Friday, April 29, 2011

How long will this soap continue to wash?

I would describe myself as a half-hearted republican. I don't really support the idea of the monarchy, but can't be bothered to turn it into a crusade. One thing I'm absolutely sure about though is that the British Royal Family is one of the strangest real-life soap operas ever invented.

Look at the role of Prince Charles in today's events, for instance. He's out on the balcony with Camilla, while everything about the occasion must naturally remind him of Diana. His daughter-in-law, a few feet away, is of course even wearing the sapphire engagement ring that once announced Charles' own rock-solid commitment to the belle of the Spencer clan. You couldn't make this stuff up.

The Queen, meanwhile, seems pretty good for 85 or whatever she is. I reckon there's a few more years in her yet. By the time her state funeral has been arranged, Charles will be an old man himself and the pressure will be on for him to abdicate in favour of the newly appointed Duke of Cambridge. Today's ceremony only sought to underline the weakness of Charles' position.

As with all good soaps, there are plenty of colourful minor characters who drift in and out of the script over time. Whether it's the latest quip from Prince Philip, the antics of the persona-non-grata Fergie or an intervention by the likes of Mohammed al Fayed or Paul Burrell, there's always someone ready to spice the story up.

The sleb hangers-on are perhaps the weirdest part of the whole business. Today, former West Ham footballer Trevor Brooking rubbed shoulders with Blackadder and Posh and Becks. Elton John - who famously rewrote one of his classic songs as a tribute to Princess Di - seemed strangely reticent about joining in with the hymns. (When it came to 'speak now or forever hold your peace', I was waiting for him to jump up and say that he wanted to kiss the bride.)

All in all, the fairytale pageantry sits uneasily with the recent history of this troubled and slightly preposterous group of figures. And I doubt that we have seen the end of the twists and turns in the ongoing plot.

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