What is the actual point of the monarchy? I’m not British so I can’t pretend to understand the feeling of stability that having the same ruler for almost 70 years brings — but she is the Queen of Australia too so you’d think we would have figured out why by now.
No, this time there’s a real royal f***-up: Prince Andrew appeared on British television explaining his decades-long close friendship with convicted (and now dead) paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The younger sibling of a prince is perhaps the most useless royal of all royals — doomed to watch one’s position in the hierarchy fall ever further as the years bring more children between them and the throne (from second to eight in line, and counting for the grand ol’ Duke of York…)
It is unclear whether the Duke himself knows what his exact function is. Apart from the usual patronage of certain charities, he seems to have spent the entirety of his adulthood at parties and on board luxury yachts and private jets, earning himself the nickname “the Playboy Prince”. His legacy will be that of a low-ranking royal living large on the taxpayer money so he could move in the inner circles of billionaires.
Prince Andrew’s interview saw him defending that lifestyle with a bizarre claim that he had a “tendency to be too honourable.” It was this honour that kept him from breaking off his relations with Epstein even after the latter was jailed for sex trafficking. Or as the Prince calls it, “conducting himself in a manner unbecoming.”
As the Duke of York sought to absolve himself of wrongdoing, denying the allegations that he had sex with a minor on multiple occasions, he expressed not an ounce of empathy for the victims of Epstein’s (and potentially his own) crimes. While he has now been stood down from royal duties and will no longer receive the Sovereign Grant, he will continue to be funded by the Queen’s own purse.
The whole debacle has thrown into stark relief the bubble of entitlement within which the Royal Family dwells. Prince Andrew may suffer some humiliation (although probably not, given his apparent lack of shame) but his lavish lifestyle is unlikely to be diminished as a result.
Will any of this impact the reputation or endurance of the monarchy as a whole? In Australia, talk of becoming a republic peaked with the 1999 referendum (we voted in favour of the monarchy because the alternative model was deeply flawed). In my lifetime, I can remember one event that was deemed to put the future of the monarchy at risk: that was when Prince Charles married Camilla. Nobody would want her as a Queen, it was said.
But the longer that Queen Elizabeth lives and reigns, and the shorter it seems that the reality of a King Charles will be, the threat of ditching the monarchy altogether seems to have subsided — in Australia at least. The young royals are universally popular, as evidenced by the crowds flocking around the latest Royal Tour in order to gawp and fawn at the merest glimpse of Harry and Meghan.
Netflix’s most expensive series to date, The Crown, has played a large part in reviving recent royal history and reshaping it as folklore — thanks to a cast of famous and beloved British actors. The Oscar-winning actress currently playing Queen Liz gushed that Her Majesty is the “ultimate feminist”. I mean, really?
Olivia Colman went on to explain her reasoning, first and foremost being that she is “the breadwinner, she’s the one on our coins and banknotes. Prince Phillip has to walk behind her.”
Never mind that everyone has to walk behind her, not just her husband — nor that this is not actually a rule that the Queen came up with on her own just to show the world how bad-ass a woman can be. Her father, King George, always walked first as well.
Does inheriting a position and vast amounts of wealth actually qualify someone as a breadwinner?
Traditionally, this term referred to the person within the family who went out and earned a wage (to literally put bread on the table) while the primary caregiver stayed at home to raise the children. The Queen’s kids went to the top private boarding schools in the country. She is on our coins and banknotes because of said inherited position — rather than any stance she has taken on feminism.
The fact is, we have no idea whether or not the Queen is a feminist because it is the policy of the royal family not to express their personal beliefs. After watching Prince Andrew’s trainwreck television, we can see why this policy stands — because it is entirely possible that the royals are not actually the kind of people you would want to have running the country.
The good thing is, they don’t run the country. They are just financially supported by it. Then what is their purpose? If it is to bring some sort of continuity, then surely the time is right for a royal shake-up.