And so, dear reader, the day has not only come, but it has gone. The publishing event of the year – or the decade, or century, or epoch, or possibly the most important one since Moses came down the mountain clutching is collection of stone tablets – has happened. After what seems like an indecently prolonged spell of torture or anticipation, depending which, if any, side you’re on, a certain ghost has finally acted as a reverse medium for a certain living person. By that, of course, I mean that the ghost-written memoir of the Duke of Sussex has been released. It is now available to you, should you really wish to read it.
It will not, I fear, go down as one of the great literary masterpieces. But this isn’t the place to discuss its literary merits, or the lack thereof. There are plenty of reviews you can find should you need to be reassured that it is, indeed, a four-hundred-and-sixteen-page whinge. Or, if audio books are your thing, a whinge lasting fifteen hours and thirty-seven minutes, and read by the man himself.
Instead, I shall dwell upon some associated nonsense.
Before I do, however, I must acknowledge an important fact. For a book of this kind, or indeed of any kind, there are commercial imperatives. If publishers believe that a proposed book has no commercial possibilities, they won’t touch it. This means that hard selling is necessary.
Hyperbole, therefore, is the name of the game. An unpleasant story is a “searing account”. A book filled with immoderate language is “hard hitting”. Allegations are “revelations”. A catalogue of assertions is an “exposé”, or “the truth that they” – whoever they may be – don’t want you to know about”. All rather tiresome, really.
The hyperbolical claim concerning the Sussex tome, made by a great many people, is that the “revelations” contained therein, will “shake the Monarchy to its very core”. No they won’t. And here’s why.
Although the Duke of Sussex is the son of the King, and brother to His Majesty’s most probable successor, he is, constitutionally speaking, fairly unimportant. The heir to the Throne has, in turn, three heirs, in the persons of his children. So Spare, the title of the disgruntled Duke’s book, is, therefore, rather apt. He is currently fifth in line to the Throne, and one shudders to think of the type of accident that would cause him to be crowned.
True, the book is likely to prove distressing reading to the King and Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and anyone else portrayed in a negative light. No doubt some relationships have been damaged beyond repair. But that is a family crisis, not a constitutional one.
I have two other reasons for suggesting that the institution of the Monarchy remains resolutely unshaken. The first of these is the deafening silence from politicians. As you will know, dear reader, they are a class of people for whom verbal incontinence is an essential characteristic. Usually, they won’t shut up under any circumstances. But on this matter, they have nothing to say. Yes, Government MPs are the King’s ministers, and Opposition MPs wish to become the King’s ministers, so criticism of the Sovereign, his heir or his spare, would be somewhat imprudent. But many of them wouldn’t shrink from airing their views if there were a constitutional crisis.
The second reason is that people had made up their minds long before the book even went to press. Since the royal migration to California, people have divided into two camps. In one are those people who believe that the Duke, poor lamb, has had a lifetime of abuse from his cold father and his overbearing brother, not to mention Satan’s emissaries based in newspaper offices the world over. As a child, he suffered the indignity and distress of being part of a global spectacle, days after the tragic death of his mother. Because of this, so their argument goes, we must show him nothing but tolerance and compassion.
The other camp is full of people who believe that the Duke is a petty, whining brat. A hypocrite who will revile the media one minute, then accept millions for dozens of interviews the next, during which, he’ll abuse his family. They argue that the sooner he is stripped of all of his royal titles, the better.
But the book hasn’t done anything to change people’s minds. They were, and remain, either pro or anti the Monarchy, and the outpourings from the Duke aren’t going to change anything. Indeed, most people, according to opinion polls, are in favour of the institution.
So, dear reader, plough through the book or not, as you choose. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it will shake the Monarchy. That idea is mere commercialist propaganda.
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