Saturday, 22 July 2006

The Royals As I Knew Them

Two of Private Eye's regular features—OBN (Order of the Brown Nose) and Pseuds Corner—consist of egregious examples of, respectively, sycophancy and pretentiousness.

The Sunday Times, which is nowadays a kind of down-market version of Hello! but not so lively, prints in its review section today a long article of which almost every paragraph is a prime candidate for one of these features. It is written by an extremely dim royal lackey, a former equerry to the late Queen Mother.

There is much fascinating detail about the corgis, who were apparently “…rather like the Queen in the way they seemed to carry with them this touch of formality, if dogs can have such a thing. This was echoed in the Queen's demeanour. She was the Queen and she was never really off duty. Instead, she had to adhere to a clearly defined role that carried with it certain standards of behaviour and attitude” . Gripping stuff, and there is more: “…the Queen seemed to be closer to her dogs than she was to Philip”; not everyone could have found them so lovable, for “I saw them really go for some people. They would bite their ankles and things like that”.

I imagine that the writer of this drivel believes he is being frank yet respectful about the royals, and cannot see that the anecdotes he tells probably make them sound more crass, selfish and greedy than they really are; certainly he describes well the unutterable tedium of living amongst them. It seems some of them had a propensity for doing comic German accents, and they were “…sticklers for etiquette but also had this slightly wicked side”. There are many stories of them coming out with memorable remarks at moments of crisis: “…It took only about 10 seconds for the back of the Queen’s sister’s head to start blazing away….The Queen, in slight amusement, turned and said , ‘Oh look, Margo’s on fire!’ ”. I just love the delicacy of the Queen's slight amusement—I bet Philip was rolling about on the floor.

But not all was excitement and the smell of burning hair; there were heart-warming gestures: “…the Queen, if I ever turned up at one of her dinner parties [does he mean that sometimes he didn’t bother to go?], would always make a beeline for me and say: ‘Colin, how are you? It’s great to see you’ ”.

And there were other memories to treasure: on one occasion Princess Margaret made him take her swimming.

These and other delights are in a book by one Major Colin Burgess, enticingly called Behind Palace Doors. The bits I have quoted cannot give a true picture of the banality of what he writes and “The whole situation was bonkers” is typical of the juvenile way he expresses himself.

There must be a shortage of rights on the market at the moment: this is very poor stuff indeed even by the standards of Sunday Times serialisations.

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