, upbeat everybody-lives-in-an-Apple-ad culture. And if I’m less than enthusiastic about royals it’s because they have absolutely no impact on my life. Give that I’m the kind of guy who crosses the road to avoid people who simply look too happy, a royal wedding registers on my list of interests somewhere between ‘how to grow marigolds’ and ‘the calorie content of a squirrel’.
Yet despite all that: I am a monarchist. Admittedly, that’s a very reluctant monarchist. Since I don’t believe in a god, I don’t believe any monarchy is sanctioned by some transcendental being who took it upon themselves to point a large Monty Python style finger at them through parted clouds. I believe most monarchies begin with violence and are sustained by the threat of violence until they are sustained by the force of law (which is itself sustained by the threat of violence). I also see the Royal Family as a feature of our constitutional monarchy. I think of them as a necessity to save us from some awful Republic in which Katie Price (or, even worse, Hopkins) would be named President.
And that, for me, is key. I dislike Katie Price more than I dislike any royal. End of argument.
The only doubt I have about my position is that a monarchy does seem an utterly irrational way of going about things. If I we are to imbue somebody with sovereign majesty, then we could just as easily imbue some inanimate object such as a rocky outcrop, a bend in a river, or some particularly old oak tree. Of course, the ‘inanimate object’ argument doesn’t rule out Katie Price so it’s another idea I can’t get behind.
You see how things get confusing?
It’s also confusing because I think it’s possible to be a monarchist and be immune to the charms of the royal family, as I’m also pretty sure that there are people with republican sentiments who get a bit drippy eyed about the thought of Prince Harry marrying Meghan Markle (or, if you’re Leader of the DUP, of Prince William marrying Meghan Markle).
My reason, I suppose, is that I pity the people born into the royal life and are therefore forbidden from following their dreams and ambitions. Of course, it’s hard to feel much pity for them once they reach the red-cheeked-raging-about-the-fate-of-the-baboons stage of life but, in general, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
It’s also possible to be a monarchist and be not entirely hostile to the arguments in support of a republic. The Royal Family certainly cost us money that could otherwise go on, say, provide adequate fireproofing for tower blocks. Yet I also accept that the argument doesn’t take into account that the UK is known across the world for our royals and that tourism generates huge sums. I also accept that they stand at the top of an establishment order that generally works in favour of those at the top, making social mobility harder, the further down the hierarchy you are. I accept that the same problems exist in America where a few families have dominated the political scene throughout its brief 241 years and the Presidency costs more to keep than Vanessa Phelps apparently spends on custard.
I accept all these things which take me back to my initial point.
So many things fill my day that I have absolutely no interest in where Harry met Meghan or what stones are in the ring. I’m happy to send them my best wishes but, you know, I really don’t suppose they’re too bothered if I do or I don’t…